By Pete Donovan
Of all the jersey numbers worn by professional athletes through the years, none have had more historical significance than the No. 42.
Whether red, blue, black or white letters, 42 has been at the forefront of the games played on fields and in stadiums for decades.
There have been many brilliant players to wear the number, but five stand out as seminal contributors to the lore of the games – Sid Luckman, Jackie Robinson, Paul Warfield, Ronnie Lott and Mariano Rivera. They are all in their respective Hall of Fames, but beyond that they have contributed significantly to the stories and legends. They have illuminated the landscape with brilliance and resonance. And they have etched their names on the tablets of greatness – all with No. 42 on their uniforms.
A look at these special 42s:
Sid Luckman: An All-American at Columbia University, he led the mighty Chicago Bears to four world championships (1940, 41, 43 and 47) in the fledgling National Football League. A rarity in the game, as Luckman was Jewish. He is credited with being one of the first great T-formation quarterback in the game. Later in life, he was a successful businessman and known for his extraordinary generosity.
Jackie Robinson: A tremendous all-around athlete at UCLA, Robinson was hand picked by Branch Rickey of the Dodgers to integrate baseball in 1947. He did so with passion and fire, becoming an MVP and Hall of Famer. The No. 42 has been retied by every major league team to honor Robinson’s unparalleled contributions.
Paul Warfield: One of the stars of the only undefeated team in NFL history (the Miami Dolphins of 1972), he was named to the Pro Bowl eight times and his average yards per catch of 20.1 yards is the highest in NFL history with anyone who caught more than 300 passes. He got No. 42 by accident. He had requested his high school number (45) when he got to Ohio State, but the equipment manager tossed him No. 42 instead. Warfield earned a master’s degree after retiring from football.
Ronnie Lott: The greatest defensive back in the history of the NFL. A consensus All-American at USC, he was named to the Pro Bowl 10 times and won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Lott became a tremendously prosperous businessman after his retirement. Ronnie heads one of the most prestigious awards in college football, The Lott IMPACT Trophy in Newport Beach, Ca. He’s also on the College Football Playoff Committee.
Mariano Rivera: Considered the best relief pitcher in baseball history. He is the only player to be voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously. Rivera was named to the All-Star team 13 times and won five world championships with the Yankees. He is the last active player to wear No. 42 in the majors.
There have been other terrific players to wear the number, most notably Charley Taylor and Leo Nomellini in pro football; James Worthy and Connie Hawkins in pro basketball; and Mo Vaughn in professional baseball.
But these five stand among the giants of the game for both their unmatched accomplishments and their historic contributions.