New York Yankees Top 10s: Check out the best Yankee acquisitions ever

In my New York Yankees top 10 series that has covered most aspects of Yankee baseball, today we take a look at the top 10 Yankee acquisitions in the modern era.  These acquisitions come from both signings and trades.  The Yankees have had many star players that were homegrown but also at times had to look outside their farm system to fill various needs.  Owner George M. Steinbrenner was the first owner to make big moves and set the tone for acquisitions for the future.  This has been the most difficult to complete top 10s so far.  I am sure many will disagree with the placements.

10. Ricky Henderson

Henderson was one of the longest-tenured players, playing for 25 years, 5 of them with the Yankees.  During his five years, he stole 326 bases, making him the all-time base stealer for the Yankees. During the span, he hit .288 and had 78 home runs while having an excellent fielding percentage in all areas of the outfield.  He was an All-Star every year he was a New York Yankee.

9. CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia was instrumental in the Yankees winning their last World Series in 2009.  Sabathia came to the Yankees from the Milwaukee Brewers. In his eleven years with the Yankees, he had a record of 134 and 88.  During the Yankees years, he was a workhorse always giving his best effort for a win.

8. Masahiro Tanaka

Brian Cashman brought Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees from the Eagles of the Japanese league in 2013 in a seven-year contract that will end this season, whether there is one or not. During his time with the Yankees up to this year he is 75-45 with a 3.75 ERA. Tanaka has never had a losing season with the Yankees.

7. David Wells

The highlight of David Wells’s career was his perfect game on May 17, 1998, the tenth no-hitter in Yankee history.  Wells for the Yankees was 34-14 in his two-year stint, that’s a .706 winning percentage one of the best for the Yankees. Wells pitched 21 years all in the American League.

Wells was quite a character that didn’t care much for rules.  He has admitted he pitched his perfect game while nursing a bad hangover. In 1998 he would help the Yankees with his 18-4 record and propelled them to the World Series shut out of the San Diego Padres.

6. Reggie Jackson

Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner made Reggie Jackson the highest-paid baseball player at the time when he hired Jackson from the Baltimore Orioles. Jackson was a controversial player as he was a bit of a show-off and Manager Billy Martin didn’t want the Yankees to hire him.  It didn’t help when he was quoted as saying “I’m the straw that stirs the drink” a phase that he never said, but caused a rift with Yankee catcher Thurmon Munson.

Jackson in his five years with the Yankees had many memorable moments including his three home runs that caused him to be called “Mr. October.” In 1977 in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Jackson batted .284 with 144 home runs while a Yankee.

5. Mike Mussina

On this list, Mike Mussina is the one player that often flew under the radar. Mussina after being a Baltimore Oriole star pitcher became a New York Yankee.  In his eight years with the Yankees he never had a losing season winning 10 or more games every year.  Mussina was not only an outstanding pitcher but he was an excellent defender as any pitcher to ever grace the mound.

On some writer’s top 10 lists they don’t even include Mussina.  For the Yankees he was Mr. Steady being one of the Yankee’s most dependable pitchers during his time with the Yankees.  The highly intelligent Stanford grad, with a thinking pitcher that adjusted to every situation.  His performance never diminished with age. In the last year of his career he had his first 20 win season, becoming the oldest pitcher to have a 20 win season.

For his pitching with both the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on January 22, 2019, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, receiving 76.71% of the vote.  Mike has the distinction of being the first American League pitcher to win ten or more games in each of 17 consecutive seasons

4. Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez is a controversial New York Yankee to say the least.  Many fans cite his use of performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers and tend to ignore his performance with the Yankee club. But the facts are still the facts.  During his 22 years playing the game he was one of the best in either league.

For his 12 years with the Yankees, he hit 30 home runs a year, with 1,100 RBIs while hitting .283. He was a seven-time All-Star and a seven-time MVP candidate, winning the prestigious award twice.  He would be a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame if it was not for his drug use which most likely will never come to fruition.

I have to admit that I am a writer that does not place as much importance on drug use as many writers do.  My stance is that dozens if not hundreds of other players used some type of doping during that period that were never caught, thus many stats for that period may be in question.  In the case of Rodriguez, his career wouldn’t have been less impressive even if he hadn’t made the bad decision to break the rules.

3. Paul O’Neill

Paul O’Neil played for only two teams in his baseball career, nine years with the Yankees in the second half of his career.  At the end of the 1992 season the Red traded O’Neill outright for Yankee outfielder Roberto Kelly. In his first year, he batted .311 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs.  O’Neill played with such vigor that owner George M. Steinbrenner would give him the nickname the “Warrior” which stuck.

In his second year he got the AL batting title batting .359.  If O’Neill missed a hit he thought he should have gotten, batting racks and water coolers often felt his wrath.  Stick Michael made the trade that would change the face of the Yankees for years to come.  Paul made amazing plays in defending the right field. He played fiercely and hurt, he was the ultimate warrior the Yankee fans loved.

