Over the years, several numbers have been synonymous with certain sports. In basketball, it's the number 23, which was worn by the great Michael Jordan and has also been donned by numerous players since "His Airness" retired. In football, the numbers 12 and 18, worn by future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, respectively, have been among the most popular numerals for many years now. When it comes to baseball, the numbers 3 and 42 are two of the most important in history, as they were worn by Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, in that order. Speaking of baseball, as Major League Baseball approaches its halfway point, with the Fourth of July coming up in just a few days, I set out to determine the five greatest MLB players who wore the number 4. In the end, the following players are the ones I chose.
#5: Ralph Kiner
While Goose Goslin was originally in this spot, I ended up replacing him with Kiner because he was one of the premiere sluggers in the National League during his 10 seasons in the pros. Averaging nearly 37 homers a season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, and the Cleveland Indians from 1946-1955, Kiner may have approached the all-time record had a back injury not forced him to retire at the age of 32. Still, his accomplishments (a .279 batting average, 369 homers, and 1,015 RBIs) were good enough to earn him a spot in Cooperstown in 1975. In addition, the Pirates, who he spent seven-plus seasons with, retired his number in 1987.
#4: Duke Snider
One of the best Dodgers (Brooklyn or Los Angeles) of all-time, Snider had his number retired by the club in 1980, the same year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. With a career average of .295 to go along with 407 homers and 1,333 RBIs, Snider was more than deserving of such honors. He was also an eight-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion, once with Brooklyn (1955) and once with Los Angeles (1959). Although he finished his career by playing one season each with the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants, Snider will forever be linked with the Dodger blue and white.
#3: Paul Molitor
Even though he spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, playing 21 seasons in the American League (15 for the Milwaukee Brewers, three for the Toronto Blue Jays, and three for the Minnesota Twins), Molitor was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004 and had his jersey retired by the Brewers, who are now in the NL, in 1999. During his over two decades in the big leagues, Molitor accrued a .306 career average, 234 homers, and 1,307 hits. While he finished with 3,319 hits, he also stole 504 bases in his career, showing that he was more than just a big bat.
#2: Mel Ott
He may not have looked like much to the naked eye, but the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Ott remains one of the greatest power hitters in the history of baseball. As a matter of fact, he was the first NL player to surpass 500 homers, finishing with 511 of them in his career while also batting .304 with 1,860 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .414. Although he failed to reach 3,000 hits - recording 2,876 in 22 seasons - the 12-time All-Star and one-time World Series champion with the New York Giants in1933 was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951. Two years prior, the Giants, who now make their home in San Francisco, retired his number.
#1: Lou Gehrig
Despite the fact that he played second fiddle to Babe Ruth on his own team, hitting behind his fellow New York Yankees slugger for much of his career, Gehrig is number one on this list. In 17 seasons with the Bronx Bombers, Gehrig rarely missed a game, holding the record for most consecutive games played (2,130) until Cal Ripken, Jr. eclipsed his mark in 1995. Considered by many to be the greatest first baseman of all-time, "The Iron Horse" was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939 and had his number retired by the Yankees a year later. For his career, he hit .340 with 493 homers, 1,995 RBIs, and a .447 on-base percentage, with 2,721 hits to his credit. He made seven All-Star appearances and was a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, also winning six World Series championships.
Other articles by Josh McKinney:Chicago Cubs Pitcher Kerry Wood to Call it Quits: A Fan's Take Word Association Chain: From the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees