Players have been wearing numbers on the back of their jerseys since the early 1900s as a way of allowing fans to identify them from afar. Sometimes players get to choose their own number, and they may use that opportunity to honor a player or loved one, or pick on based on superstitious reasons. Kurtis Seaboldt of 810 WHB in Kansas City had a fun article looking at the best Chiefs players to wear each uniform number, so I thought I’d do the same thing for the Royals.
0 - Terrance Gore
George Scott is the only other Royals player to wear “0”, and while he was an All-Star first baseman, he was a replacement level 35-year old former slugger by the time he spent his 44 games in Kansas City. Gore provided some clutch steals in the post-season and was a tremendously exciting player even if you never wanted to see him grab a bat.
1 - Jarrod Dyson
A couple of fan favorites have worn #1, Dyson, Cookie Rojas, David Letterman guest Buddy Biancalana. But we’ll give it to Dyson, because that’s what speed do.
2 - Alcides Escobar
A lot of Royals shortstops have worn #2 - Onix Concepcion, Angel Salazar, Humberto Arteaga. We’ll give the 2015 ALCS MVP the nod over Freddie “The Flea” Patek though.
3 -Bob Hamelin
Not a lot to choose from here. Esteban German? Carlos Febles? A washed up Harmon Killebrew? Yuniesky Betancourt? No thanks, I’ll give it to the 1994 Rookie of the Year and arm-wrestling aficionado Bob Hamelin.
4 - Alex Gordon
Gordo was one of the greatest Royals of all time and one of its most beloved. Danny Tartabull was a great slugger, and Angel Berroa won Rookie of the Year, but neither could hold a candle to Gordo defensively.
5 - George Brett
If you have lived in Kansas City for any length of time, you should know that #5 is synonymous with George Howard Brett, and no Royals player has worn that number since he retired.
6 - Willie Wilson
Touch call over Lorenzo Cain, but I’ll give it to Willie for his longevity. Willie spent 15 seasons in Kansas City as one of the most prolific base-stealers in baseball, but he also won a batting title and a Gold Glove, showing his true value.
7 - John Mayberry
Mayberry was probably the team’s first real consistent slugger, and no one wearing #7 has been able to fill Big John’s shoes from Don Slaught to Greg Gagne to Jeff King.
8 - Mike Moustakas
He struggled early in his career, but Moose soon became a vital part of two pennant-winning clubs and an All-Star, making this number more memorable than if it had only been worn by Ed Kirkpatrick, Jim Eisenreich, and Gary Gaetti.
9 - David DeJesus
One of the more underrated players in club history, DJ was a consistent table setter, much like the first player to wear #9 in Royals history - Lou Piniella.
10 - Paul Schaal
Schaal was a popular third baseman, and it took a Hall of Famer to replace him. The number was retired to honor manager Dick Howser when he died, making Clint Hurdle the last player to wear the number, in 1981.
11 - Hal McRae
Hal always got that #11 dirty as one of the hardest-working hitters in the league.
12 - Jorge Soler
John Wathan had the longevity, and Wally Joyner was a solid player as well, but Jorge Soler was the first home run champ in club history.
13 - Salvador Perez
Not many players have wanted this number, but #13 hasn’t been unlucky for six-time All-Star and 2015 World Series MVP Salvador Perez.
14 - John Buck
Slim pickings here. Omar Infante had some post-season moments, but was overall a below replacement player in KC. Mark Quinn looked like he could be a star, but couldn’t put it together. Bill Buckner, Lee May, and Storm Davis had all seen better days by the time they joined the Royals to wear #14. Buck was a solid catcher for six seasons who could put the ball out of the ballpark on occasion.
15 - Carlos Beltran
Tough choice to pick Beltran over Whit, but Beltran had near Hall of Fame talent. Two of the best catchers in club history also wore #15 - Darrell Porter and Mike MacFarlane, as well as Gold Glover Mark Grudzielanek.
16 - Bo Jackson
Bo knows numbers, but this was another tough call. Billy Butler was an All-Star, Joe Randa a slick-fielding popular third baseman, and even Tom Gordon and Dean Palmer briefly wore #16, but Bo was something else entirely.
17 - Wade Davis
Wader, check please! Hunter Dozier could take this spot eventually, and Kevin Appier did spend a few seasons wearing #17, but not his prime years, so let’s salute the cyborg, Wade Davis.
18 - Bret Saberhagen
Johnny Damon couldn’t quite live up to the expectations, but still played well wearing #18. Al Cowens nearly won an MVP wearing #18, and Ben Zobrist dazzled in a short stint wearing the number, but Sabes won two Cy Youngs and a World Series MVP.
