New York Yankees: A history of great Yankee first baseman

The New York Yankees in their rich history have had some really great players.  Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, just to name a few that have been impactful players in the Yankees 117 year history.  Over the years, the Yankee has had no shortage of fine first baseman.

1. Lou Gehrig:

Lou Gehrig is generally recognized as the Yankee’s most excellent first baseman of all time.  Gehrig for 17 years from 1923-1939 graced first base at Yankee Stadium.  Known for his fine hitting and durability at his position, he was called the “Iron Horse.”  He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in with a career batting average of .340. He still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players.  Gehrig was not just a hitter; he provided stellar defense at first throughout his career.  At one point in his career, he played in 2,130 consecutive games.

Gehrig, as great a player he was for the Yankees he is also known for Lou Gehrig disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).  His 1938 stats were well of his 1937 performance, and he knew something was wrong, He was tired.  After a series of tests at the Mayo Clinic, the bad news was delivered to Gehrig.  On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig said goodbye to over 60,000 fans in the stands with his famous “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.  The Hall of Fame Gehrig passed away at his home in the Bronx section of New York on June 2, 1941.  Career stats: 17 years .340 with 493 home runs.

2. Don Mattingly

Donny Baseball is one of the most popular Yankees ever, and my pick as the Yankees 2nd greatest first baseman. Don Mattingly spent his entire baseball playing days at first base at Yankee Stadium.  For fourteen years, he snagged balls and defended at first base.  He made his Yankee major league debut in September of 1982.  He became the full-time first baseman in 1984, a position he held until 1995.

Many thought Mattingly would become the Yankees manager.  That didn’t happen as Joe Torre was selected to manage the Yankees for the next eleven years.  Mattingly did manage, though.  He was a special instructor for the Yankee until 2007.  Before the 2008 season, he was hired to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers, a job he held for seven years.  In 2016 ex-Yankee Derek Jeter selected Donny to manage the Miami Marlins, where he still manages today.  Career stats:  14 years .307 with 222 home runs.

3. Tino Martinez

Constantino “Tino” Martinez is my pick for third-best New York Yankee first baseman.  Tino was not solely a Yankee; he played for the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 1990 through 2005.

Tino was an excellent defender at first base.  From 1996-2001, the dynasty years, Tino was one of the most impactful players on the team.  He helped the team to four World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.  In 1997 he won the All-Star home run derby.  In 2002 Tino joined the Cardinals, and in 2004, he played a year with the Rays.  In 2005 Tino re-joined the New York Yankees.  During that year, at one point, hi hit five home runs in five consecutive games. Career stats: 16 years .271 with 339 home runs.

4. Mark Teixeira

Mark “Tex” Teixeira held down the first base position from 2009 to 2016.  Not only was he stellar at first, but he was also one of the most proficient switch hitters in baseball history.  In his first year with the New York Yankees, he led the team to their 27th World Championship.  Although he got them there, he didn’t play well in the Series, but in Tex style, he was clutch winning game 2 with a walk-off home run.

In 2009 he led the American League in home runs. On May 8, 2010, he became the second Yankee in history to hit three home runs in the same game. In 2011 he hit his 300th home run.  In 2015 Teixeira was named to his third All-Star game. In 2016 his final year before retirement, he hit two home runs in a game that also represented the 400th home run of his career.  Citing injuries and wanted to spend more time with his family, he retired after the 2016 season. Career stats:  14 years .268 with 409 home runs.

5. Chris Chambliss

Chris Chambliss is one of the most popular of Yankee’s first baseman.  Chambliss played for the Yankees from 1974 to 1979.  An excellent defender at first, he is mostly known for his walk-off home run in the 1977 World Series.  His walk-off was one of the most iconic moments in Yankee history.  Immediately after his World Series-winning hit, Yankee fans stormed the field making it impossible to reach home base.  When he reached the clubhouse, he donned a field worker’s raincoat and ran out to touch home plate. Career stats:  17 years .279 with 185 home runs.

Honorable mentions go to Bill Skowron 1954-1962, Jason Giambi 2002-2008, Joe Pepitone 1962-1969, Johnny Mize 1949-1953, and Wally Pipp 1915-1925.  I have excluded Mickey Mantle from this list.  Even though he was a fine first baseman, he was noted more for his outfield performance throughout his career.