Day 51 (on 5/1) without sports 😭: The many ways 51 is a magic number

We have an interesting little confluence here. The sports world has been on hold for 51 days. And it's May first … 5/1. 

In numerology, 51 is the "angel number," and its presence serves as "a message from your angels to keep your focus on positive outcomes and remain optimistic about current life changes." Pretty good advice these days. 

So while we remain hopeful we'll have our games back soon, here are some of the most interesting instances of the number 51 in sports. 


With apologies to the former Las Vegas 51s (who not-so-mysteriously disappeared last year when they were renamed the Aviators), 51 has certainly brought good fortune to several players who have worn it on their baseball uniform.

  • Hall of Fame left-hander Randy Johnson
  • Hall of Fame relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman
  • Former National League MVP Willie McGee
  • Four-time World Series champion Bernie Williams … and
  • 3,000-hit club member and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki

Wearing his iconic No. 51, Ichiro Suzuki was a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner with the Seattle Mariners. He also won a pair of AL batting titles and finished his MLB career with 3,089 hits. (Photo: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports)


No one ever wore No. 51 quite like Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears. (More on him later.)


It's wide open for someone in either league to take ownership of the number. The top NBA player is probably former first-round draft pick Reggie King. The best from the NHL is 18-year veteran defenseman Brian Campbell.


The only driver to win a Cup Series race in a No. 51 car was Gober Sosebee in 1952 and 1954.

Milestones and moments

— Super Bowl LI featured the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, as the New England Patriots rallied from a 28-3 deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime. The game ranks No. 1 all-time among Super Bowls, according to USA TODAY's Nate Davis.

— Speaking of playoff comebacks, the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the Houston Texans 21-0 in last year's AFC Divisional Playoff before Patrick Mahomes and Co. scored 51 points over the final three quarters in a 51-31 victory.

— In baseball, Andruw Jones led the majors in 2005 with a career-high 51 home runs.

— After his last dance with the Chicago Bulls was over, Michael Jordan scored 51 points as a member of the Washington Wizards in a Dec. 29, 2001, game against the Charlotte Bobcats. 

— Vince Carter scored a career-high 51 points on Feb. 27, 2000 (Full game video)

— Wayne Gretzky holds the NHL record with at least one point in 51 consecutive games, which he accomplished in 1983-84.

Sports video of the day

Now, back to the meanest person to ever wear 51 — and one of the greatest linebackers of all time. This classic video is a treat, not only because it was produced by NFL Films, but also because it also features legendary narrator John Facenda. 

You can almost feel the cold winds blow through Soldier Field off the shores of Lake Michigan when Facenda begins, "Shakespeare's words could well have immortalized Dick Butkus …"

Story time! Here are some of our best

NEW MLB OPTION:Teams preparing to resume spring training at their home parks

JEFF ZILLGITT: NBA won't be pressured into decision on canceling or resuming  season

NANCY ARMOUR:Gymnastics coach's suspension sends strong message on verbal abuse

NASCAR RETURNING:Darlington to host Cup races — without fans — on May 17, 20

TICKET REFUNDS:MLB clubs allowing fans to get money back for unplayed games, if they ask

MIKE JONES:Andy Dalton adds intrigue to free-agent quarterback market

CHRISTINE BRENNAN:Youth sports coaches fighting to keep kids active, engaged

May 1 in sports history

1940: The Summer Olympics — scheduled in Helsinki, Finland — are officially canceled due to World War II.

1948: Eddie Arcaro rides Citation to victory to become the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby four times.

1969: Leonard Tose buys the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles for a professional sports record $16.15 million.

1984: Nebraska wide receiver Irving Fryar is taken first overall in the NFL draft by the New England Patriots.

1988: Michael Jordan (you may have heard of him) scores 55 points in Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls' first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After scoring 50 points in the opener, Jordan becomes the first player in NBA history to hit the 50-point mark in consecutive playoff games.

1991: Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers extends his own MLB record with the seventh and final no-hitter of his career — at the age of 44.

2000: Playing in the San Francisco Giants' new Pacific Bell Park, Barry Bonds becomes the first player to hit a home run into San Francisco Bay during a game. It marks the first of his 35 splash hits. 

2012: Guggenheim Partners purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers for a professional sports record $2.1 billion.

2019: Lionel Messi scores twice to reach 600 goals for his career with FC Barcelona in a 3-0 win over Liverpool.

What to watch


MLB Network will celebrate Ryan's seventh no-hitter at 3 p.m. ET with a replay of the Texas Rangers-Toronto Blue Jays game from May 1, 1991.

Then cap off your evening at 11:30 p.m. ET with a replay of Game 2 of the 1989 ALCS, in which Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's steals four bases against the Toronto Blue Jays.


NFL Network takes a break from game replays with a pair of prime-time airings of its "A Football Life" series. Check in with Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith at 9 p.m. ET, followed by four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw at 10 p.m. ET.


NBA TV travels back in time to the 1993 playoffs with Game 2 of the Eastern Conference's first round between the upstart Charlotte Hornets and the Boston Celtics at 5 p.m. ET.

Then at 8 p.m. ET, it's a pop-up facts broadcast of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons battle in Game 5. LeBron James pours in 48 points in the double-overtime classic.

College football

NBC Sports Network taps into the vault for a pair of memorable Fiesta Bowls. At 7 p.m. ET, catch the 1989 game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 West Virginia. Then at 9:30 ET, it's No 2 Penn State vs. No. 1 Miami.

And for the night owls, the 1984 Orange Bowl pitting No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 5 Miami will air at 12:30 a.m. ET.

Games we're missing

NBA and NHL playoffs


  • Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals
  • Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies
  • New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
  • San Francisco Giants at Cleveland Indians
  • Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox
  • Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
  • Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins
  • Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
  • St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers
  • Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox
  • Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics
  • Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
  • Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Steve Gardner on Twitter: @SteveAGardner.

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