2. Roger Clemens

The acquisition of Roger Clemens was one of the best the New York Yankees ever made. In 1996 the Yankees sent Graeme Lloyd, David Wells, and Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays for their ace pitcher Clemens. In his first year with the Yankees he helped them win the 1999 World Series. In 2000 he almost single-handedly took them again to the World Series with his 20-3 season.  The Yankees would win that series as well. Clemens was never fully embraced by Yankee fans due to his long tenure with the Boston Red Sox.

Also in 2000 Roger would win the prestigious Cy Young Award at the age of 38.  Roger is one of the longer tenures pitchers in baseball, pitching for 24 years.  With the Yankees he would win twice as many games as he lost.  He went 83-42 in his six years with the Yankees for a .664 winning percentage.  It is outrageous that this 3 time Cy Young Award isn’t in the Hall of Fame.  This year he received 72.5% of the votes compared to the 75% needed to be inducted.  He has two years left of eligibility.

1. Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth isn’t a modern era Yankee acquisition but must be included in the list as the best move the Yankees ever made in procuring him from the cash strapped Boston Red Sox.  Following Ruth becoming a Yankee, he transformed himself into a great hitting outfielder. He really made his name with the Yankees as one of the best if not the best player to ever play the game of baseball.

Honorable mentions:

David Cone, Starky Lyle, Roger Maris, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.

Gerrit Cole could not be included for the Yankee top 10s as he hasn’t thrown a ball for the Yankees in the major leagues.  He however has to be mentioned as he may be in the future proclaimed one of the best Yankee acquisitions in history, only time will tell.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

This Day in Yankees History: Babe Ruth has his first three home run game

New York Yankees, Babe Ruth

May 21, 1930, would be another example as to why Babe Ruth was one of the greatest ballplayers to ever take the field. It was a Wednesday and the Yankees were up against the Philadelphia Athletics for the first game of a doubleheader. George Earnshaw was on the mound for the Athletics and he would not have a good outing facing the great Babe Ruth.

Batting third and holding a .365 batting average, Babe Ruth stepped to the plate and smacked a two-run home run that would give the Yankees an early lead. Even though Earnshaw would fan the next two batters following Ruth’s homer, his rough outing against Ruth was not done yet.

Ruth stepped to the plate for his second at-bat in the top of the third inning and would crush another home run that would knock in another three runs. A two-run home run for Babe Ruth wasn’t an uncommon thing as at that time, Ruth had 51 other two home run games.

Ruth’s next at-bat would be something no one has seen before in the game of baseball. As Ruth stepped to the plate for his third at-bat of the game in the top of the eighth inning, he smacked his third homer of the day.

This feat of utter dominance is something that only furthers Ruth’s legacy even more.

Lou Gehrig Copies Ruth

Despite the Yankees losing that game to the Philadelphia Athletics 15-7, Lou Gehrig would have himself a game the very next day when the team took on Athletics again. Gerhig pulled off the same feat that Ruth did the day prior, smacking himself a total of three home runs in one game. He hit a grand slam in the top of the first inning, a two-run home run in the top of the fourth, and another two-run shot in the top of the ninth.

For that day in baseball, these feats to occur in back-to-back days was unheard of. The Yankees would go on to win that game 20-13, and Gerhig was responsible for scoring eight of those runs. Babe Ruth would also have himself another home run that game.

It was just another day at the ballpark for two MLB legends.

New York Yankees: The top 10 Yankee left fielders revealed

New York Yankees, Yankees, Hideki Matsui

The New York Yankees in their 107-year glorious history have had their share of great baseball players.  From Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio to Ron Guidry, Derek Jeter, and dozens more, some of the best baseball players in history have graced Yankee Stadium.  In my other top ten columns, I’ve dealt with the pitchers, catchers, baseman, right fielders, and centerfielders.

In this installment, I will attempt to identify the great Yankee outfielders.  With so many great outfielders, some writers will differ with the order of their preferences.  Here are this writer’s top 10.  Identifying the top 10 is a bit more complicated with left fielders as they tend to play other positions as well.  But here goes:

10.  Yogi Berra

Based on the whole of his New York Yankee career Yogi Berra should be higher on this list.  However, Yogi surprisingly did play in left field for the Yankees.  Although he was known mostly as a catcher, his career batting average of .285 while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in, land him on this list.  Yogi Berra has the distinction of having earned the most World Championship rings (10) than any other Yankee.

9.  Gene Woodling

Gene Woodling played for the New York Yankees (1949–54).  Although he played all over the outfield, he was mostly known for his excellent defense in left field.  He was fast and had a great range.  Woodling played in left field for four Yankee Championship seasons from 1950-1953.  Although he never played more than 125 games in a season in left has kept him on the lower part of the list.  He also was not one of the best Yankee hitters.  One thing that held him down on this list was manager Casey Stengel’s tendency to platoon players.

8.  Tim Raines

Tim Raines was with the Yankees from 1996 to 1999, he played about 50 games a year in the Yankees left field during that span.  He was a great outfielder but what puts him on this list is his Yankee career batting average of .299.  Although he is best known for his 13 years with the Montreal Expos, he was fast and agile footed for the Yankees making many near impossible catches for the Yankees. Raines was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017.

