Arizona's Best Athletes: By the Numbers (34-66)

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 5: Pitcher Randy Johnson #51 the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the game at SBC Park on September 5, 2004 in San Francisco. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The best Arizona athletes in history as determined by the number they wore on their back. The second edition is 34-66. Let the debates begin.

...And we're back. In case you missed the initial By the Numbers column feel free to go here.

As for the rules, they're the same as last time. Had to be in Arizona and it's all up to me because I get to do whatever I want.    

34 - Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns 1992-1996) - Barkley won the 1993 NBA MVP and led the Suns to just their second NBA Finals berth of all-time (and they're still stuck at 2). He helped take a city that was in love with basketball and just push it to obscene levels. There isn't any competition here.

Also consideredAntonio McDyess, Tim Hightower

35 - Aeneas Williams (Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1991-2000) - This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Williams played for the Cardinals for 10 years and in that decade he was a six-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro. Aeneas' 46 interceptions in Arizona rank him second in franchise history behind Larry Wilson.

Also consideredNikolai Khabibulin, Joe Kleine

36 - Vai Sikahema (Phoenix Cardinals 1988-1990) - He was a return guy whose best two years were already behind him - that's exactly how weak the number 36 is. Sikahema was fourth in the NFL in return yards in 1989...eh? Eh?

Also considered:  Juha Ylonen, LaRod Stephens-Howling

37 - Larry Centers (Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1990-1998) - On some putrid Cardinal teams with some horrifying offenses, Centers was the ultimate safety valve. His 827 career catches (535 with Arizona) rank second among non-wide receivers in NFL history. In 1995 and 1996, Centers caught a combined 200 passes and made both of the 2 Pro Bowls he made as a Cardinal.

Also consideredOmar Daal

38 - Curt Schilling (Arizona Diamondbacks 2000-2003) - Though Schilling played just about 3 and a half years with the D-Backs they were some damn impressive years. Arizona acquired Schilling for the bargain basement price of Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, Omar Daal, and Vicente Padilla at the trade deadline in 2000. What followed was a 58-28 record, 3.14 ERA, 2 All-Star appearances and a pair of second place finishes in the Cy Young voting (behind Randy Johnson both times). But Schilling really did damage in the postseason, as in 55 and a third innings he allowed just 7 earned runs and shared the 2001 World Series MVP award with Johnson.

Also considered:  Michael Zordich

39 - Johnny Johnson (Phoenix Cardinals 1990-1992) - Johnson was a 7th round pick in 1990 and he immediately made an impact in Arizona as he rushed for 926 yards as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately for Johnson he peaked in that rookie year and never again cracked 800 yards with the Cardinals. He was traded to the Jets during the 1993 NFL Draft in order for the Cards to move up to the third slot and pick Garrison Hearst.

Also considered:  Travis Green

40 - Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals 1998-2001) - Above-average safety, great man. Tillman was a Cardinal for 4 years and a Sun Devil before that but it's his service in the US Army that will make him an unforgettable legend.

Also considered:  Andy Benes, Kurt Thomas

41 - Neal Walk (Phoenix Suns 1969-1974) - You're basically deciding between two decent Suns centers here and while West was solid for 5+ years in Phoenix, he never had years like Walk did in 1972-73 or 1973-1974. In those years Walk posted a 20/12 and 17/10 respectively - sorry Mark.

Also considered:  Mark West, Justin Lucas, Daniel Hudson

42 - Connie Hawkins (Phoenix Suns 1969-1974) - The Hawk was banished from the NBA until 1969 due to gambling allegations but when he showed up as a 27 year-old he wasted no time producing. Hawkins immediately made the Suns a playoff team while electrifying fans as one of the forefathers of above the rim basketball. He was a three-time All-Star for the Suns and averaged over 20 points a game for his first three seasons in the Valley.

Also considered:  Kwame Lassiter, Robert Esche

43 - Miguel Batista (Arizona Diamondbacks 2001-2003, 2006) - Batista made his Major League debut in 1992 and is still in the majors today. For most of his career he's been a journeyman pitcher, however in his time in Arizona he went 40-34 with a sub-4 ERA and threw 8 shutout innings in the 2001 World Series.

Also considered:  Lonnie Young, Jake Voshkul

44 - Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns 1975-1980, 1983-84) - Most of the people reading this blog probably remember Westphal as the coach of the Suns from 1992 until 1996 but as a player Westy was a dynamic guard. He was a four-time All-Star in Phoenix and averaged over 20 points per game in each of his first 5 seasons over at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and played on the 1976 team that made the NBA Finals and the 1979 Suns who lost in the Western Conference Finals. 