19 - Brian Bannister
Frank White and Willie Wilson each wore #19 for one season, but we won’t count them since they had their better years with a different uniform number. Banny had a 2007, but could never really capitalize on that success. He wore the same number that his father, Floyd Bannister, wore with the Royals.
20 - Frank White
Barry Raziano was the last Royals player to wear #20 before Frank took it over and became an eight-time Gold Glove winner. The number was retired once Frank was done playing.
21 - Jeff Montgomery
One of the best closers in club history, Monty was like hitting blackjack in the ninth with his #21. Billy Butler also originally wore #21, and Lonnie Smith and Jeff Francoeur each wore it as well.
22 - Dennis Leonard
David Cone switched from #17 to #22 to win a Cy Young award in 1994, but Dennis Leonard was a workhorse who led the league in wins in 1977 and was the ace of four division winners from 1976 to 1980.
23 - Zack Greinke
Mark Gubicza did #23 proud with a 14-year career with two All-Star appearances, but Zack Greinke was amazing in 2009, winning the Cy Young with a league-best 2.16 ERA and 10.4 WAR, the most by any Royals player in club history.
24 - Jermaine Dye
Tough call over 1980 World Series hero Willie Aikens, but Dye was an All-Star starter and Gold Glover.
25 - Danny Jackson
George Brett actually began his career wearing #25, but only for two seasons, and he’s more synonymous with #5, so we’ll pick someone else here. Both Danny Jackson and Kendrys Morales were clutch in the post-season for the Royals, but DJ for his sensational 1985 performance, giving up just three runs in 26 post-season innings that fall.
26 - Amos Otis
One of the first big stars in club history, AO had the perfect blend of power and speed, and no player has been able to live up to his #26 since.
27 - Adalberto Mondesi
Mondy is just getting started but he’s already the best #27, although I should note that #27 is the number Jose Bautista wore in his one week with the Royals.
28 - Jay Bell
Bell only spent one season wearing #28, but he put up the best offensive season by a Royals shortstop ever, earning the nod over Ken Wright, Vada Pinson, and Ken Harvey.
29 - Mike Sweeney
It might be cool to see the Royals do a joint number retirement for both Mike Sweeney and Dan Quisenberry, two excellent players who seemed to be terrific human beings off the field as well.
30 - Yordano Ventura
UL Washington was a solid player and Jose Offerman had some underrated seasons, and perhaps I’m leaning into nostalgia and recency bias, but I’ll give it to the brief, but amazing career of Yordano Ventura.
31 - Bret Saberhagen
I always remember Sabes wearing #18, but he actually wore #31 in his first three seasons, including his 1985 Cy Young and World Series MVP season. Sabes would change to #18, his high school number, for good luck.
32 - Larry Gura
The lefty turned his career around in Kansas City and became an important part of some division-winning clubs.
33 - Kevin Seitzer
Seitz put together one of the best rookie seasons in Royals history in 1987, with 207 hits and 5.5 WAR to go with a .323 average, so I’ll give it to him just over the two years James Shields spent in Kansas City.
34 - Paul Splittorff
Split was the first player the Royals drafted to reach the big leagues, and he became a mainstay, pitching in Kansas City for 15 seasons, then becoming a popular broadcaster.
35 - Eric Hosmer
We’ll always remember that image of #35 dashing towards home, destroying the hope of Mets fans behind home plate.
36 - Carlos Beltran
Carlos is another number changer, starting his career at #36 when he won 1999 Rookie of the Year, but switching to #15 in 2001. He continued to wear #15 through much of the rest of his career, giving Giants manager Bruce Boch a $30,000 watch in exchange for giving up the number.
37 - Fred Patek
Freddie switched to #2 later in his career, but he was a prolific base-stealer wearing #37.
38 - Rich Gale
Not many memorable names with this number, unless you’re Tony Muser, then you’ll always remember your favorite player, Scott Pose. Gale was a solid right-hander who started two games of the 1980 World Series.
39 - Al Fitzmorris
Fitzie was an outfielder-turned-pitcher who carved out a nice eight-year career as a swingman, then became a broadcaster.
40 - Steve Busby
Bud Black was a solid pitcher and Kelvin Herrera was a dominating reliever, but Steve Busby may have been the greatest Royals pitcher of all-time had he not blown out his arm.
41 - Danny Duffy
Someday, many years from now, Duffy may be buried a Royal, in his #41 jersey.