7.  Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui is the first Yankee that was truly a great left fielder for the New York Yankees.  Matsui was acquired from Japan’s for NPB’s Yomiuri Giants after playing ten years for them.  Matsui played seven years for the Yankees five of them in left field before he became a DJ due to injury. In his seven years, he had a career batting average of .292. On May 6, 2007, Matsui recorded his 2,000th hit between the teams.  He had a habit of hitting home runs on his birthday.  On June 12, 2008, he hit a Grand Slam, and on the same day in 2009, he hit a 3 run homer. In the 2009 World Series, “Godzilla” batted .615 with 3 home runs and 8 runners batted in which earned him the Most Valuable Player Award.

6.  Lou Piniella

Pinella known as sweet Lou.  He played in the Yankee left field for most of eleven years.  Not many balls got past Piniella, in his Yankee career he had a .989 fielding percentage. Although Lou was not a home run hitter, he had a career batting average of .291.  He hit 148 doubles while with the Yankees.  Fans immediately embraced him when he came from the Kansas City Royals to the Yankees.  Lou Piniella captured two World Series Rings with the Yankees in 1977 and 1978.  Piniella seemed to shine in the postseason.  He batted .305 in postseason play and hit 3 postseason home runs.  Lou would go on to be the New York Yankee manager from 1986 to 1988.

5.  Bob Meusel

Bob Meusel is often an unsung Yankee.  He played for the Yankees for 10 of his 11-year baseball career. He played left field more than any other position, 626 games for the Yankees. But he alternated between left and right, and never actually played 100 games in left in any single season.  Besides his stellar defense, Meusel was known as a hitter. The three-time MVP nominee hit .309 batting for the Yankees.  His best year for the Yankees was 1925 when he hit and unheard of at the time. 33 home runs and had 134 runs batted in. He helped the Yankees to their first-ever World Series Championship and another in 1927 and 1928.

4.  Dave Winfield

The giant of a man Dave Winfield came to the New York Yankees when owner George M. Steinbrenner went out and got him from the free agency from the San Deigo Padres.  Winfield would have a remarkable 22-year career in the majors, nine of them with the Yankees.  The 6′ 6″ left fielder was extremely fast for a big man in the left field at Yankee Stadium.  During his nine years with the Yankees, he batted .290 with 205 home runs.   Unfortunately for Winfield, his time with the Yankees was not always pleasant.  Steinbrenner was dismayed that he gave Winfield such a lucrative contract and withheld payments to his charity that was part of that contract. Winfield never played in a World Series for the Yankees as he played during their 17-year drought. Winfield was installed into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

3.  Roy White

Roy White was one of the best left fielders in all of baseball. White played for the Yankees between 1965 and 1979, his fifteen-year tenure manning left field for the Yankees allowed him to leapfrog a few on this list. He was a two-time All-Star and a four-time MVP candidate. His 1521 games in left field at Yankee Stadium makes number one in games played in left field.  White has the misfortune to play with some pretty poor Yankee teams during the CBS ownership.  He did win two World Series after Steinbrenner revitalized the team in 1977 and 1978.  Roy was a quiet man and a gentleman who just went about his business with little fanfare.  During his time with the team, he was one of the most popular Yankee players.

2.  Charlie Keller

If I woke up on the other side of the bed today, I might have put Charlie Keller as number one on this list. Charlie Keller played left field for 874 games, scattered over 13 seasons, all with the Yankees.  The sure-footed Keller played excellent defense in left with a .988 fielding percentage while hitting .286 with 189 home runs.  He had constant peak performance throughout his career except for the last two years after returning from back surgery.  Keller was also the second longest-tenured left fielder in Yankee baseball history. He was a five-time All-Star and an MVP candidate four times.  From 1939 to 1952.  One distinction that Charlie has is that he holds eight World Series wins, second only to Yogi Berra. Keller is one of the most overlooked players, not having made the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1.  Babe Ruth

Yes, surprisingly, number one of the list is Babe Ruth. I say surprisingly because he is known more as a right fielder and first baseman.  He was a better hitter than a left fielder.  He had a very satisfactory fielding percentage of .968 but hot as good as a few others on this list.  But his longest tenure than any Yankee on this list and his far and away better hitting ability catapults him to the top of this list.  In Babe’s career with the New York Yankees resulted in a batting average of .342 with 659 home runs and just shy of 2,000 runs batted in.  Although Ruth played more games in the right field, he played more seasons in the left field.  From 1914 to 1935, Ruth helped the Yankees to four World Championships.  Babe Ruth is known as the best baseball player ever to play the game was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the first five inaugural entrants.  Of any Yankee player, Ruth was more than a baseball star; he was a cultural hero during the great depression when the nation needed hope, Ruth provided that hope.

Honorable mentions go to Tom Tresh, Ben Chapman, Willie Cree, Jake Powell, Mickey Mantle, and Ricky Henderson.  Reggie Jackson and Roger Maris never played left field for the Yankees.

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.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

 

 

 

MLB: What can MLB learn from the Spanish Flu Pandemic?

New York Yankees, Babe Ruth

While the New York Yankees and fans across the country sit at home wondering when baseball begins again, the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread at the same time that health restrictions are lessened to some degree in 42 states.  There are lessons to be learned as to what happened during the Spanish Flu pandemic that scourged the nation.

