As the New York Yankees ponder if there will be a 2020 baseball season due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, I thought it would be an excellent time to take an in-depth look at Yankees seasons of the past and decide for myself which season was the best. I looked at each season as a whole, who the players were, how many games were played, the season stats, if they won the World Series and if they did how dominant they were. You may find that I differ a bit from some other writers, and that’s okay, its what makes being a Yankee fan so special. So, here goes my top 10 Yankee seasons.
10a. 1954 154 games
During the season, the team racked up 103 wins against 51 losses and a winning percentage of .630, which is why it is included in this list. It was a year when the St. Luis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Orioles. Casey Stengel managed the Yankees, and that year catcher Yogi Berra was named season MVP. However, even with Micky Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Gil McDougald, and Yogi Berra on the team, they couldn’t reach the World Series, they fell 8 games behind the Cleveland Indians. The latter was eventually shut out in the series by the New York Giants.
10b. 2019 162 games.
2019 was a heartbreak year. In Aaron Boone’s second year as New York Yankee manager, he won 103 games with the Yankees. It was a year with the most injuries in team history, but with the depth of the team, including step-ups from the minor leagues, they were able to have one of the best seasons in team history. The team swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS and went on to the ALCS against the Houston Astros that they lost in six games. The Yankees may have been denied a World Series berth as the team may have cheated in the ALCS. MLB proved they did cheat in 2017 when they won the World Series.
9. 1950 154 games
1950 was a big year for the little shortstop known as Phil Rizutto; he played so well he was named the Yankee’s MVP. The team was 98-56, with a winning percentage of .636. That year the Yankees took the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series via the shutout. It was a year that Vern Bickford would pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees on August 9th. Yankee rookie Bob Grim was the AL Rookie of the Year.
8. 1936 153 games
For 1936 the Yankees went 102-51 with a .667 winning percentage. The year was all about Yankee star Lou Gehrig, and he was named season MVP. The Yankees won the World Series over the New York Giants that are now the San Francisco Giants four games to two. It was a year that would see two of it’s Yankee players eventually reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig. Gehrig for the year batted .354 with 49 home runs tying his all-time record. He would also have an unbelievable 166 runs batted in.
7. 2009 162 games
2009 was an exciting year for the Yankees. Hideki Matsui was in the seventh year of his contract. He hit .271 while hitting 28 home runs. His performance in the World Series that year won him the title of World Series MVP. The team went 103-59 with a .636 winning percentage. The New York Yankees took the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series four games to two. Manager Joe Girardi in his third year as Yankee manager, brought the Yankees to the World Series and won it for the first time since 2000 when manager Joe Torre had his last World Series win. It would also mark the last time the Yankees would win a World Series, spawning an eleven-year drought that the Yankees hope to end soon.
6. 1923 152 games
Babe Ruth had one of his best years in 1923, he scored 177 runs, hit 59 homers and hit .378 on the season and was named the MVP. The team went 98-54 a .645 winning percentage. The Yankees won the World Series that year over the old New York Giants 4 games to 2. Manager Miller Huggins brought the Yankees to their first-ever World Series that year. For that reason, many believe this may have been the best Yankee season ever, however emotion aside, the stats just don’t support that. Babe Ruth did hit 41 home runs that year with 141 runs batted in.
5. 1942 154 games
In 1942 the country was deep in the throes of World War II. The country needed a boast and hope; the 1942 Yankees provided that hope. The team stats were 103-51 .669. Joe Gordon was the MVP for the season that ended with the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Yankees in the World Series four games to one. The 1942 New York Yankees came in number five on my list as it was one of the greatest seasons in their history even though they did not win the World Series. Their .669 winning percentage is a sufficient reason to have them on this list.
4. 1939 151 games
The 1939 Yankee stats were 106-45 .702. Joe DiMaggio was the season MVP, and the Yankees won the World Seris over the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game shut out. 1939 was one of the most exciting baseball seasons for the Yankees. Joe DiMaggio graced centerfield while the Yankees won their 4th largest number of games in their history. Joe McCarthy’s Yankees matched the Reds in the World Series in hits with 27, but out-homered them 7 to 0 and out-scored them 20-8. Charlie Keller led the Yanks with seven hits, three home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, a .438 average and a 1.188 slugging percentage.
3. 1961 162 games
The New York Yankees had one of the more exciting baseball seasons in 1961. Their stats were 109-53 .673. They won the World Series over the Cinncinatti Reds 4 games to 1. Roger Maris was the season MVP. Whitey Ford was the World Series MVP. He won the Cy Young Award that year. What added tremendous interest to the year was the M&M boy’s home run race. Throughout the year, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris fought to excel above each other in their number of home runs hit. Roger Maris won the race with 61 home runs, which was an MLB record at the time.
2. 1998 162 games
The 1998 Yankees are considered by many as the best Yankee team ever. There is no question that the season produced the most games won by any Yankee team. However, they did not have the winningest season. The stats are 114-48 and a winning percentage of .704 That year, they won the World Series over the San Deigo Padres. Joe Torre won his second manager of the year award, and Scott Brosius was the World Series MVP. Another reason that fans place the 1998 team ahead of all others is that it is in the memory of my present-day Yankee fans.
1. 1927 154 games
During the year 1927, the New York Yankees won 110 games and lost only 44 games; that’s a .714 winning percentage. Lou Gehrig was the MVP of the season. That year the Yankees won the World Series by shutting out the Pittsburgh Pirates. Many baseball writers give this number one placement to the 1998 team or the 1923 Yankees. I place the 1927 team over the 1998 teams because their total of 110 wins was accomplished in only 154 games. The 1923 team also did not sweep in the World Series.
Honorable Mention 1950 98-56 .636, Phil Rizzuto was the MVP. The Yankees won the World Series against the Phillies. 1947 97-57 .630 Joe DiMaggio was the MVP. The Yankees bested the Dodgers in the World Series. 1977 100-62 .617, Reggie Jackson was the World Series MVP in the win over the Kansas City Royals.
Interesting season facts
The Yankees worst season ever was in 1908 when they lost 103 games. They came in 39 1/2 games behind the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees lost the World Series 12 times in their 39 appearances. The Yankees have had 78 seasons with no MVP. However, the MVP award was not instituted until 1931. The Yankees have had three stretches where the team did not play well: 1903 to 1922 under several managers., although they did win 92 games in 1904. 1963 to 1975, when the CBS ownership let the team and stadium go and again from 1979 to 1994.
Under George M. Steinbrenner’s ownership since 1973, the Yankees won 7 World Championships, and 16 division titles, and 11 American League Championship becoming the winningest Yankee owner ever. The team continues to be owned by the Steinbrenner family that hopes to see many more championships in the future. The New York Yankees are the winningest team in all of the sports with 27 World Championships.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.