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NYBD Top 50 Yankees All Time



By Mike Silva ~ January 2nd, 2011. Filed under: Top 50 Yankees All Time.

Putting together a “top list” is difficult for the Yankees due to their long and rich history. Although I didn’t see a good majority of these players, I used research, stats, and my personal intangibles when putting the list together. I tried to get a good combination of all decades in Yankees history.

I also tried to weigh the players impact in terms of the length of their Yankee career, postseason, and overall value to the team.

Let the debate begin:

1. Babe Ruth (OF) – Would probably top any list. Ruth symbolized more than the Yankees, he is what made baseball “American’s Pastime.” The numbers are insane, as he was on base nearly 55% of the time in 1923. Hit 659 homers in a Yankees uniform, OBP of .484, and a career OPS of 1.195. Even better in the postseason with a career OPS of 1.211. No one on this list has close to these numbers mainly due to the fact that Barry Bonds signed with San Francisco, instead of the Yankees, in the winter of 1992.

2. Joe DiMaggio (OF) – Doesn’t have the overall numbers of Gehrig and Mantle, but that is mainly due to serving his country and injuries later in his career. From 1936 to 1941 an average DiMaggio season was 33 homers, 136 RBI, 1.034 OPS, and only 27 strikeouts per year. He struck out 369 times in his career, which is about two seasons worth for Ryan Howard. Was the statesman that Mantle never could, or wanted, to be.

3. Lou Gehrig (1B) – The Iron Horse played in 2, 130 consecutive games. Before his illness, Gehrig was showing no signs of slowing down, even at age 35. Everyone talks about Ruth in 1927, but it was Gehrig who won the MVP with 47 homers, 173 RBI, and .373 batting average. Another few years of productivity, and maybe he moves ahead of DiMaggio. Career OPS of 1.080, 493 homers, 1,995 RBI.

4. Mickey Mantle – Truly an athlete that could be called a “freak of nature.” Played on a bad knee that was never treated properly, and partied hard off the field, yet put up numbers that ballplayers can only dream to achieve. For a four year period (1955-1958) he was Babe Ruth producing an OPS+ of 200, averaging 41 homers, 105 RBI, .460 OBP, and an OPS of 1.105. If he just took care of himself his thirties might have been more productive, and 700 homers easily achieved. Finished with 536 homers, 1509 RBI, and .298 batting average with OPS of .977.

5. Yogi Berra (C) - Everyone talks about his bat, but threw out 50% of base runners for his career. Three time MVP with 358 career homers, and.830 OPS. The combination of his position, offense, and superior defense puts him in the top five. Would have won multiple Gold Gloves if such an award existed back then.

6. Derek Jeter (SS) – Barring catastrophe, “The Captain” will finish with 3,000 hits and be this generations “Joe DiMaggio.” He has a little Michael Jordan in him as well, as no one in Yankees history might be as clutch, or have a flair for the dramatic. Plays every day, works hard, and produces. Career .314 hitter, won Rookie of the Year in 1996, and five world titles. The only thing he doesn’t have is an MVP, and he was robbed of that in 2006.

7. Whitey Ford (LHP) - It took till number seven, but we finally see a pitcher on the list. Finished with 236 wins and 130 games over .500, winning nearly 70% of the time. No one with 300 decisions has been more successful. Career ERA of 2.75, and 156 complete games. Even has 10 saves to boot for good measure. The “Chairman of the Board” is the gold standard for every pitcher wearing pinstripes.

8. Mariano Rivera (RHP) – Greatest closer of all time has set an unrealistic precedent for his successors. There have been other closers with equally, or better, seasons, but no one has done it for as long as Rivera. His postseason numbers as of this writing (0.71 ERA, 42 saves) are ungodly. With a normal closer, the Yankees might not win one World Series, much less five, since 1996. If only Buck Showalter knew what he had they might have another title, and perhaps he would have saved his job.

