By: Joe Pohoryles
The Washington, D.C. sports teams have seen plenty of athletes do incredible things while representing the nation’s capital. One of the most recognizable features of these athletes is the numbers they sport on their uniforms.
As we forge on in these times with little going on in the sports world, I will spend the next week-and-a-half exploring which players were the best to wear every possible jersey number, continuing today with 10-19.
Of course comparing players across different sports is difficult, but this will take a look at the most impactful and iconic DC sports figures. Some of the names on this will be more prominent than others; several lesser worn numbers will merely be default picks. In any case, it should be interesting to see the distribution.
To see the best to wear 0-9, click here.
(Note: For NBA and NHL, a player’s tenure is marked by the year their first season ended until the year their final season ended. For example, John Wall was drafted in 2010 and was a rookie in the 2010-11 season, but since the season ended in 2011, his tenure is listed as 2011-present. This is not necessary for MLB — where the entire season is played in the same calendar year — or NFL — where only the postseason is played in a different calendar year.)
*= the player’s tenure on the team extended longer before or after the stated dates, but said player wore a different number in those other years
10) Kelly Miller, Washington Capitals’ forward (1987-1999)
Runner-up: Bobby Carpenter, Washington Capitals’ forward (1982-1987)
Miller played 940 games with the Caps, the fifth-most in franchise history, and his 408 points are tied for 16th-most in franchise history. Miller was never a high-volume point-scoring forward, though he was consistently among the team’s top 10 point scorers for the bulk of his career. His defensive work was his biggest calling card, and he received Selke Trophy votes seven times in his career (six with the Caps), including a third-place finish in 1991-92. Overlapping with all-time greats such as Rod Langway and Dale Hunter, his place in franchise history is a bit overshadowed, but as a longtime contributor for some great Caps teams, he tops all No. 10s in the city’s history.
Carpenter — the second American-born first-round pick ever — was drafted third overall in the 1981 NHL entry draft and spent his first five-plus NHL seasons in Washington. He played 80 games in each of his five full seasons with the team, and was a top five scorer on the team in each of his age 18-21 seasons. His clashes with coach Bryan Murray led to his 1987 trade to the New York Rangers (in fact Miller himself was part of the trade), but Carpenter played an instrumental offensive role for those first playoff teams of the early ’80s.
Earl Monroe would have been in contention, but he played for the Bullets when the franchise was still in Baltimore, then went on to star in nine seasons with the New York Knicks. You also have to consider Manute Bol, who finished his career with more career blocks(!) than points, and was amongst the tallest players in NBA history (measured between 7’6″ and 7’7″). Bol certainly has that “icon” factor going for him. Then, of course, there’s Robert Griffin III, whose overall story is one of disappointment, but will always be a major figure in Redskins history, for better or worse.
11) Elvin Hayes, Washington Bullets’ forward (1973-1981)
Runner-up: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals’ third/first baseman (2005-present)
Hayes is the all-time leading scorer for the franchise by a wide margin (over 4,000 points), and he led the team to its only NBA championship to date in 1978. He holds the ninth-most points in NBA history (27,313) and fourth-most rebounds (16,279). A 12-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA selection and two-time rebounding champion, Hayes is the best player to wear a Bullets uniform.
Zimmerman is “Mr. National.” He was the team’s first draft pick after they moved to DC from Montreal and remained a fixture at third base until moving to first as he got older. He was the star during all the down years, and was a key contributor to the many playoff teams from 2012-2017. Finally in 2019, despite not playing a regular starting role, Zimmerman provided multiple crucial at bats en route to the franchise’s first World Series. Fittingly, the two-time All-Star was the first Nationals player to hit a home run in the World Series. He may not earn Hall of Fame status, but his importance in DC sports history is undeniable.
Before anybody starts a riot about snubbing Mike Gartner, he is obviously another worthy option, and was better in his respective sport than Zimmerman, but with everything Zimmerman means to Nats baseball, Zim gets a bump as an impactful Nats lifer. Gartner was an all-time great Capital, but with the significance of the two guys ahead of him, he just barely misses out.