Also consideredErubiel Durazo

45 - A.C. Green (Phoenix Suns 1993-1997) - Obviously Green was quite a bit more meaningful as a Laker but he did have a couple near double-double seasons for the Suns on a couple of teams that for my money were among the best in Suns history. As was standard for the ironman Green, he played every game of his 3+ seasons with Phoenix. Green was part of the package sent to Dallas that brought Jason Kidd to Phoenix. I bet you thought I was going to go with an abstinence joke...well I didn't.

Also considered:  Ed Nealy, Jeff Cook

46 - Tim McDonald (Phoenix Cardinals 1988-1992) - You may remember McDonald's first appearance on this blog as one of the top free agent departures in Arizona sports history - and yup he was still good. In 5 years with Phoenix, McDonald intercepted 20 passes and made 3 Pro Bowls. He was a premier NFL safety.

Also considered:  Brent Alexander

47 - Jose Valverde (Arizona Diamondbacks 2003-2007) - Before the D-Backs bullpen was a hot mess they had Valverde. In 2007, Papa Grande led the Majors in saves with 47, made the All-Star game, and won the NL Rolaids Relief award. Realizing he was due for a major pay raise soon, the D-Backs dealt him to Houston for hot garbage Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez, and Chad Qualls. Nice trade.

Also considered:  Scott Williams, definitely not Aaron Francisco.  Never Aaron Francisco.

48 - Rod Barajas (Arizona Diamondbacks 1999-2003) - This is a guy who hit a scalding .400 in the 2001 World Series. OK I suppose I should confess that he went just 2 for 5 to get there, but who's counting. Barajas played parts of 5 seasons with the D-Backs and in his last season got all the way up to 220 at bats. Sure he wasn't the greatest but he's better than a long snapper or the disaster known as Russ Ortiz.

Also considered:  Russ Ortiz (somehow), Nathan Hodel (a long snapper)

49 - Byung-Hyun Kim (Arizona Diamondbacks 1999-2003, 2007) - Unfortunately for the South Korean reliever, he'll always be remembered for blowing saves in both Game 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series, but Kim was more than that. After Matt Mantei went down with injury during the 2001 season, Kim stepped in and filled the closer role more than effectively; picking up 19 saves the rest of the season. Undeterred by the World Series gaffes, Kim made the 2002 All-Star team and picked up 36 saves the following season. For some reason the team attempted to make him a starter in 2003 and that just flat didn't work.

Also consideredDoug Davis

50 - Freddie Joe Nunn (Phoenix Cardinals 1991-1993) - This is the first of two appearances on this list for Nunn which isn't really a pat on the back for him as much as it exhibits the weakness of the respective numbers. Nunn wore #50 for three seasons though he was a Cardinal for 9 (3 in St. Louis). The reason for the number switch was because Nunn switched from a defensive end to an outside linebacker. In his 3 seasons at outside linebacker he came up with 18.5 sacks. 

Also consideredEddie House, Joel Kramer, Jason Starkey, Chad Qualls

51 - Randy Johnson (Arizona Diamondbacks 1999-2004, 2007-2008) - The Big Unit signed a large deal with the D-Backs in 1999 and was worth every single penny. He won the NL Cy Young Award in each of his first four seasons (!), split the World Series MVP with Curt Schilling, and tossed a perfect game in 2004. He also had about 5,000 other impressive statistics, All-Star games, strikeouts, general awesomeness, and last but not least mullet style haircuts. Randy Johnson kicked all sorts of ass. 

Also considered:  Considering anyone else would be offensive. 

52 - Monty Beisel (Arizona Cardinals 2006-2008, 2009) - If the best option for the number is a guy who started 4 games in 4 seasons and was mainly known for special teams play, you know it was a pathetic number. At least Beisel has the game winning touchdown against Dallas in 2008 to hang his hat on. His competition for this number was a guy who played 27 games for the Suns and a guy who played 8 games for the Coyotes.

Also considered:  Martin Grenier, Eric Piatkowski, Zack Walz

53 - James Edwards (Phoenix Suns 1982-1988) - I almost went with Morris here to give the Coyotes more love since both Edwards and Morris were above average players. However, Edwards played on a few solid playoff teams (1984 Conference Finalist) while Morris only played on the latest Coyotes playoff team and wasn't on the roster until late in the year. Edwards averaged around 15 points a game in the part of 6 seasons he spent in Phoenix until he was dealt to Detroit.

Also consideredDerek Morris, Clark Haggans

54 - Gerald Hayes (Arizona Cardinals 2003-present) - A third round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2003, Hayes has been a lifer Cardinal and a starter for most of the previous 4 seasons. He doesn't have huge numbers or awards to his name but he's been solid, and that's saying something. If he can recover from his back injury he should provide a boost for the 2010 Cardinals. Rodney Rogers' 2000 Sixth Man of the Year award puts him a close second.