9. Alex Rodriguez (3B) - We still have another seven years, and I suspect we may see him make a case for a higher ranking. Known as a selfish player, but to be fair, did approve the trade from Texas that forced him to move to third, which hurts his legacy. Two MVP’s, and erased the “choker label” with his 2009 postseason. His 2005 and 2007 seasons right up there with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle. It will be interesting to see how his hip holds up, and what type of A-Rod we will see going forward. So far the Yankees have a better version than what we saw in Seattle. I could see him move into Jeter/Berra territory when he’s finished.

10. Bill Dickey (C) – Very similar career to Berra, but with slightly less power. Hit for power (202 homers), average (.313 career average), and had a strong throwing arm that caught 44% of base runners. Joe Mauer just recently broke his single season record for batting average by a catcher (.362 in 1936) when he hit .365 in 2009. Tough player that broke Carl Reynolds jaw after a collision at home plate.

11. Red Ruffing (RHP) - Pitched in an offensive era, which I believe makes his production that more impressive. Career Yankees ERA of 3.47 with 261 complete games. Won 20 games four years in a row from 1936 to 1939. Not a bad hitter as he hit 36 homers for his career. Was also the Mets pitching coach in 1962.

12. Bernie Williams (OF) - The quiet man of that nineties dynasty. I believe he was the Yanks best hitter on that team, as he would consistently hit over .300, with 25 homers, and 100 RBI in his prime. Won four Gold Gloves, more for his range than arm. If Steinbrenner let him go to Boston after the ’98 season it would have been disastrous for the team.

13. Thurman Munson (C) – The heart and soul of that seventies team. Not in the offensive class of Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, or even Jorge Posada, but every bit the defender of Dickey/Berra, and has three Gold Gloves to prove it. Was the first Yankees captain since Lou Gehrig, an honor that should not be overlooked.

14. Don Mattingly (1B) - A doubles machine in his prime (hit 53 in 1985). Was destined to be in the Top 10, but back problems turned him into an average player after 1989. His six year period (84-89) produced an average season of 27 homers, 114 RBI, and .327 batting average. Won nine Gold Gloves, and one of the best defensive first basemen in the history of the game. Wish we could have seen more of him in the postseason, as he went 10 for 25 against Seattle in the ’95 ALDS.

15. Lefty Gomez (LHP) - Won the “pitching triple crown” in 1934 and 1937 by leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Went 189-101 in pinstripes, and only Whitey Ford, Christy Matthewson, and Lefty Grove have a higher winning percentage. Perfect 6-0 in the postseason.

16. Andy Pettitte (LHP) - Assuming his career is over, he will finish with 203 wins as a Yankee, and would be the all time leader if he didn’t bolt for Houston after 2003. I believe he will be a polarizing Hall of Fame debate when the time comes. What hurts Pettitte is he was never dominant, just consistent. His typical line – 15 wins, 200 innings, and a 4.00 ERA – may not be “ace like,” but certainly top of the rotation worthy.

17. Dave Winfield (OF) – Will always be remembered as “Mr. May,” and for the Howie Spira debacle. Became the game’s highest paid player when George Steinbrenner signed him to a 10 year/$23 million dollar contract after the 1980 season. Hit 205 homers, drove in over 1,800 runs, and hit .283 with Gold Glove defense. A three sport athlete drafted by the NBA, ABA, and the NFL as well.

18. Roger Maris (OF) – I will never understand why the fans disliked him. Played seven years in New York, hit 203 homers, drove in over 500 runs, and walked as much as he struck out. Obviously a large portion of his production came in 1961 (61 homers, 141 RBI, .269 batting average), but was good for 30/100 in most years. Won two MVP’s and a Gold Glove. Amazing how the former all time home run’s leader could be underrated, but he was.