12) Peter Bondra, Washington Capitals’ forward (1991-2004)
Runner-up: Gus Frerotte, Washington Redskins’ quarterback (1994-1998)
Bondra was the Caps’ star of the ’90s, leading the team in points as early as his third season (the first of five times he would do that). He finished amongst the top 10 point scorers on the team every season, and led the league in goals twice. He retired with the franchise record in career goals and points (both eventually broken by Alex Ovechkin). He is the best Washingtonian athlete to wear No. 12 by far.
Frerotte was the Kirk Cousins before Kirk Cousins. The Skins drafted Frerotte in the seventh round of the 1994 draft. The team had selected Heath Shuler third overall in that same draft as the quarterback of the future. Shuler’s injuries and struggles prevented him from taking the starting job, and so Frerotte took the job and held the role until 1998. Along the way, he put together a Pro Bowl season in 1996, but the team never achieved much during his stint.
13) Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards’ center (2016-2018*)
Runner-up: Jake Scott, Washington Redskins’ safety (1976-1978)
Gortat was the starting center and Wall’s main pick-and-roll partner on the Wizards’ playoff teams of the mid-to-late 2010s. While he was never revered among the best in the league, the Polish Hammer anchored the front court for the better part of the decade (2014-2018). In his five seasons with the team, he started fewer than 80 games just once (74 in 2015-16), and started all 82 games three times. He may not be an all-time great, but he’s a defining character in his era of Wizards basketball.
Scott, the two-time All-Pro and Hall of Fame safety, is a controversial choice for this list. He is best known for being a core member of the 1970s Miami Dolphins, where he made five consecutive Pro Bowls from ’71-’75 and won Super Bowl VII against the Redskins with Miami’s 17-0 team of 1972. He spent three productive seasons in Washington, but his best days were behind him. He did play high school ball for Washington-Lee (VA) and Bullis (MD), but as a pro he will always be remembered more as a Dolphin. Still, he is the best player overall to wear No. 13, and is only topped by Gortat because of the latter’s larger significance to his respective team’s history.
There is a big opportunity for Jakub Vrana to overtake both names by the end of his career (or even within the next few years). After all, he was a rookie when he scored the first goal in Game 5 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, and has since developed into a key member of the team’s present and future.
14) Eddie LeBaron, Washington Redskins’ quarterback (1952-1953, 1955-1959)
Runner-up: Gaétan Duchesne, Washington Capitals’ forward (1982-1987)
At 5’7″, LeBaron would not have been glanced at by today’s NFL scouts, but the 1950s were a different time. He earned three Pro Bowl appearances during his two stints in Washington, and was the top-rated quarterback of the 1958 season. He is not typically listed amongst the best Redskins’ quarterbacks of all time, but of players in DC to wear No. 14, he’s at the top.
Duchesne spent his first six NHL seasons in Washington as a more defensive-minded forward. He received votes for the Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) in each season as a Cap with the exception of his rookie season. He was never the biggest star on the team, but his production made him a key contributor.
15) Guy Charron, Washington Capitals’ forward (1977-1981)
Runner-up: Cristian Guzmán, Washington Nationals’ shortstop (2005-2010)
Charron spent the back end of his NHL career in Washington, but he led the team in points in each of his first two seasons, and was second on the team during his third season in 1978/79. His point production tailed off after that, but Charron was a strong veteran presence that helped build the franchise into an eventual playoff contender.
Guzmán had a rocky tenure with those early Nationals teams, suffering a couple major injuries that held him out for long stretches, but when healthy he was among the team’s stronger players. He was the team’s only representative at the 2008 All-Star Game, and was fourth in the National League in hits and batting average that season. He does not get much recognition, but without too many bright spots in that era, he was one of the few.