News in 1918 was not just about the Spanish Flu, but World War 1, and a fantastic baseball player by the name of Babe Ruth.  There was a connection though; Ruth contracted the dread virus not once but twice in a season that would see him play in only 95 games.  It was a time when Babe Ruth was making a name for himself as a great Boston Red Sox pitcher and was becoming the first-ever power hitter in baseball. That year Ruth lead the American League in home runs.  The first time he would do it, and only one of the twelve times, he would accomplish the feat.

The history of Babe Ruth and the Spanish Flu is worth studying as New York and America struggles to overcome the coronavirus.  One day in May of 1918, Ruth went for some sun at a local beach.  He went home, and within a day he was sick, his temperature reached 104 degrees.  Little was known about the disease.  The Boston Red Sox doctor treated Ruth by painting his throat with a mix of silver nitrate that not only didn’t help but made his condition worse, and Ruth had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance.

Losing Ruth to the virus was a blow to the Sox as they had already lost eleven players to the war effort.  Luckily for the Sox in a few days, Ruth had recovered and returned to the team.  Like most cases of flu, they are spread by human to human from water droplets from coughing or even breathing near someone infected.  Back in 1918, there was little direction from the government on how to protect yourself.  The CDC wasn’t created until 1946.

The 23-year-old Babe Ruth had to overcome many hardships in his life, including a second bout with the Spanish Flu in the same year. They lacked much direction as the baseball season continued during the Flu, although the use of social distancing and masks may not have been used. However, they did direct pitchers not to use the spitball as it was considered unhealthy.  The baseball season was finally suspended when people started dying like flies, but not before Ruth contracted the virus again.

It is unclear how the baseball season was shortened because undeterred MLB continued to a World Series between the National League Chicago Cubs and the American League Boston Red Sox.  Ruth pitched a game one shutout, and in game four, he went seven scoreless innings before giving up a run in a game the Sox would win as well.   All this when the SECOND wave of the virus hit Boston.  Without social distancing, even a pitcher that was so sick he had to lay down between innings was allowed to pitch before crowds that jammed Fenway Park for three games during the series.

By the time the virus finally relented 5,000 Boston citizens had died from the Spanish flu, a figure that was dwarfed by the 675,000 that died nationwide.  That’s a number the equals more than all that died during the American Civil War.  Boston at the time was a port that saw many coming and going from overseas, much like the New York of today.  With fans congregating at Fenway and many parades when Boston won the series the lack of social distancing took its toll on the public. Babe Ruth would again recover from the flu and would go on to be a New York Yankee, and the rest is history as he would become the most successful Yankee of all time.

As MLB ponders what a baseball season will look like and when it will be safe for players and fans alike. There is much to be learned from the Spanish Flu and the lack of government health officials involved in how to control it.  In this coronavirus, the CDC, in conjunction, local health officials and MLB, are negotiating today to decide how to proceed.  Not getting it correct could have dire consequences not only for MLB or for the nation as a whole.

 

 

New York Yankees Analysis: The top 10 Yankee right-fielders, find out (video)

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

In the sixth installment of my top 10 New York Yankees series, I give my choices for the top 10 Yankee right fielders of all time.  The Yankees, in their glorious history, have many of the best players ever to play in their positions in the history of MLB.  Previous installments have featured the top ten pitchers, catchers, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd baseman. With so many good players and different ways of measuring greatness, different writers may have different rankings, these are mine.

 

10.  Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge has only played for the Yankees for four years but has racked up a batting average of .273 with 246 runs driving and a 126 home runs. Considering his excellent stats, his defense is even better.  He has a rocket of an accurate arm, making many difficult plays look easy.  In future years he could easily rank considerably higher on this list.  The only thing that might prevent that is his frequent injuries.

9.  George Selkirk

Many Yankee fans may not know the name of George Selkirk, but he played for the New York Yankees between 1934 and 1942, playing his entire career for the Yankees.  Selkirk was an excellent fielder and hit a .290 batting average for the Yankees with 576 runs batted in.  His fielding percentage was .976, which was excellent for that time.

  1. Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield could have been higher on this list. However, he only played three years with the Yankees.  Sheffield was a menacing figure at the plate.  In his three years, he hit .291 with 269 RBIs and 76 home runs.  Sheffield, like Aaron Judge, had a cannon for an arm.  He made spectacular plays, often hitting the right-field wall.  He had a remarkable 22-year career in the outfield.  He played for the Yankees between 2004 and 2006.

7.  Hank Bauer

Hanke Bauer is often an underrated right fielder.  He played for the Yankees between 1948 and 1959.  During that time, he hit .277 with 654 runs batted in and 158 long balls.  He was one of the Yankee’s most contact hitters of his time.  In 12 years with the Yankees, he hit an average of 110 hits a year for a total of 1326 hits. He was a five-time MVP candidate during the span.

6.  Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella was one of the most popular New York Yankee players in the 1970s and ’80s.  He spent eleven years with the Yankees hitting .295 with 417 RBIs. Piniella was not a home run hitter but had 971 hits in his Yankee tenure.  He was a magnificent arm in the outfield. Piniella had a vast knowledge of the game and went on to be the Yankee manager from 1986 to 1987.  He also managed the Mariners, Cubs, Rays, and the Reds. He returned to manage the Yankees for the second time in 1988.