19. Reggie Jackson (OF) – Would have been higher, but only played five years in New York. The Yankees didn’t become champions till he arrived in 1977. Like Alex Rodriguez in the sense he is polarizing. Three home run game against the Dodgers to clinch the ’77 World Series is right up there with any great Yankees moment.

20. Tony Lazzeri (2B) –  Averaged 79 runs, 14 home runs, 96 RBI and 12 stolen bases, including seven seasons with over 100 RBI and five seasons batting .300 or higher, including a high of .354 in 1929. Not many second basemen in history, much less that era, produced offensively like Lazzari. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991

21. Willie Randolph (2B) - I never saw a second basemen turn a better double play than Randolph. Very smooth, but not flashy, which is probably why he never won a Gold Glove. Would have fit in well with the nineties Yankees with his .373 career OBP. Consummate number two hitter that was patient and took walks.

22. Phil Rizzuto (SS) – A case of a player where you had to watch him to appreciate since his numbers don’t impress. It was all about the defense with Rizzuto, as Ted Williams claimed it would have been the Red Sox, not the Yankees, with the dynasty in the forties and fifties. Won the 1950 American League MVP award. Regarded as the best bunter in baseball history, and turned the second most double plays next to Luis Aparicio. Most young readers remember Rizzuto for his antics in the booth than his exploits on the playing field.

23. Bob Shawkey (RHP) - Started the first game at the original Yankee Stadium. Won 20 games four times, and managed the Yankees in 1930 after the death of Miller Huggins. Went 168-131 during his tenure in New York.

24. Ron Guidry- His 1978 season (25-3, 1.72) is arguably the best single pitching season in team history. Late bloomer, who might have accumulated even more impressive numbers. As it is he won 170 games with a 3.29 ERA. Many cite the practice of fans “standing and clapping” before a strikeout as starting during his 18 strikeout game at Yankee Stadium on June 17th, 1978.

25. Rickey Henderson (OF) – Would have been in the top 10 if he spent his entire career with the Yankees. Was every bit the player in New York that he was in Oakland, except he spent some time injured and unhappy. Amazing how things turned around for him after going back to Oakland in 1989. Still averaged .863 OPS, 19 homers, 58 RBI, and 75 stolen bases his four full seasons with the team.

26. Mel Stottlemyre (RHP)- Some may think I am ranking him too high, but pitched in the worst era of Yankees history: after the dynasty and before the Steinbrenner regime. Still won 164 games with a 2.97 ERA, along with 152 complete games, and 40 shutouts. Known for his offense, as he hit seven homers in his career, including an inside the park Grand Slam.

27. Jorge Posada (C) – Catcher that, to date, has hit 261 homers, drove in over 1,000 runs, and has a .856 OPS. Not in the defensive mold of Berra/Dickey, but right there offensively.

28. Earle Combs (OF) – The “Kentucky Colonial” was a favorite of manager Miller Huggins and the sportswriters. When inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1970 he said that “Hall of Fame is for superstars, not average players like me.” Triples machine as he averaged 17 per season. He is being too modest by saying he was an “average player” as his .325 career batting average, and .856 OPS indicates otherwise.

29. Waite Hoyt (RHP) – local kid born in Brooklyn, and attended Erasmus High School. Played for the Yankees from 1921 to 1930, amassing 157 wins and 156 complete games. Was the “ace” of the ’27 staff winning 22 games, with a 2.67 ERA.

30. Joe Gordon (2b) - Won the 1942 American League MVP (18, 103, .322). First American League second basemen to hit 20 homers, and held the league mark for homers until 2001. Veterans Committee elected him into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

31. Bob Meusel (OF) - Batting fifth, behind Lou Gehrig, so you have to give him some credit for providing adequate protection for the Iron Horse. Led the American League in homers and RBI in 1925. Held many Yankee records for right handed batters before it was broken by Tony Lazzari and Joe DiMaggio. Career .309 hitter with 156 homers, and .857 OPS.

