COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#31)
by Paul Semendinger
April 28, 2022
(QUICK NOTE - This article ran on April 15, 2022, but it did not seem to transfer over when we changed platforms. I am re-running this article to keep the archive of these posts complete.)
The current Yankee who wears uniform number 31 is one that has great talent, is very athletic, and is also the subject of the ire from many fans. He’s a player who many had high hopes for, but hasn’t been able to help the Yankees to a World Series or even, in most years, to be able to stay on the field.
That player, of course, is Aaron Hicks. He is also not the only player to wear #31 and be the subject of the fans’ disappointment.
#31 was also Dave Winfield’s number. Winfield was a generational talent, an All-Star, one of the first players to earn a gigantic free agent contract, and a future Hall of Famer, but, he too fell short of his promise to bring World Championship glory to the Yankees.
Who else wore #31… and who was the greatest of them all?
Uniform #31 has an interesting history. In 1929, the first year there were uniform numbers, the Yankees issued the number to Roy Sherid who pitched in 33 games that year. The next year, Sherid wore #15 and uniform #31 went into moth balls.
No one wore #31 in the 1930s. Or the 1940s. Or the 50s. Or 60s.
The next player to wear #31 was a major contributor to the 1976-1978 World Series teams, Ed Figueroa. In those years, Figueroa went 55-30. Ed Figueroa wore number 31 into the 1980 season.
Big Dave Winfield was issued #31 in 1981 and he wore the number through the 1980s. In his Yankees career, Winfield batted .290/205/818. He accumulated 27..1 WAR. (Spoiler Alert - this is, by far, the most of any other player in this uniform number.)
After Winfield, the number has been oft-issued and given to some interesting players that include (but was not limited to) the following players. In total, 28 different Yankees have all worn #31. This is amazing in that some players, like Winfield and Hicks, have worn the number for lengthy periods and also because it wasn’t even issued or 47 years!
Some notable players who wore #31:
Hensley Meulens - the Yankees had high hopes for him. He wore #31 from 1990 to 1993.
Frank Tanana - who pitched the final three games of his career as a Yankee in 1993.
Tim Raines - the future Hall of Famer (1996-98)
Glenallen Hill - In 2000, he blasted 16 home runs in just 40 games
Aaron Small - Went 10-0 in 2005
Ichiro Suzuki - the soon-to-be Hall of Famer (2012-14)
Greg Bird - In his first year, 2015, when he made such a great impression, he wore #31
And now, it’s Aaron Hicks.
As a Yankee, Aaron Hicks has worn #31 since 2016. His career Yankee numbers are .238/73/237. He is the runner up to Dave Winfield. Hicks’ WAR as a Yankee is 10.1.
Dave Winfield, who wore the number longer than any other player as a Yankee, was also, by far, the greatest to wear #31.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.