  1. Roger Maris

Roger Maris is a famous Yankees that is often overrated due to his record 61 home runs in 1961.  What is overlooked is that he was an outstanding right fielder.  His fielding percentage was .978.  He hit .265 with 541 runs batting while getting 203 home runs. He was an MVP in the right-field and an MVP in centerfield as well in 1961.  He is one of a very few Yankees to win the MVP award several times.  Maris, who came from the Athletics but his seven years with the Yankees, were his best years.  After leaving the Yankees, he quickly faded away.

  1. Dave Winfield

The hulking Dave Winfield was another Yankee that was a fan favorite. However, he didn’t have the best relationship with the New York Yankees’ primary owner George Steinbrenner and regularly fought with him.  Winfield came to the Yankees from the San Diego Padres in 1981 and hung around until 1990.  During that time, he hit .290 with  818 runs batting in and 205 home runs.  His 1300 as a Yankee was part of a career that produced 3,110 hits.  While with the Yankees, he was an All-Star eight times and a five-time Gold Glover in right-field.  Dave was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  1.   Reggie Jackson

George Steinbrenner, who was not shy when spending money, reached out into the new free-agent market and acquired Reggie Jackson from the Baltimore Orioles for just short of $3 million in 1976.  Jackson would later say:

“It was like trying to hustle a girl in a bar,” the flamboyant Jackson said about Steinbrenner’s efforts after he signed a five‐year contract with the Yankees said to be worth $2.9 million. “Some clubs offered several hundred thousand dollars more. possibly seven figures more,‐ but the reason I’m a Yankee is that George Steinbrenner outhustled everybody else.”

For Steinbrenner, it was a cheap buy as Jackson turned out to be George’s best ever purchase.  However, Jackson was a controversial player with the Yankees; some loved him some hated him.  That includes manager Billy Martin, catcher Thurman Munson, and Steinbrenner himself.  There were often fights for power amongst the three.  From Jackson in dugout fights with Martin and his hitting three homers in one game, he always wanted to be in the spotlight.

Regardless of what negative views fans of others had of him, he deserved the praise.  During his five years with the New York Yankees, he hit .281 with 144 home runs.  He had a 900 OPS.  He also had a .980 fielding percentage in right field for the Yankees.  Reggie was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.

2.  Paul ONeill

Paul O’Neill is unsung and unrewarded as a Yankee right-fielder, and many sportswriters would put him down a few notches on this list. But this writer feels he is one of the best players to ever grace the right-field at Yankees Stadium.  His batting average of .303 over nine years with the Yankees speaks for itself.  He hit for power, he hit for contact and was the ultimate team player.  He consistently did what was needed to help his team.

O’Neill played for the Yankees from 1993 to 2001, he was part of four Yankee World Series Championships and contributed to all of them. During his time, the “Warrior” had 858 RBIs and hit 185 home runs while hitting nearly 1,500 hits.  Paul will probably not reach the Hall of Fame for his lack of home runs, but for his time with the Yankees, he owned the fans.  In his last game as a Yankee in 2001, it was the ninth inning, from the entire stadium all you hear for the whole inning was “Paulie” clap, clap, clap, clap, Paulie, clap, clap, clap, clap.

Since retiring from baseball, he has become an integral part of the YES Network broadcasting and giving analysis of Yankee games.

1.  Babe Ruth

There is not enough space in this article to talk about the achievements of Babe Ruth, he is not only my pick for the best New York Yankee right-fielder but for the best baseball player ever.  In what was called the worst trade in baseball history, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, being short on money, traded Babe Ruth away to the Yankees for $100,000 the day after Christmas in 1919.

Ruth would spend the next fifteen years with the Yankees.  Over the period he had a batting average of an incredible .349, with 659 home runs.  There was no other hitter like him then and since then.  He had a fielding percentage that averaged .965, which for that time was very good.  Ruth was an All-Star and a most valuable player back when awards weren’t as common as they are today.  Being a pitcher for the Red Sox, he even pitched to a winning percentage of 1.000 with a record of 5-0.

In his 15 years with the Yankees, Ruth helped the team win seven American League (AL) pennants and four World Series championships.  In 1936 Ruth was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its “first five” inaugural members.

Honorable mentions go to Jessie Barfield, Willie Keller, Tommy Henrich, and Giancarlo Stanton.

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.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

 

New York Yankees History: Babe Ruth, the man behind the legend!

New York Yankees, Babe Ruth
 
George Herman “Babe” Ruth, born in 1895, is the greatest baseball player to have ever to play the game. He would go on to hit 714 home runs, 2,213 RBI’s, over 2,000 bases on balls, with a slugging percentage of .690 and an OPS of 1.164, two records that still stand today. He was not only a great baseball player but still, today, stands as one of America’s greatest sports icons in American culture.