32. Roy White (OF) – Played 15 seasons with the Yankees, and exemplified consistency. Walked more than he struck out (.360 career OBP), with a little bit of pop (160 career homers).

33. Elston Howard (C, OF) – Became the first African American to play for the Yankees when he debuted in 1955. Came up as a catcher, and despite being good defensively, had to convert to an outfielder because of the presence of Yogi Berra. I believe he could have been a HOF catcher if he played for any other team. When he started playing every day in the early sixties won an MVP and two Gold Gloves. Made nine All Star teams, sometimes selected even when he was a part time player.

34. Jason Giambi – (1B/DH) - Steroids knock him down on the list, but I believe was one of the best hitters of the late nineties/turn of the century. His 2002 campaign (41, 122, .314) was right up there with some of the great first base seasons by Gehrig and Mattingly. His PED use led to breakdowns, which cost him two seasons.

35. Bobby Murcer (OF) – Played for the team in the dark days of CBS ownership. Wasn’t the “next Mickey Mantle,” but put up huge numbers over a 3 year period (’71-’73), where he averaged 27 homers, 95 RBI, .893 OPS, and more walks than strikeouts. His 1971 campaign was “Mantle-esque” when he led the AL in OBP (.427), hit 25 homers, drove in 95 runs, and produced an OPS+ of 181. Great arm, and won Gold Gloves for his outfield play. Most dramatic moment came in his second stint with the club with his game winning hit against Baltimore the day of Thurman Munson‘s funeral.

36. Paul O’Neill (OF) – One of the most beloved Yankees of the nineties. Was acquired without much fanfare for former top prospect Roberto Kelly. O’Neill was a perfect fit for the Yankees: patient and a lefty stroke built for Yankee Stadium. Led the American League in batting in 1994 with a .359 average. Career .303 hitter in pinstripes. I still remember the fans chanting “Paul O’Neill” to say goodbye during Game 5 of the 2001 World Series.

37. Tino Martinez (1B) – Did the impossible by taking over first base from Don Mattingly, and winning over the fans in short time. Put up better numbers than Mattingly throughout his seven years with the club, and was underrated defensively. Finished second in the ’97 MVP vote when he hit 44 homers, and drove in 141 runs. Fans forget his game tying homer during the 2001 World Series because it happened the day before the dramatic Scott Brosius one in Game 5.

38. Tommy Henrich (OF/1B) – His at bat in Game 4 of the ’41 World Series is remembered as a turning point. Struck out, but Dodgers catcher Mickey Owens dropped the ball, and Henrich would get on base, later scoring, and the Yankees would win the game and take a commanding lead in the series. Was a supporting player on a team that featured Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Joe Gordon, and Billy Dickey. His numbers were anything but, hitting 183 career homers, 73 triples, and .873 OPS. Named “Old Reliable” by Mel Allen because of his penchant for getting a hit when the team needed it most.

39. Charlie Keller (OF) – Awesome walk to strikeout ratio (784-499). His career OPS is right up there with many Hall of Famer’s, such as Reggie Jackson, Honus Wagner, and Mike Schmidt. Was the first rookie to hit two homers in a World Series game when he did it in 1939 against the Cardinals. Had two seasons of 30 homers, 20 doubles, 10 triples, which has only been done by three others: Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Duke Snider. The War and back problems cut down his career, or perhaps he could have been higher on the list.

40. Goose Gossage (RHP) – Was the gold standard for Yankees closers before someone named Mariano Rivera was in town. His 1981 season where he saved 20 games with a 0.77 ERA is one of the best in team history. Finished his Yankees career with 151 saves and 2.14 career ERA.

41. Graig Nettles (3B) – Symbolized the grit of those late seventies championship Yankees teams. The best defensive third basemen in Yankees history, and one of the best all time. In 11 seasons hit 250 homers and drove in over 800 runs. Put on a show defensively for a national audience during the 1978 World Series.

