In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees. By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues. Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.
Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #35. 26 players have donned #35 on each side of town, including one Hall of Famer.
Frank Thomas was selected by the White Sox with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1989 draft and, a little more than a year later, he made his major league debut. In 1991, as the White Sox moved into the new Comiskey Park, Thomas became one of the most feared hitters in the American League. He won the MVP award in both 1993 and 1994, while leading the White Sox to their first division title since 1983. In 1997, he earned his first batting title and notched his 7th top 10 finish in MVP voting in his first 7 full seasons.
Thomas became a full time DH in 1998 and struggled for the first time. Injuries slowed him down in 1999, but he bounced back in a big way in 2000. He hit .328 and set career highs with 43 home runs and 143 RBIs as the White Sox returned to the post-season for the first time since 1993. A torn triceps cut his 2001 campaign short, and, when he returned in 2002, he was clearly no longer the offensive force he had been. Foot injuries robbed him of most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and, after watching the only team he had even played for win the World Series without him, he became a free agent after the 2005 season. His number 35 was retired by the White Sox on August 29, 2010 and he was part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, elected on the first ballot with 83.7% of the vote.
The history of #35 on the north side of town is nowhere near as impressive. Of the 26 players to wear the number, 4 came in 2000 alone. While there are players I like a little more, we will go with shortstop Lennie Merullo, who was the first player to wear #35 for the Cubs, during the 1941 and 1942 seasons. Merullo’s 7 year career was spent entirely with the Cubs. He went 0-2 in the 1945 World Series. His biggest claim to fame, at least to me, came off the field, as he is the grandfather of former White Sox catcher Matt Merullo.