Ruth’s beginnings:

So goes the story of the real Babe Ruth that few may know of. Ruth was born in Baltimore, Maryland. With his father working long hours in his saloon and his mother often in poor health, Little George (as he was known) spent his days unsupervised on the waterfront streets and docks, committing petty theft and vandalism. Hanging out in his father’s bar, he stole money from the till drained the last drops from old beer glasses, and developed a taste for chewing tobacco. He was only six years old.
Most biographies of Ruth say: Having been declared incorrigible at the age of seven by the Baltimore courts, his parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School. After a month passed, they brought him back home to see if he had changed, and reconciliation could have been achieved, he hadn’t, and it would lead to several attempts by his parents. That is only partially true, the truth is that his parents had a very ugly divorce. His mother left leaving his father George Sr. with young George, a boy he did not want to deal with, he sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School. His father would later die in a family fight at one of his saloons. During the fight, George Sr. would be thrown out the front door and would hit his head on a curb and die from a fractured skull.
In 1904, at the age of nine, Ruth would meet the Roman Catholic Brother Matthias at St. Mary’s. Later in life when asked about Brother Matthias, Ruth would say. He changed my life, “He taught me to read and write and he taught me the difference between right and wrong, He was the father I needed and the greatest man I’ve ever known.” Ruth would end up living his young life at the school until the age of eighteen. During that time his mentor would throw balls at the boys to catch. Young George was thrilled to catch and throw the ball. He imitated the Brother’s hitting style, holding the bat at the knob and taking big swings. As he grew older he began to actually play baseball at St. Mary’s. In one of St. Mary’s games in 1913, Ruth, then 18 years old, caught, played third base (even though he threw left-handed), and pitched, striking out six men, and collecting a double, a triple, and a home run.

Ruths start in baseball:

That summer, he was allowed to pitch with local amateur and semipro teams on weekends. Impressed with his play a Baltimore scout Jack Dunn signed Ruth to his minor-league Baltimore Orioles club the following February. The Orioles short on money sold the young Ruth to the Boston Red Sox. Just five months after leaving his home at St Mary’s, he was on the mound for his major league debut at Fenway Park. He won that game 4-3 but lost his second game. Ruth was benched and finally sent down to the minors. Ruth returned to Boston for the final week of the 1914 season. On October 2, he pitched a complete-game victory over the Yankees and doubled for his first major-league hit.
During the offseason, the Babe married his girlfriend and Boston waitress Helen Woodford. In the following season, he shined for the Sox, winning three complete games in a span of nine days in June. Between June 1 and September 2, Ruth was 13-1 and ended the season 18-8. The personality of the younger Ruth began to show it’s head as he caroused at night and began to argue with umpires. In one game feeling squeezed by home plate umpire Brick Owens, Ruth stormed off the mound and punched Owens in the head. He had to pay a $100 fine ($1,600 in today’s money) and had to endure 10-day suspension. In that game, he combined for a no-hitter even though he didn’t strike out a hitter. He only pitched to two hitters, the first he walked, then came the Owens altercation. After which Ruth was thrown out, his replacement, Ernie Shore, retired the next 26 batters in order. In his six seasons with Boston, he won 89 games and recorded a 2.19 ERA. He had a four-year stretch where he was second in the AL in wins and ERA behind Walter Johnson, and Ruth had a winning record against Johnson in head-to-head matchups. But also during the time, he fought with management and was as a headache. His continued outright refusal to adhere to the team’s curfew earned him several suspensions and his non-stop salary demands infuriated owner Frazee.

The big sale:

Just after New Year’s 1920, the worst deal in Major League history would be made. The Boston Red Sox would sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000. Frazee would comment that Ruth was one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men that ever wore a baseball uniform. He also said Ruth ate and drank excessively, frequented prostitutes, and had been involved in several car accidents. He was jailed for speeding twice in Manhattan in the same month and sentenced to spend the rest of the day in jail. Released 45 minutes after the start of that day’s game, Ruth put on his Yankee uniform underneath his suit and sped off with a motorcycle escort in time to play for the Yankees. It would have surprised no one if, for whatever reason, Ruth was out of baseball in a year or two. It was a gamble that the Yankees were willing to take.
Jane Leavy, in her recent best selling biography of Ruth, stated that he spent his entire life gorging on beer and hot dogs. She gave the fact that he was allowed meat only once a week at his St. Mary’s reform school as the reason. That meat was always hot dogs. He was even noted for eating hot dogs during games throughout his career.
According to Marty Appel in his history of the Yankees, the transaction, “changed the fortunes of two high-profile franchises for decades”. The Red Sox, winners of five of the first sixteen World Series, those played between 1903 and 1919, would not win another pennant until 1946, or another World Series until 2004, a drought attributed in baseball superstition to Frazee’s sale of Ruth and is sometimes dubbed the “Curse of the Bambino”. The Yankees, on the other hand, had not won the AL championship prior to their acquisition of Ruth. They won seven AL pennants and four World Series with Ruth and led baseball with 40 pennants and 27 World Series titles in their history. Previous to the sale, the Babe would start his transition from being a pitcher to being a hitter. In 1919 he pitched in 17 games and hit in 130 games.