42 - Tom Goodwin
The speedy Tom Goodwin was probably the best Royals player to wear #42, and the last as well, once MLB retired the number for good in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson.
43 - Bruce dal Canton
dal Canton was a solid swingman in the early 70s for the Royals. Splitt wore #43 for two games in his rookie year, but the number has mostly gone to journeymen relievers like Stan Belinda, Curtis Leskanic, and All-Star Aaron Crow.
44 - Luke Hochevar
He may never have lived up to his billing as the #1 overall pick of the draft, but Hoch ended up having a solid career as a reliever and an important part of some pennant-winning clubs.
45 - Steve Balboni
While he may have looked like he belonged at a bowling alley, Steve Balboni was a solid slugger who set the single-season club home run record, a record that stood for 30 years.
46 - Ryan Madson
Madson made a terrific comeback in 2015 after being away from baseball for three years, and was a valuable reliever for a championship club.
47 - Peter Moylan
No one wore #47 until 1990 (Sean Berry) and only Brian Bevil wore it more than two seasons. Moylan was a popular, quirky sidearming reliever who was pretty solid in his two seasons.
48 - Joakim Soria
Soria was a fantastic find in the Rule 5 draft and a two-time All-Star with 162 career saves with the Royals.
49 - Warren Cromartie
I have a soft spot for Cromartie. He was a solid player for the Expos before going to Japan and having a terrific experience as one of the first big foreign stars in the NPB. He returned to MLB in 1991 at the age of 37 and hit .313 for the Royals in 69 games.
50 - Jose Rosado
Another “what if” in Royals history, the young left-hander had a ton of promise and made two All-Star games, but couldn’t stay healthy.
51 - Jason Vargas
Vargy had a solid post-season for the Royals in 2014, and led the league in wins, earning an All-Star appearance in 2017.
52 - Bruce Chen
Known more for his good nature and corny jokes, Chen was a solid back-of-the-rotation pitcher at a time when the Royals had little starting pitching depth.
53 - Melky Cabrera
The Royals took a gamble on Cabrera in 2011 and he responded with a fantastic season, only to get traded to the Giants the next year. Cabrera kept #53 when he returned to the Royals in 2017.
54 - Mike MacDougal
“Mac the Ninth” was an All-Star closer with an epic montage video when he entered games to the tune of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by the Scoprions.
55 - Kevin Appier
Appier began his career wearing #55, putting up some of his best seasons, then switched to #17 in 1996, saying he had bad luck with the number, prompting teammate Mark Gubicza to remark, “I’d love to have that bad luck.”
56 - Greg Holland
All apologies to the very solid Brian McRae, but Greg Holland thrilled us as “Dirty South”, a two-time All-Star with 145 saves with the Royals.
57 - Mike Magnante
Solid left-handed swingman in the early 90s who was portrayed in the book and the film Moneyball.
58 - Scott Barlow
Barlow struck out 92 hitters last year, the seventh-most in Royals history by any reliever with at least 60 appearances in a season.
59 - Felipe Paulino
I also like DJ Carrasco, but Felipe had some flashes of brilliance in his short Royals career.
60 - Hunter Dozier
This is the number they assign you when you’re a September callup, as Dozier was when he wore #60 in 2016 before later switching to #17.
61 - Kevin McCarthy
McCarthy has stuck with #61 as he shuttles back and forth between Omaha and Kansas City.
62 - Al Alburquerque
He pitched just ten innings in KC, but the other pitchers to wear this number had some ugly ERAs - Ryan Verdugo, Aaron Brooks, Joba Chamberlain, Eric Stout.
63 - Josh Staumont
He really should wear #99 to reflect his velocity.
64 - Matt Strahm
Really promising lefty dealt in a bad trade to the Padres.
65 - Jakob Junis
Josh Rupe is the only other player to wear #65, but Junis should do the number proud.
66 - Ryan O’Hearn
Hopefully O’Hearn can turn on the power again, and show the kind of numbers he put up in a short stint in 2018.
67 - Francisley Bueno
Lefty specialist on the 2014 pennant-winning club.
68 - Jake Newberry
Wilking Rodriguez is the only other Royals player to wear #68.
69 - Eric Skoglund
Skoglund only briefly wore #69, when the Royals acquired Cabrera, but it was very nice.
72 - Meibrys Viloria
Seems likely he’ll switch to a lower number once he sticks in Kansas City.
91 - Hideo Nomo
Nomo is the only player in Royals history to wear a number higher than #72. He wore #91 to honor his first number in the big leagues - #16 - turned upside down.
What number did you wear when you played sports? What number would you choose if you were a player?