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Minnesota Sports By The Numbers: 1-5

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Looking at the best players to wear numbers 1-99 in Minnesota sports history. Today, we look at numbers 1-5.

Gump Worsley played as goalie in the NHL without a mask.  In an unrelated note, Gump Worsley's orthodontist has a summer home in the Bahamas, and a winter chalet in Switzerland.
Gump Worsley played as goalie in the NHL without a mask. In an unrelated note, Gump Worsley's orthodontist has a summer home in the Bahamas, and a winter chalet in Switzerland.

One of the great things about being a Minnesota sports fan is the history we have with our sports teams, and the great players that have played for said teams. Here at SB Nation Minnesota, we’ve compiled a list of players that have best represented the jersey number they wore for their respective team, and then decided who best represents that number across the Minnesota sports spectrum. We’re going to go from 1-99, going in increments of five, and we looked at the best players from the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, North Stars, and the U of M. Some numbers were or will be pretty easy. It’s probably no secret who will represent the No. 10, or No. 34 for example. But some numbers have been very difficult to decide, and when the staff gets deadlocked between two players, we'll do a write-up for each candidate, roll out a poll, and let you, the reader, determine who was the best player with that number. So, without any further delay, let’s look at the representatives for numbers 1-5.

No. 1:  Gump Worsley, Minnesota North Stars, Goalie. Worsley was a Hall of Fame goalie past his prime when he came to the North Stars, but was still selected as an All-Star in 1972. He won four Stanley Cups, although none with the North Stars, and was selected as an All-Star three other times in his 21-year career. However, he is probably most famous for playing without a mask…as a hockey goalie. He was the last goalie to do so, and it made him a folk hero, in many respects. And it was seriously cool. Foolish, but way cool.   

No. 2:  Zoilo Versalles, Minnesota Twins, Shortstop. Veralles was the catalyst for the Twins teams of the early and mid 1960s, and was the AL MVP in 1965, the first year that Minnesota won the pennant. Versalles was the prototypical shortstop for the era -- speedy, slick fielding…but he could also hit, and hit well. During his 1965 MVP season, he led the American League in at-bats, runs scored, doubles and triples. He was a near-unanimous winner of the MVP award, receiving 19 of the 20 first-place votes.

No. 3:  Harmon Killebrew, Minnesota Twins, OF. Killebrew was is considered one of the great all-time sluggers in baseball history. He lead the league in home runs five times, RBI 3 times,  was a 13-time All-Star, finished in the top 5 for MVP five times while winning it in 1969, and finished with 573 career homers, which is 11th all time. It’s sixth if you eliminate the steroid era sluggers. Killebrew was the first Twins superstar, and the team was built around his power for over a decade. It’s hard to explain how hard he hit the ball and how it sounded when it came off his bat. If you’re ever at the Mall of America and stand at the home plate placard over by the Amusement Park, look up and to your left. There’s a chair nailed to the wall 520 feet away. Harmon Killebrew hit a ball that far in 1967 when the Mall of America was Metropolitan Stadium.

No. 4:  Bob Allison, Minnesota Twins, OF. If you want to make an analogy of former Twins to current ones, and you want to equate Killebrew and Joe Mauer, then Killebrew’s Justin Morneau was Bob Allison. Allison was a three time All-Star and was among the top 10 in home runs eight times. Allison was often overlooked on the Twins, with players like Versalles, Rod Carew, and Killebrew, but he was one of the most consistent offensive players for the Twins throughout the 1960s. In 1966, he only played in 70 games but had no less than 525 plate appearances from 1959 through 1968. 

No. 5:  Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins, OF-DH. Cuddyer is a 10-year vet whose play has improved every year, culminating in his best year last season, when he hit 32 home runs and had 94 RBI. A versatile fielder, Cuddyer has played every infield position except shortstop and catcher along with his natural position of right field. 

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.