Ruth would be cheated:

In 1920, the Curtis Candy company launched its new Baby Ruth 5 cent candy bar. It was nothing new it was their old Kandy Kake bar with a new wrapper taking advantage of Baby Ruth’s fame. The candy bar was a staple and led in sales for the company for the next 70 years. The Curtis Candy company was eventually sold to the Nabisco company and then to the present owner, Ferrara Candy company who still earns money off the Ruth name. Back in the day, there were not the protections in place that there are today. Ruth sued the Curtis Company but lost his suit as the company attributed the name to President Cleveland’s dead daughter. Ruth would never see a penny from the candy bar that bore his name.
In 1920 Ruth led the league with 54 home runs, 158 runs, and 137 runs batted in (RBIs) for the Yankees. Ruth’s arrival in New York began a stretch of offensive dominance the game will likely never see again. In the 12 seasons between 1920 and 1931, Ruth led the AL in slugging 11 times, home runs ten times, walks nine times, on-base percentage eight times, and runs scored seven times. His batting average topped .350 eight times. In exactly half of those 12 seasons, he batted over .370. Ruth’s effect on the national game was nothing short of revolutionary. Leigh Montville, the author of The Big Bam, wrote that Ruth’s teammates reacted with the same sense of wonder like everyone else in America. “They never had seen anything like it. The game they had learned, was being changed in front of their faces.

Ruth the fighter:

On May 25, he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and, furious at the call, threw dirt in umpire George Hildebrand’s face. On his way towards the dugout, he spied a heckler and jumped into the stands, ready to fight. The fan ran away, and Ruth ended up standing on the dugout roof, screaming, “Come on down and fight! Anyone who wants to fight, come down on the field!” Ruth was fined $200 and was replaced as captain by shortstop Everett Scott. In mid-June, for his part in an obscenity-laced tirade against umpire Bill Dinneen, he was suspended for three games. When Ruth got the news the following day, he challenged Dinneen to a fistfight, and his suspension was increased to 5 games. In 1923 in their ballpark, directly across the Harlem River in the borough of the Bronx, Yankee Stadium was dubbed the House That Ruth Built, but with its short right-field porch, a more appropriate title might be the House Built for Ruth.
Babe returned to his battering ways with a vengeance. He hit .393. The Yankees won the World Series. Ruth won his only batting title in 1924, easily topping the AL at .378. Between 1923 and 1925, Ruth’s hard life was starting to take its toll. He collapsed several times and would be hospitalized several times. He had convulsions and had surgery. Many of his teammates intimated that his illnesses were all caused by his alcoholism. Ruth, by his point, had reached 260 pounds. Ruth spent part of the offseason of 1925–26 working out at a gym, where he got back into shape.
In 1926, in Game Four of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ruth belted three home runs. It was the first time he had ever hit three in one game, and it was the first time that it had been done in a World Series game. But in the deciding game 7, Ruth was caught stealing; it was the out that ended the game and the series for the Yankees. The 1927 Yankees were often talked about as the greatest team in baseball history. New York finished with a 110-44 record, winning the league by a whopping 19 games and sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. They scored 976 runs, 131 more than second-best Detroit Tigers. But in 1927 Lou Gehrig out hit Ruth .373-.356, he led the major leagues in doubles, RBIs, and total bases and was second in the American League in triples, home runs, hits, and batting average.
In 1928 the Yankees were not quite as good but still got the AL pennant. The Yankees swept the Cardinals that year, and Ruth hit 54 home runs on the year. During this time the Yankees were known as Murderers’ Row because of the power of its lineup, In January 1929, Babe’s first (estranged) wife, Helen, died in a house fire in Watertown, Massachusetts. It was reported that Ruth wept uncontrollably. Babe married Claire Hodgson on April 17th just four months later. The following day, the Yankees, with numbers on the back of their uniforms for the first time, opened the season against the Red Sox. Babe, wearing his new #3, whacked a first-inning home run to left field and doffed his cap to Claire as he rounded the bases. On August 11 in Cleveland, Ruth hit the 500th home run of his career.

Ruth’s fraudulent job change:

At the end of the 1929 season, Yankee manager Miller Huggins passed away, and Ruth applied for the job but was never seriously considered for it. By the end of June 1930, Ruth was ahead of his 60-homer pace of 1927, but injuries slowed him down, and he finished with 49. In 1931, at age 36, Ruth had one of his finest seasons. He hit .373/.495/.700, with 46 home runs, 162 RBIs, 128 walks, and 149 runs scored. The Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, giving them wins in 12 straight World Series games. For the previous few years, Ruth’s hard living and injuries were catching up with him. In 1934 due to his declining health and stats, Yankee’s owner Ruppert gave Ruth a pay cut of 50%. Ruth accepted knowing his 20-year career was coming to an end. On July 13, against the Detroit Tigers, Ruth would hit his 700th home run.
Ruth had always wanted to be a manager, so Yankees manager Ruppert worked out a secret deal with the Boston Braves manager to offer Ruth a contract that would include the titles of Assistant Manager and Vice President. When Ruth would present the deal to the Yankees owner, he said he wouldn’t stand Ruth’s way, so Ruppert’s trick worked. In 1935 with the Braves, Ruth would play in only 28 games batting .181. Ruth did get the final six home runs of his career that year. Ruth is the only major leaguer to pitch in at least ten seasons and have a winning record in all of them. Ruth had winning records in 10 seasons: 1914-1921, 1930 and 1933. Andy Pettitte now holds the record at 13 seasons (1995-2007). Ruth concluded he was finished even as a part-time player. As early as May 12, he asked Fuchs to let him retire; Ruth retired on June 2 after an argument with Fuchs.

