With the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki on the Yankees, something I certainly never expected to see, I decided to update this piece, first posted on August 2, 2010.
Top 10 Guys You Never Expected to See In a Yankee Uniform
Honorable Mention to Bonds and Griffey. That's Bobby Bonds (1975) and Ken Griffey Sr. (1982-86). We think of the sons so much that it's easy to forget how good the fathers were. Griffey Sr. was very good. Bobby Bonds was fantastic for a while, although his one season with the Yankees was not one of his better ones.
10. Ron Swoboda, 1971-73. Yes, one of the heroes of the 1969 Mets was a Yankee for almost 3 seasons. They were his last 3, he batted .235 as a Yankee (then again, that's not that much lower than the .242 he batted as a Met), and he played his last game in the majors as a Yankee at age 29.
Still, no one will ever forget his catch to rob Brooks Robinson (ironic that Brooks should be the victim of such a great play) and preserve a tie, allowing the Mets to win Game 4 of the '69 World Series in 10 innings.
9. David Cone, 1995-2000. It wasn't just that he pitched for the Mets, but also for 2 other teams that have raised Yankee Fans' blood pressure over the years, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals. But when he toed the rubber (to use a great old baseball phrase) for the Yanks, he was as good as Yankee pitchers have ever come.
And, while he did win a ring with the Jays (1992), he did not win one with the Mets. (He got there right after the '86 win.) He won 4 as a Yankee. But because of that, he is now indelibly linked with the Yankees, and so I can't rank him any higher -- on this list, anyway.
8. Sal Maglie, 1957-58. It was weird enough for New York baseball fans in the 1950s to see the glowering, headhunting curveball master of the Giants pitch for the Dodgers in 1956 -- and throw a no-hitter no less, the last one ever thrown at Ebbets Field. But for him to go to the Yankees the next season? Alas, '56 was his last good season, and he did nothing in Pinstripes.
7. Jose Canseco, 2000. It was very brief, and we certainly don't want to celebrate it, but, yes, he was a Yankee, and won as many rings with us as he won with all his other teams combined: One. (The other one was with the 1989 A's.)
6. Ichiro Suzuki, 2012. (No idea if he'll be re-signed after this season.) The Yankees need a contact hitter who can run, and they need a good defensive outfielder. Ichiro fits all of that, and should be a good pickup. Still... It's hard to believe. What happens when he hits his first Yankee home run? John Sterling... "I'm going kooky! For Suzuki!"
5. Wade Boggs, 1993-97. Maybe he was never Mr. Red Sox, but, still, Wade Boggs as a Yankee? Now that we've seen him on that police horse, in the victory celebration for the 1996 World Series, we can't think of him any other way. Margo who?
4. Roger Clemens, 1999-2003 and 2007. It's hard to believe now, after the 5 seasons he had as a Yankee (and the extra half-season he had later, far less successfuly). But the sight of Clemens in Pinstripes would once have made us get verklempt.
3. Dwight Gooden, 1996-97 and 2000. Doctor K? A Yankee? This may have shocked Met fans more than it shocked us. But he pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees, and got 2 World Series rings, 1 more than he got as a Met. He even started and won a game at Shea Stadium for the Yankees against the Mets in 2000.
2. Darryl Strawberry, 1995-99. If seeing Doc as a Yankee was weird, seeing Darryl as one was even weirder. After all, he was the best offensive player the Mets ever had (possibly since surpassed by Mike "Honestly, I thought the steroids were Claritin" Piazza), and, along with Gary Carter, the very symbol of 1980s Mets arrogance.
Seeing him in Pinstripes was wack. Seeing him humble was ludicrous. Seeing him solidly contribute to 3 rings as a Yankee, compared to 1 as a Met, was sweeter than sweet -- which is sweet.
1. Randy Johnson, 2005-06. It might be even harder to believe he's in a GEICO commercial now, and playing someone with remorse in it.
From his work with the Seattle Mariners in the 1995 ALDS to being the biggest reason the Yankees didn't win the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, The Big Unit was a big talent and a big asshole. Then, George Steinbrenner decided he had to have Randy Johnson, even though he was too old. (Which one was too old, The Boss or The Big Unit? Both.) Johnson put up 2 seasons in which he won 17 games each time -- probably the 2 most useless 17-win seasons any Yankee pitcher has ever had. And in each season, he started Game 3 of the ALDS, and got beat, by the Angels in '05 and the Tigers in '06.
Goodbye, and good riddance. See you in Cooperstown, and I don't care which cap you wear on your plaque, as long as it's not a Yankee cap.