42. Mike Mussina (RHP) – One of the smartest pitchers to wear a Yankees uniform. Reinvented himself in 2008 after it was clear his skills were eroding, and won 20 games during his final season. Won 123 games with the Yankees, and posted a 3.88 ERA. That may not jump out statistically, but he did this in an era of offense in the American League East. Good fielder who won two gold gloves. Nearly pitched a perfect game against the Red Sox at Fenway in 2001, but Carl Everett broke it up with two outs in the ninth. Most memorable performance was his three shutout innings of relief in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. If not for Mussina, the Sox blow out the Yankees at home that night, and go to the World Series a year earlier.

43. Roger Clemens (RHP) – Wasn’t the Roger Clemens of Boston and Toronto fame, but won 66% of his decisions. Became the first pitcher in baseball history to start the season 20-1 in 2001. Finished that year 20-3, 3.51 and won the Cy Young Award. I still believe his Yankees career turned around the night he beaned Piazza. Up to that point he was a struggling league average pitcher, and after became Roger Clemens again. Came up big in the 2000 playoffs against the Mariners and Mets. Wasn’t the savior the Yankees needed during his second stint in 2007. Knocked him down a bit because he isn’t a true Yankee, in my opinion, and need some “help” to regain his form. Regardless, can’t deny the numbers.

44. Hank Bauer (OF) – Holds the World Series record for longest hitting streak (17). His most notable performance came in the sixth and final game of the 1951 World Series, where he hit a three-run triple. He also saved the game with a diving catch of a line drive by Sal Yvars for the final out. Very consistent performer during his 11 year Yankees career. Lost four years of his prime due to service in the Marines. Was a lieutenant and was awarded two bronze stars and a Purple Heart.

45. Allie Reynolds (RHP) – Very versatile as he pitched as a starter and reliever during his career. Pitched two no-hitters during the 1951 season. Finished in the top five of MVP voting in ’51 and ’52.  Fell one vote shy of being elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Won 131 games, saved 41, and has a career winning percentage with the Yankees of .686.

46. George Selkirk (OF) – Took over for Babe Ruth, and had a nice three year run where he hit .314, averaging 16 homers and 90 RBI during that time. Selkirk batted over .300 five times, twice drove home more than 100 RBI, played on five World Championship teams (1936, 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1941), and made the American League All-Star team in 1936 and 1939.

47. Eddie Lopat (LHP) – Won 113 games during his career with a .657 winning percentage. Best season was 1953 when he went 16-4, with a 2.42 ERA.

48. Dave Righetti (LHP) – Won Rookie of the Year, Pitched a no hitter, and developed into one of the top closers in the American League. Saved 224 games.

49. Robinson Cano (2B) – Snuck in the top fifty thanks to his last couple of seasons. 2010 probably weight heavily into my decision, as he produced in all facets of the game by winning his first Gold Glove award. Will move us this list over the next few years as he is only six years in to his career, and just 27 years old. How many second basemen can hit 25 homers, drive in 100 runs, and play Gold Glove defense?

50. Sparky Lyle (LHP)- In 1977 became the first American League reliever to win the Cy Young Award. Pitched 137 innings that season, finished 60 games, and saved 26. Saved 141 games during his Yankees career. Next to the Ruth trade, might be the next biggest heist the Yankees pulled on the Red Sox.



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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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13 Responses to NYBD Top 50 Yankees All Time

  1. Oscar

    Roger Clemens? Come on, do your Yankee research beyond 25 years into the past. You’ll fine Herb Pennock, a hall of famer, ace of the best team of all time (’27) and winner of 248 games. How could you not include eight-time all star Bobby Richardson?

  2. KennyH123

    Nice list, lots of fun to read and debate…. obviously this is mostly subjective and everyone will have their own opinions. But how does Jason Giambi even make this list, let alone be in the #34 spot?

