Chicago’s greatest athletes by uniform number Day 4: Nos. 39-20

SHARE Chicago’s greatest athletes by uniform number Day 4: Nos. 39-20

The numbers athletes wear become a permanent part of team and sports history.

Every number from 0 to 99 is associated with a standout athlete in Chicago sports, and we’ve sorted through all of them to bring you this definitive list of the greatest Chicago athletes by uniform number.

Some numbers have reached iconic status in this city, like Michael Jordan’s 23, Bobby Hull’s 9 and Ernie Banks’ 14. You’ll find all of them among the names on this list – along with some others you may not remember.

The only criterion for inclusion was that the athlete played at least one season in Chicago for the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs or White Sox. We primarily considered the athlete’s time as a playing member of a Chicago team, but his achievements as a player elsewhere or coach was, in some cases, used to break ties.

We’ll count down 20 athletes per day between Monday and Friday, beginning with Nos. 99-80 and concluding Friday with Nos. 19-0.

Day 1: Nos. 99-80

Day 2: Nos. 79-60

Day 3: Nos. 59-40

And now onto Day 4, featuring Nos. 39-20:



Roberto Hernandez: Pitched seven seasons in relief for the White Sox from 1991-1997, compiling a 2.87 ERA in 404.2 innings. He saved 161 games.



Carlos Zambrano: A Cubs pitcher for 11 seasons from 2001-11, Zambrano posted a 125-81 record, 3.60 ERA and struck out 1,542 batters. He was selected to three All-Star teams.



Bobby Thigpen: A one-time All-Star as a reliever, Thigpen saved a record 57 games for the White Sox in 1990 – a record that stood until 2008. He saved 201 games for the Sox from 1986-93.



Gary Matthews: The outfielder played four of his 16 pro seasons for the Cubs from 1984-87. He hit .291 with a league-best .410 OBP in 1984 and finished fifth in MVP voting.



Frank Thomas: Perhaps the best White Sox slugger of all-time, Thomas won two MVPs, went to five straight All-Star Games and hit .307 in his 16 seasons wearing a Sox uniform.

Honorable mention: Tony Esposito, Blackhawks



Walter Payton: The Hall of Fame running back played his entire 13-year career for the Bears from 1975-87. He went to nine Pro Bowls and was a five-time first-team All-Pro selection.

Honorable mention: Kerry Wood, Cubs



Scottie Pippen: The Bulls’ Hall of Fame forward played 12 seasons in Chicago and was part of all six championships of the 1990s. He was a seven-time All-Star and remains a team ambassador.

Honorable mention: Charles Tillman, Bears



Milt Pappas: Pitched four seasons with the Cubs from 1970-73 with a 3.33 ERA in 763 innings. He’s perhaps best remembered for his no-hitter against the Padres in 1972, which was one strike away from being a perfect game.



Fergie Jenkins: Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher played 10 seasons in Chicago and was an All-Star in 1967, 1971 and 1972. He earned 167 of his 284 career wins for the Cubs and posted a 3.20 ERA.

Honorable mention: Joe Fortunato, Bears; Greg Maddux, Cubs



Ed Belfour: His eight seasons as a Blackhawks goalie from 1988-97 were the best of his Hall of Fame career. They included a Calder Trophy, three Jennings trophies and two Vezina trophies.

Honorable mentions: Mike Brown, Bears; Magglio Ordonez, White Sox; Tim Raines, White Sox



Jack McDowell: The right-handed pitcher played seven seasons for the White Sox from 1987-94, earning three trips to the All-Star Game. He posted a 3.50 ERA with the Sox and went 91-58.



Steve Larmer: A Blackhawks right wing for 13 seasons beginning in 1980, Larmer played in every game from 1982-93 – a streak of 884 games. He scored 406 goals and had 517 assists.

Honorable mention: Willie Galimore, Bears



Jeremy Roenick: Spent his first eight seasons with the Blackhawks from 1988-96, amassing 267 goals and 329 assists.



Billy Williams: The Hall of Fame Cubs outfielder played 16 seasons on the North Side from 1959-74. He was Rookie of the Year in 1961 and was a six-time All-Star who led the league in total bases three times.



Chet Walker: A Bulls Hall of Fame forward who played in Chicago from 1969-75, Walker averaged 20.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. He went to four of his seven All-Star Games as a Bull.

Honorable mention: Jim Thome, White Sox



Doug Wilson: One of the top defensemen of his era, Wilson played 14 seasons with the Blackhawks from 1977-91. He won the Norris Trophy in 1982.

Honorable mentions: Rosey Taylor, Bears; Reggie Theus, Bulls



Michael Jordan: One of the greatest athletes of all time, Air Jordan played 13 seasons with the Bulls from 1984-98. He won six championships, five MVP awards, six NBA Finals MVPs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Honorable mentions: Devin Hester, Bears; Ryne Sandberg, Cubs; Robin Ventura, White Sox



Matt Forte: Has been one of the NFL’s best rushers during his seven-year career with the Bears. He’s amassed 1,000 rushing yards or more in five seasons and been to two Pro Bowls.

Honorable mentions: Dave Duerson, Bears; Mark Prior, Cubs



Stan Mikita: Among the greatest hockey players of all time, Mikita spent his entire 22-year career with the Hawks from 1958-80. He won four Ross trophies and two Hart trophies before his Hall of Fame induction in 1983.

Honorable mentions: Jimmy Butler, Bulls; Dan Fortmann, Bears; Sammy Sosa, Cubs



Al Secord: Played eight seasons with the Blackhawks from 1980-87 and again in 1989-90. He had 54 goals and 32 assists in the 1982-83 season and scored a league-best 20 power-play goals.

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