20 – Ray Narleski, 1954-57
No. 20 has a rich history across baseball, having been worn by Lou Brock, Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton and many others. But it’s been an unwanted number in Cleveland. Not since Otis Nixon in the mid ’80s has a player worn it for more than three consecutive seasons. The most famous No. 20 is certainly Robinson, but based strictly on his playing career it’s tough to make a case for him. Narleski was a dominant relief ace for the Indians, helping the Tribe to the 1954 World Series as a rookie. And he was one of the first players selected to an All-Star team based strictly on his relief work in 1956.
Most commonly worn by: Al Milnar (six seasons)
21 – Bob Lemon, 1947-58
Most fans probably associate No. 21 with Mike Hargrove, who wore it for 17 seasons in parts of three different decades as a player and coach. Since we’re considering strictly on-field performance for this list, however, Bob Lemon – the man for whom the number is retired – is the obvious choice. It’s worth noting that a number of other big names, including Allie Reynolds, Greg Swindell and Rocky Colavito, have worn the number.
Most commonly worn by: Lemon (12 seasons)
22 – Jason Kipnis, 2011-present
It might seem odd to give this honor to a 26-year-old active player, with just two full years in the big leagues, but that pretty much sums up the pathetic history of No. 22. If not for Kipnis, Brian Giles, who played just two full seasons in Cleveland, would likely be the selection. Kipnis is actually the first Indian to wear the number since Juan Gonzalez in 2001, due to the fact that Eric Wedge donned the No. 22 jersey during his tenure in Cleveland.
Most commonly worn by: Roy Weatherly and Mike Fischlin (five seasons)
23 – David Justice, 1997-00
Justice is another who barely qualifies under the guidelines initially laid out. He played just over three years in Cleveland and didn’t wear number 23 until late in the 1997 season after the Indians released Julio Franco, freeing up the number. But Justice gets the nod because the competition, mainly consisting of Ellis Burks and Vic Wertz, just doesn’t stack up. But it’s worth noting that while no one player has dominated the number, it’s been a stalwart in the Indians lineup since the 1980s, getting passed from Chris Bando to Mitch Webster, Mark Whitten, Franco, Justice, Burks, Ben Broussard and, most recently, Michael Brantley.
Most commonly worn by: Chris Bando (eight seasons)
24 – Early Wynn, 1949-57
Most Tribe fans today associate 24 with Grady Sizemore or Manny Ramirez. But long before the number had a dominant stretch in the 1990s and 2000s, it was worn by Hall of Famer Early Wynn in his first stint with the Tribe. In 10 seasons with the Tribe (nine while wearing No. 24), Wynn won 164 games, was selected to three All-Star teams and helped carry the Tribe to the 1954 AL pennant.
Most commonly worn by: Wynn (nine seasons)
25 – Jim Thome, 1991-2002, 2011
While No. 25 hasn’t been retired yet, it’s only a matter of time before it’s painted on the pillars in the upper right field deck in Progressive Field. While others have found success in No. 25 (Ken Keltner, Mike Garcia, Buddy Bell), the number will always belong to Jim Thome.
Most commonly worn by: Thome (13 seasons)
26 – Brook Jacoby, 1984-92
No. 26 has a few fun cameos on its résumé (Hoylt Wilhelm, Boog Powell) but its overall history is pretty bleak. Bob Wickman found some success with No. 26, but his career in Cleveland was, at best, inconsistent. Brook Jacoby isn’t exactly a Cleveland legend, but for a stretch in the late 1980s he was among the best third basemen in baseball and was selected to two All-Star games.
Most commonly worn by: Jacoby (nine seasons)
27 – Herb Score, 1955-59
Herb Score’s success in Cleveland was short lived, making it difficult to justify him earning his own number. But the history of No. 27 is so forgettable, we’re left with no choice. The closest runners-up were Mel Hall, Leon Wagner and Miguel Dilone. Even if Score’s overall success was fleeting, his performances in 1955 and ’56 make him worthy of this honor.
Most commonly worn by: Jaret Wright and Steve Gromek (six seasons)
28 – Bert Blyleven, 1981-86
No. 28 had a fairly strong 15-year run from 1976-90, when it was passed from Rick Manning, to Blyleven, to Cory Snyder. But it’s been rarely used since, and never more for than three consecutive season (Derek Liliquist, 1992-94). Hall of Famer Blyleven is the easy choice for this number.
Most commonly worn by: Manning, Blyleven, Snyder (five seasons)
29 – Andre Thornton, 1977-87
No. 29 is one of the most lopsided numbers in terms of our criteria. Based purely on fame, Satchel Paige deserves a mention here, but technically he doesn’t meet our criteria of three seasons in the jersey. Aside from Thornton, John Lowenstein is the only other Indian to wear No. 29 for more than three seasons. Since Thornton’s retirement, the jersey has been cursed. Jack McDowell’s injury plagued Tribe career was the best of times, followed by the Geronimo Berroa, Steve Woodard, Josh Barfield, among others.
Most commonly worn by: Thornton (10 seasons)