Also considered:  Rodney Rogers, Garth Jax

55 - Ed Jovanovski (Phoenix Coyotes 2006-present) - And the Coyotes are back on the list! Since Jovo arrived in the desert he has made 2 All-Star teams and held things down on the defensive front. He's a big reason why the Coyotes made in back to the playoffs in 2010. 

Also considered:  Ray Thompson, Shawn Estes

56 - Ken Harvey (Phoenix Cardinals 1988-1993) - Though Harvey came into his own and made 4 Pro Bowls when he took off for Washington, he was quite good for the Cardinals for 6 seasons. In those 6 seasons, Harvey picked up 47.5 sacks from his outside linebacker position.

Also consideredChike Okeafor, Tony Pena

57 - Ronald McKinnon (Arizona Cardinals 1996-2004) - McKinnon was undrafted out of known football powerhouse North Alabama yet still made the 1996 edition of the Cardinals. By the next season he was a full-time starter. What followed was a 9 year Cardinal career where the undersized linebacker basically tackled everything that moved.

Also considered:  Bobby Chouinard (but not really)

58 - Eric Hill (Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1989-1997) - Because of the fact that he spent 9 years in Arizona as opposed to Karlos Dansby's 6, Hill gets the nod here. In those years Hill started 153 times and went over 100 tackles in two different seasons. Unfortunately for Hill he left the Cardinals right before their 1998 playoff run. He did however sign a ceremonial contract with the team in 1999 to retire as a Cardinal.

Also considered:  Karlos Dansby

59 - Seth Joyner (Arizona Cardinals 1994-1996) - Arriving in the same year as Buddy Ryan, Joyner made an immediate impact during the Cardinals 8-8 year in 1994. Joyner made his one and only Pro Bowl with the Cards in 1994 but that's frankly all you need to beat out Rob Fredrickson and Ed Cunningham. Joyner had 12 sacks and 7 interceptions in his three seasons in Arizona.

Also considered:  Ed Cunningham, Rob Fredrickson

60 - Mike Gruttadauria (Arizona Cardinals 2000-2002) - This is by far one of the weakest numbers out there. In case you haven't noticed, the Suns don't have anyone who's worn a number above 55 and the Coyotes have had no number 60's, so it's basically down to the Cardinals and whichever offensive lineman started  was decent played a few games. Gruttadauria started 31 times in 3 years - thus he's the star of the show.

Also consideredNick Leckey, Scott Schoeneweis

61 - Lance Smith (Phoenix Cardinals 1988-1993) - He's probably not the most memorable player on the list but over the course of his 6 years in Phoenix he started every single game at right guard. Sure the teams weren't that great, but I can't really overlook that kind of consistency for two years of Livan Hernandez.

Also considered:  Livan Hernandez, Elton Brown

62 - Mike Devlin (Arizona Cardinals 1996-1999) - Who can forget mighty Mike Devlin who joined the Cardinals in 1996 and started 27 games over the course of 4 seasons? Oh you forgot him? Yeah...I did too but his competition was some dude who played 4 games for the Coyotes or Ben Coleman, another forgettable Cardinals offensive lineman.

Also considered:  Ben Coleman, Jean-Guy Trudel, the next guy who wears number 62 on any local sports team.

63 - Michael Bankston (Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1992-1997) - Narrowly beating out former Coyotes defenseman Radoslav Suchy, Bankston was a decent defensive end for the Cardinals over the course of 6 seasons. A fourth round pick out of Sam Houston State in 1992, Bankston started 82 games and had 16.5 sacks in those 6 years. 

Also considered:  Radoslav Suchy, Lyle Sendlein

64 - James Dexter (Arizona Cardinals 1996-1999) - Yet another legend of the game, or generic Cardinals offensive lineman - you be the judge. Dexter started at right tackle in every game of the Cardinals playoff season in 1998; sources say that is a thing. 

Also considered:  Rick Cunningham, Wyatt Smith

65 - Anthony Clement (Arizona Cardinals 1998-2004) - No Coyotes, no Suns, no D-Backs, pretty much just two decent offensive lineman. Clement was a second round pick by the Cards in 1998 and played 7 season with the team, starting 69 games in those years. Hey, it's better than nobody.

Also considered:  Ernest Dye

66 - Jim Wahler (Phoenix Cardinals 1989-1992) - With apologies to Neil Weber and his 11.57 ERA in 4 appearances for the expansion Diamondbacks, this is a "battle" between offensive lineman Pete Kendall and nose tackle Jim Wahler. Considering Wahler started 45 games for the Cardinals over his 4 years as opposed to Kendall's 36 I'll give Wahler the narrow edge. It's that scientific. 

Also considered:  Pete Kendall

Now we've got two-thirds of the numbers game in the books and I'm certain you haven't disagreed with me once. When will the third edition begin? That probably depends on how angry the Cardinals make me in the coming weeks. 

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