Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Top 10 Greatest New York Yankees
Well, how about that? I actually got this project finished before February was torn off the calendar.
Right, who has a calendar like that anymore?
Honorable Mention to the figures in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium who are not otherwise on this list: Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Allie Reynolds, Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly. (Think about those names, and about how many teams' Top 10 they would make.)
Also to managers Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel and Billy Martin (but not, as yet, Joe Torre); general manager Ed Barrow; owners Jacob Ruppert and George Steinbrenner; broadcaster Mel Allen; and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard. (The 3 Popes who delivered Mass at the old Stadium, as the old joke goes, may once have been Cardinals, but they were not Yankees, or even Yankee personnel.)
Also to Hall-of-Famers not in the Top 10 or Monument Park: Clark Griffith, Jack Chesbro, Willie Keeler, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Dave Winfield and Wade Boggs.
And, if you count this player as a broadcasting HOFer, as the Hall (sort of) does, Tony Kubek. And broadcaster Walter "Red" Barber: Though better known for calling the Dodgers (1939-53), he was actually with the Yankees for nearly as long (1954-66).
Also to guys who should one day get into either of the preceding 2 categories, but are not in the Top 10: Bobby Murcer, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Mike Mussina, Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia, and, yes, Alex Rodriguez. (Hey, if I can admit it... )
(UPDATE: Bernie, Paulie, Andy, Jorge, Tino, Mariano, Derek, and Joe Torre all have Plaques now. So do Mel Stottlemyre, Willie Randolph and Goose Gossage.)
And, just because I feel like it, also to "Ol' Reliable" Tommy Henrich, Hank Borowy (from my original hometown of Bloomfield, New Jersey), Mel Stottlemyre, Roy White, Albert "Sparky" Lyle, Sweet Lou Piniella, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph, John Milton "Mick the Quick" Rivers, Russell "Bucky" Dent, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, John Wetteland, Joe Girardi, Scott Brosius, Aaron Boone, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, and every single Yankee Fan out there. And to the old Yankee Stadium (1923-2008).
10. Phil Rizzuto, Number 10, shortstop, 1941-56, then broadcaster 1957-96. Statistically, my selection of the Scooter is ridiculous. But it's my list, and how can you leave off someone who was a faithful servant of the same club for 56 years? Not even Connie Mack could truthfully make that claim. If you count the time from his retirement until his death, it was 67 years. Two-thirds of a century? Holy cow, what that huckleberry did, that's unbelivable.
9. Bill Dickey, Number 8, catcher, 1928-46. For a long time, he was considered the greatest catcher ever. And, in all but name, Lou Gehrig's best friend on the team succeeded him as Yankee Captain.
8. Edward "Whitey" Ford, Number 16, pitcher, 1950-67. The all-time leader in most starting pitcher categories for the Yankees, he won an unsurpassable 10 World Series games, is the all-time leader in winning percentage for pitchers with at least 250 decisions, and no starting pitcher in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era has a lower ERA.
7. Lawrence "Yogi" Berra, Number 8, catcher/left fielder, 1946-63. "Bill Dickey is learning me all his experiences," he said, and the apprentice surpassed the master. 14 Pennants, 10 World Series wins, both records. 3 MVPs. I could go on and on about what this man has meant to baseball in general, and to the Yankees in particular. After all, it ain't... you know...
6. Mariano Rivera, Number 42, pitcher, 1995-present. Most likely, 1995-2012. Enjoy the all-time saves leader and the greatest relief pitcher ever while you can, before he truly heads "off to Never Never Land."
UPDATE: He came back for the 2013 season, then retired.
5. Derek Jeter, Number 2, shortstop, 1995-present. I could talk about the great defensive plays, or any number of the 3,000-plus hits he's gotten in regular-season and postseason play, including the fact that he pretty much clinched the only Subway Series most of us will have ever seen on the 1st pitch of Game 4.
Let's put it this way: Having dated Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Jordana Brewster, Jessica Alba, and Minka Kelly (with whom he seems to have reconciled), which means that Lou Gehrig is no longer the only Yankee Captain who could claim to be "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
UPDATE: Once he retired after the 2014 season, he married his then-current girlfriend, Hannah Davis, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model.
4. Joe DiMaggio, Number 5, center field, 1936-51. Below Mickey? Yes, Mickey was a better hitter, and not that far behind the Yankee Clipper as a fielder. But Joe D. was the symbol of baseball for the World War II generation. "I'd like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee." So would I.
3. Mickey Mantle, Number 7, center field, 1951-68. If Joltin' Joe was The Man for the radio generation, Mickey was it for the 1st television generation. Men now collecting Social Security still smile, or get tears in their eyes, or both, when talking about him. He might have been the last player in the major leagues to truly be a mixture of man and myth -- especially since we've seen the crashing and burning of Pete Rose and Mark McGwire.
2. Lou Gehrig, Number 4, 1st base, 1923-39. When they made a movie about him, they got the great Gary Cooper -- who'd never played baseball before, and didn't sound like him, but did look a little like him. They called it The Pride of the Yankees. For no player has that oft-used title been more true.
Not even for the guy at Number 1.
1. Babe Ruth, Number 3, right field, 1920-34. If you gotta ask why, you're reading the wrong blog.