Sunday marks the much-anticipated debut of 'The Last Dance,' ESPN's all-access documentary on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls.
In honor of the miniseries on arguably the greatest basketball player ever, here's a look back at the Yankees' best to don Jordan's famous number 23 across New York's franchise history.
When you think of the number 23, odds are Michael Jordan comes to mind.
Jordan's legendary career transcends the game of basketball – even the number 45 is associated with the icon's life in hoops after wearing it for just one season in the NBA (and his unforgettable campaign with the Chicago White Sox's Double-A affiliate, the Birmingham Barons).
Looking back on the Yankees' rich franchise history, plenty of players have donned Jordan's two jersey numbers. To be exact, 26 players have worn No. 23 while 48 – and soon to be 49 once Gerrit Cole eventually makes his regular season debut – have represented No. 45.
Here's a few of the greatest between the lines that had No. 23 on their backs when they played for the Bombers – some for as long as a dozen years, others for only a few games.
Much of this data was pulled in part from Baseball-Reference's trusty uniform numbers index from the New York Yankees franchise page. If you're not watching 'The Last Dance', and get a kick out of old time jersey numbers and stats, check it out right here.
Don Mattingly (1984-1995)
Coincidentally, Don Mattingly and Michael Jordan both began to wear the number 23 at the professional level in 1984. Mattingly had already played his first two Major League seasons – just 98 total games – with No. 46 on his back, but switched for his third big-league campaign.
Mattingly's career with the Bombers was nothing short of iconic. He never won a World Series, but compiled 2,153 hits and won an American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1985. The first baseman was a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner and six-time All-Star.
Donnie Baseball had the same jersey number for a dozen years. That's tied for the seventh longest stint wearing the number 23 by any player in baseball history (Ted Simmons wore it for all 21 years of his Hall of Fame career).
Like Jordan once he left the Bulls, Mattingly ended up in a different number when he suited up for the first time in a uniform other than the Yankees. Mattingly, now the manager of the Miami Marlins (after managing the Los Angeles Dodgers as well) dons No. 8.
After his retirement, the same year the Core Four made its debut, Mattingly's jersey was retired by the Yankees, never to be worn again in pinstripes. Therefore, all others on this list effectively pale in comparison, but had their own memorable careers.
Luis Tiant (1979-1980)
This right-hander suited up in a Yankees uniform for just two seasons, but wore No. 23 in each of them.
Luis Tiant played the majority of his 19-year career with the Boston Red Sox (eight seasons in which he also wore what would end up as Jordan's number). Interestingly enough, Tiant has the third-highest WAR among all big leaguers to ever have 23 as a jersey number. Only Zack Greinke (71.04 over eight years) and Ryne Sandberg (67.95 over 15 seasons) are in front of him.
In pinstripes, although it was toward the end of his career, Tiant secured 21 of his 229 career wins on the mound.
Tony Lazzeri (1932)
Yup, the Hall of Fame second baseman Tony Lazzeri did wear No. 23 for one season.
In 1932, right smack in the middle of his illustrious 14 years in the Majors, Lazzeri decided to switch up to a new jersey number. It was something he did a few times, in fact, as Lazzeri donned numbers 5 and 7 for one single season as well.
For the majority of his career (stretching from 1929 to 1937), Lazzeri was known for his No. 6. That's the number he first wore in 1929 – the first season any Major League teams wore numbers on their jerseys. He debuted in 1926 – almost winning MVP in '28 – and then with teammates Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and backstop Bill Dickey, players began to wear numbers so fans could have an easier time recognizing their favorite players.
Lazzeri may not have had any of his numbers retired ... but all four of them did get retired eventually. Perhaps we was a good luck charm.
Other Yankees to wear No. 23 (in descending order of career WAR)
- Murry Dickson (1958)
- Oscar Gamble (1976)
- Bob Porterfield (1950-1951)
- Ellie Rodriguez (1968)
- Ralph Terry (1959-1964)
- Tommy Byrne (1945-1957)
Yankees in recent history to wear No. 45 (in descending order of amount of years)
- Chasen Shreve (2015-2018)
- Sergio Mitre (2009-2011)
- Carl Pavano (2005-2008)
- Chili Davis (1998-1999)
- Cecil Fielder (1996-1997)
- Luke Voit (2018-2019)
- Joe Girardi (1996)
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