16) Dutch Leonard, Washington Senators’ pitcher (1938-1946)
Runner-up: Bengte-Ake Gustafsson, Washington Capitals’ forward (1980-1989)
Emil John Leonard made four of his five All-Star Games as a member of the Senators, and the knuckleball pitcher had a 3.27 ERA and 657 strikeouts across his nine seasons in Washington. He was a solid starting pitcher for his era. Probably the most interesting fact about his career is that he pitched a complete-game victory against the New York Yankees right before Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium in 1939.
Gustafsson was consistently among the top point scorers on the team in his nine years with the Caps. He spent his entire NHL career in Washington, and brought more than just offense; the Swede finished in the top five of Selke trophy voting twice during his career. His consistency made him a big asset for the Caps of the ’80s, never playing fewer than 67 games and scoring fewer than 55 points (with the exception of 1984-85).
His successor in the No. 16 sweater, Alan May, has a case as well. He endeared fans with his gritty playing style, and led the team in penalty minutes during each of his four full seasons with the team, establishing his role as the enforcer.
17) Camilo Pascual, Washington Senators’ pitcher (1957-1960, 1967-1969*)
Runner-up: Doug Williams, Washington Redskins’ quarterback (1986-1989)
Pascual started his career with the original Washington Senators in 1954. He remained on the team through their 1961 move to Minnesota until 1966 when he was traded to… the new Washington Senators (today’s Texas Rangers). Despite the poor play around him, Pascual shined, especially in the early 1960s. He had the highest WAR in the American League in the 1959 season (8.6), while finishing second in strikeouts. He had the sixth-most strikeouts in the AL during 1960. As a member of both Senators franchises who brought high-end production, he certainly earns his place on this list.
Williams only started 14 of the 21 regular season games he played for Washington, but he put up a legendary performance in Super Bowl XXII to become the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Williams went 18-29 for a then-record 340 yards and four touchdowns to earn MVP honors. It was the second Super Bowl win in franchise history, and Williams will always hold a big place in DC sports history for the performance.
Billy Kilmer is worth mentioning as well. He took the Redskins’ starting quarterback job away from Sonny Jurgensen after the latter’s injury in 1971 and held it until 1978, when Joe Theismann took over. Kilmer led the league in touchdown passes in 1972, where he received his only Pro Bowl selection.
18) Craig Laughlin, Washington Capitals’ forward (1983-1988)
Runner-up: Alex Carrasquel, Washington Senators’ pitcher (1942-1945*)
Laughlin was a smaller piece in the trade that brought Langway to Washington, and it paid dividends. He was a top seven scorer in each of his five full seasons with the team, peaking in 1985/86 with 75 points (30g, 45a) in 75 games, which was tied for second on the team. He had the fifth-highest shooting percentage — 18.0 percent — in franchise history. Before he became the TV color commentator for the Caps with NBC Sports Washington, “Locker” was a key contributor on several playoff teams.
Carrasquel was the first Venezuelan-born player to play in the majors, debuting with Washington in 1939 at 26 years old. Despite the Senators constantly finishing toward the bottom of the American League during the 1940s, Carrasquel managed to finish .500 or better from 1940-1945. His numbers didn’t pop off the page, but with not much run support, Carrasquel put together seven solid seasons for the lowly Senators.
19) Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals’ forward (2008-present)
Runner-up: Bob Porterfield, Washington Senators’ pitcher (1951-1955)
Backstrom has been another key franchise figure for his entire career. Having to play in the shadow of Ovechkin has deprived him of All-Star nods in years that he should have received, but he has been crucial to the franchise’s success over the past decade regardless. He is the franchise leader in assists (684) and plus/minus (+119), and is the best, most significant DC athlete to wear the No. 19 by far.
Porterfield was traded to Washington from the Yankees in 1951, and went on to lead the American League with 22 wins in 1953 and finished seventh in MVP voting. He made his only All-Star Game in 1954, with worse numbers than ’53, but nonetheless served as a solid starter before moving on to play for the Boston Red Sox in 1956.