Life after retirement:

In the years after his retirement, Ruth would make appearances both paid and for charity. He would schmooze with fans and sign autographs. On September 30, 1945, baseball superstar Babe Ruth delighted 2,500 fans in Hartford, Connecticut, by participating in an exhibition game between two local semi-pro teams: the Savitt Gems of Hartford and the New Britain Codys. On that morning, the Hartford Courant breathlessly announced that “the greatest attraction ever known in baseball and the home run king of all time, Babe Ruth,” was scheduled to appear “in person” at Bulkeley Stadium in Hartford. He was to “give a demonstration of hitting the ball over the fence” before pinch-hitting for the Savitt Gems.
That afternoon, wearing a brand-new Gems jersey with a bright red baseball cap and matching stockings, the 51-year-old Ruth managed to hit off a handful of home runs before the game, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. His game-time performance, however, resulted in a few unexciting balls and strikes while at-bat. Later he would tell reporters, “Some days the pitches look like watermelons and other days like peanuts.” No one would know it at the time, but it would be the last time Ruth would ever wear a baseball uniform. A few months later, he was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in 1946 and died from the disease in 1948. A living legend took the plate for the last time in front of thousands of adoring fans that September in Connecticut history.
What few know about Ruth is that despite his drinking and his other personality problems, the Babe was an inherently kind man who never forgot from where he came. During his prime in baseball, he frequently would visit orphanages to hang out with the boys, to tell stories, to play ball with them and take some of them on field trips. At games, at the Stadium, and around baseball, he would always sign autographs and stand for photos, especially with children. Ruth loved children. In 1947 when he was dying from cancer, that Christmas, he met with children in Santa garb, listening to them and giving them gifts. Far before it was acceptable to engage with black ballplayers, Ruth was an advocate.

Ruth’s many accolades:

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the first to ever be chosen. In November of 2018, Babe Ruth was awarded The Medal of Freedom, which is considered the nation’s highest civilian honor by President Trump. His Grandson Tom Stevens accepted the award for Ruth. Trump said in an extended riff about the trade from Boston that brought Babe Ruth to the Yankees. “People don’t know that Babe Ruth was one of the best pitchers. He still has records today,” Trump said. “In 1920, he started with the New York Yankees. And I have heard for many years, what’s the worst trade in the history of sports? Babe Ruth, a 19-year-old pitcher, for $100,000, and a 35-year-old third baseman. That was not a good trade. Who was out of baseball the following season? That was not good. Of course, $100,000 is probably like $25 million today, but it was still a lousy deal.”
Micheal Gibbons, the director emeritus and historian at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, said: “He became the brand of America.” Jane Leavy, the author of “The Big Fella,” said it best when she said: “He carried this country on his back during the Great Depression.” Babe Ruth will always be remembered as the best baseball player ever to play the game. Hopefully, my biography has enlighted you as to who the real man was behind the legend.
EmpireSportsMedia.com columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Who Was the Greatest New York Yankees Player: Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig?

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have been blessed with some of the greatest players in the world putting on the pinstripes. So it begs to question: who was the most magnificent Yankee of all time? Let’s look at the two most formidable Yankees of the ’20s and ’30s, Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig?

What Could Have Been

Lou Gehrig’s life and career were cut short by the disease he’d be named after. Now, he was 36, so it’s circumspect to believe that he’d last as long as Ruth did (who played till he was 40). But he certainly could have given Ruth a run for his money in several main categories. Except for home runs. Ruth definitely would have still held onto that.

Ruth had a career batting average of .342, Gehrig with .340. Ruth had 2,873 career hits, averaging 186 a season. Gehrig had 2,721 averaging over 200 hits per season. Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his career, Gehrig, only 790 times. Gehrig hit more doubles, triples, and averaged nine home runs fewer than Ruth did, and had twice as many MVPs as the Sultan of Swat.

Ruth still holds career records in slugging, OPS, and OPS+ and hit over 200 home runs more than Gehrig. If Gehrig had the option to play 2-3 full seasons after 1938, he’d had passed Babe Ruth for most RBI’s.

Are Things Skewed Toward Ruth?

Gehrig spent his entire career in the live-ball era, something that Ruth can’t say. But Ruth was a two-way player, finishing with a 94-46 career record, adding 20 more WAR points to his resume than Gehrig, who was a career first baseman.

But, the legend was a STUD offensively. Offensively, Ruth had a WAR over 162 while Gehrig was at 112. Statistically, all things point to Ruth being the better player over Gehrig.

But statistics don’t always paint a complete picture. We’re still talking about two human beings who happened to be giants of the game of baseball. And unfortunately, we who were born past 1939 will never have gotten to see these men play. All we’ll have are the highlight reels that would serve as the basis for what would become SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.

Let’s appreciate the fact they both happened to be Yankees.