This is another New York Yankees Top 10’s. This one looks back through history to reveal my top 10 Yankee first baseman. This is course subjective. In selecting my top ten, I valued time with the club, performance as per Baseball-Reference.com. Peak career performance and performance in postseason play was also a factor. Special situations like changing career positions were also a consideration. This is one of 15 Top 10’s I will be publishing in the next weeks. Some are reprints, some updated, and some brand new as this one is.
#10: Nick Etten (1943-1946)
Anchoring this list of best first basemen is Nick Etten. There are several similar players, but I choose Etten. The rest of the Yankee first baseman are relatively unremarkable. I picked Etten even though he only played 4 years for the Yankees because he had a huge impact in his first year with the Yankees. He was a champion in the 1943 World Series; although he didn’t hit well, he was a formidable hitter for the Yankees during the mid-’40s. He had a .275 batting average and was an MVP candidate three of his four years with the Yankees.
#9: Joe Pepitone (1962-1969)
Joe Pepitone was a bit of a character but was an excellent defender at first base for the Yankees for seven years. The Yankees signed him in 1958 at age 17. In four years, he was called up to the majors. He was the three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover. During 1963 he hit 27 homers with 89 RBIs. The following year he hit 28 homers with 100 RBIs. Pepitone was very aware of his appearance and was a bit of a lady’s man. He was the first every Yankee to bring a hairdryer into the clubhouse.
#8: Wally Pipp (1915-1925)
For almost a decade, Wally Pipp manned first base for the New York Yankees; the famous Lou Gehrig replaced him. When he started on first base, he was just 22 years old. Back during a time that the game was not known for home runs, he led the league in home runs with 12 in 1916 and nine in 1917. But the best was yet to come. Pipp amassed 833 RBI and 1,577 hits in 11 seasons in the Bronx. He was an important part of the Yankee’s first World Championship in 1923.
#7: Chris Chambliss (1974-1979) (1988)
In his time with the Yankees, Chambliss had an All-star and Gold Glove Award to his name. From 1975-1979, Chambliss turned into an important part of two Yankee World Series championship teams. In 1975, he hit .304 with 38 doubles. The following three years, he had a cumulative AVG of .285 and averaged 15 HR and 92 RBI per season, earning an All-Star selection in 1976 and a Gold Glove award in 1978. Chambliss is most known for his walk-off homer in the 1976 ALCS, causing the Yankees to win the pennant. In a famous video, the Yankees fans poured onto the field.
#6: Jason Giambi (2002-2008)
Jason Giambi could have been higher on this list if he had stayed longer with the Yankees. He had a .404 on-base percentage with the Yankees, fourth all-time. He had 209 homers over six years with 604 RBIs. In his first season as a Yankee, he won a Silver Slugger Award, batting .314 with 41 homers and 122 RBIs. Giambi could have been an even better player for the Yankees, but he had several injuries from a tumor to parasites. In game 7 of the Boston 2003 ALCS, he set up Aaron Boone’s pennant-winning homer.
#5: Mark Teixeira (2009-2019)
During his time with the Yankees, he hit 206 home runs over the nine-year span. Yankees fans were amazed at some of the plays he made at first base. His best years with the Yankees were his first three years. He won World Championship in 2009. In 2009 he was also an MVP candidate, an All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger. In 2010 and 2011, he was again a Gold Glove and MVP candidate. After 2012 his production was sapped with several injuries, but his defense at first remained first class.
#4: Tino Martinez (1996-2001) (2205)
Tino Martinez could easily be number 3 on this list had he played a bit longer for the Yankees. He is fourth all-time in RBIs (739) among Yankee first baseman. He appeared in four Yankees World Series. During his Yankee career, he had 192 home runs batting .276. His most productive season was 1997 when he batted .296 with 44 home runs and 141 RBIs, better stats than he had with his other four teams. That year he also was a Silver Slugger and won the home run derby.
#3: Bill “Moose” Skowron (1954-1962)
The “Moose” was a seven-time All-Star and a four-time World Champion while with the New York Yankees. His World Series performances during his career resulted in seven home and 26 RBIs. Skowron became the starting first baseman in 1958 and remained there for the next four years. Besides being an excellent defender, his muscular physique appearance at the plate made opposing pitchers tremble.
#2: Don Mattingly (1982-1995)
You can argue with any of my placements, but my number 2 and number 1 first baseman leave little room for argument. “Donnie Baseball” is one of the all-time great baseball players in any position. He manned first base for the New York Yankees for 14 years. To this day, he remains one of the most popular Yankees of the modern era. He won nine Gold Gloves and would be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for his back injury at age 29 that held back his power at the plate.
#1: Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)
Lou Gehrig is undeniably the best New York Yankee first baseman of all time, possibly the best first baseman to ever play the game. From 1925 to 1939, he played in 2,130 consecutive games, a Yankee record. Lou Gehrig may have been the Yankee’s most durable player ever. The great defensive first baseman drove in at least 100 runs a season for 13 straight seasons.
In 1931 he recorded an American League record of 185 RBI’s. His lifetime batting average of .340. He had two MVPs and the Triple Crown in 1934. The power hitters career was cut short in 1939 when he came down with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which later became known as Lou Gehrig disease. In a matter of just months, Gehrig could play no more. On July 4, 1939, he made one of the most famous speeches in baseball history, telling the jam-packed Yankee Stadium fan that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” It would be the last time Yankee fans would see their favorite first baseman.
The “Iron Horse’ as he was known, died just eighteen days before his 38th birthday on June 2, 1941. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. The hall set aside the waiting rules to immediately induct him. Derek Jeter in 2009 passed his record hits of 2,721, but Gehrig still holds the record for most consecutive games played and the most triples in franchise history with 163 over his career.