  3. Paul Catalano

    Nice list. Appreciate you put DiMaggio, a righty in who played in cavernous left field Yankee Stadium. Would have had Mariano Rivera, Bill Dickey and Lazzeri higher. o would have O’Neill. And no way does Giambi even get to read this list, much less be on it.

  4. Mike Silva

    Oscar

    Bobby Richardson was largely a below league average hitter, yes he won Gold Gloves, but I am not sure he belongs in the Top 50. I decided to give Cano the nod instead.

    Pennock didn’t win 248 games with the Yankees. This is where you might have your best argument. I dinged him because he pitched for the twenties Yankees. That is why a Mel Stottlemyre is ahead of him, and some of the closers.

    If you look at his numbers he was very average when he didn’t pitch with “Murderers Row” behind him.

  5. Mike Silva

    KennyH

    Look at Giambi’s numbers.

    I dinged him and Rocket for steroid use, by knocking them down on the list, but you can’t deny that Giambi had some of the best offensive seasons in Yankees history in 2002-2003.

    Don’t forget his big homer off Pedro in Game 7 as well. Underrated play in that ballgame.

  6. Bobby

    Mikey,

    Great job. The only disagreement I have with you is that Gehrig and DiMaggio should be flip flopped.

    The List should be:

    1. Ruth
    2. Gehrig
    3. DiMaggio
    4. Mantle
    5. Berra

    I also think that Thruman should be rated higher than Bernie, since his career was cut short by the accident and he played the most demanding position on the field.

  7. KTEvent

    Mikey,

    Herb Pennock is a definito. Compare his stint with, say, Mussina. He had 161 wins (more than Mike) with the Bombers, better pitching stats, more world series titles and was the best team in history’s best pitchers. Oh yeah: He’s a Hall of Famer.

  8. Chris Silva

    Mike,

    I got a few inteeresting comments on the piece via facebok. One reader had an interesting arguement of leaving Matsui off this list with the impact he had during his Yankees tenure. Albeit he only won 1 World Series but his overall impact was much larger than his preception as a role player. Also, he made a valid point about Tino Martinez being lower than Giambi. Tino brought more value to that Yankees team with the defense that he brought to the table. It would be interesting to see how many runs he saved with wild throws by a young Jeter and aging Wade Boggs. Another name brought up that was left off is Clete Boyer. Didn’t have the sexiest numbers at the plate but brought Gold Glove caliber defense at a time when I think it was a bit more valued. Had a strong offense year in 1962 with 18 Home Runs but overall below average offense numbers.

    Any thoughts?

  9. Mike Silva

    Clete Boyer wasn’t much of a hitter during his career (.242 batting average, low OBP), so I think leaving him out is rather easy. I thought about Matsui, but there were too many good hitters from the twenties and thirties. The more I think about it, Pennock is the one which I probably should have found a way into the Top 50, maybe at the expense of Righetti, or one of the bottom OF’s.

  10. b fritz

    I would’ve included chambliss

  11. Duke

    I’m a Red Sox fan, but more importantly a baseball fan, and I really believe that Lou Gehrig should be number 2 on this list. his career numbers are almost impossible to believe considering he began his decline at the age of 35 due to ALS. I understand and appreciate the greatness of DiMaggio but he would be number three on my list.

    A-Rod is a little too high on the list for me but with seven years to go he may very well earn his high ranking.

    And what about everyone’s favorite Yankees – Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson? Were they deemed ineligible due to “off field activities including wife swapping”? LOL

  12. Dan

    I would have moved the Straw down the list and left Giambi at the bottom. Otherwise, fun to think about. Love the kekich/peterson comment. Maybe there should be an off-the-field activities list. I would have Ruth, Mantle and Martin on the top of that one.

  13. Larry Sher

    You’ve got to put Vic Raschi on the list. Also Reynolds goes higher.
    You’ve got to respect 5 straight WS. I don’t know that Dimaggio surpasses Gehrig, but he was certainly the most successful player ever, 9 World Championships in 13 years.

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