New York Yankees Top 10’s: A history of great center fielders, is your favorite on the list?

New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle

The New York Yankees in their 109-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.  I’ve dealt with the pitchers, catchers, baseman, and right fielders in my other top ten columns.  In this installment, I will attempt to identify the great Yankee centerfielders.  With so many great centerfielders, some writers will differ in the order of their preferences.  Here are this writer’s top 10.

10. Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson would have been higher on this list, except his tenure with the Yankees was limited. Granderson played centerfield for the New York Yankees from 2010 to 2013. 2011 was one of the best years of his career. He scored an incredible 139 times and drove in 119 runs while stealing 25 bases. He was an All-Star, came in 4th in the MVP voting, and was a Silver Slugger.

9. Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui is another Yankee player the might have scored higher in this ranking if he had played solely in centerfield.  His time with the Yankees was shared with left-field in the last years of his career as a DH.  Matsui was a great contact hitter and shined at important moments.  In his seven-year career with the Yankees from 2003 to 2009, he drove in over a hundred runs a year four of his first five years. During his Yankee career, he hit .292.

8.  Ricky Henderson

Had Ricky Henderson played his entire 25-year career with the Yankees and had only played in centerfield, he would be closer to the top of this list, but he shared it with eight other teams in both leagues.  With the Yankees, he in five years had 326 stolen bases while hitting .288 and driving in 255 runs.  If it wasn’t for his stolen bases, he might not be on this list at all.

7.  Mickey Rivers

Mickey Rivers spent four years with the New York Yankees.  Rivers was a hugely popular Yankee with a cannon for an arm.  He had a fielding average of .985. He was either an All-Star or an MVP candidate every year he was with the Yankees.  The best years of his 15-year career were with the Yankees.  He stole nearly 100 bases and batted .299.  Few players could cover as much grass in center and run the bases as fast.

6.  Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer is one of the most popular of New York Yankees in the last fifty years.  Murcer played two stints with the Yankees, the first one from 1965 to 1974 and again from 1979 to when he ended his playing days in 1983. Murcer was a complete baseball player who shined in important moments.  With the Yankees, he hit .278 with 687 runs driven in.  He also hit 275 home runs.  On the day of Thurmon Munson’s funeral, he came back to the Stadium and almost singly won the game that night.  After his playing days, he would broadcast from the Yankee booth for sixteen years. The five-time All-Star died of brain cancer at the age of 62.

5.  Brett Gardner

Many sportswriters would put Brett Gardner further down this list, mostly due to his somewhat low batting average of .260. In his 12 years with the Yankees, Brett Gardner has been one of the most consistent players on the team, always on the edge of greatness.  Few Yankee players have left their guts on the field in every game.  This do-or-die player puts everything he has into every single game and is the heart and soul of the team.  His mentorship to younger players was never more evident last season when the club endured a historic number of injuries.  Gardner, through example, led many minor league replacements to greatness.  In his twelfth year as a Yankee, he had one of the best seasons of his career, hitting 28 home runs while having an incredible .992 fielding percentage in centerfield. Gardner has accrued the fifth-most WAR in Yankees center field history. He has long been an unsung stalwart of the team. He is also the only present player on this list. Below you will see some of the fantastic plays he has made.

 

4.  Earl Combs

Most Yankee fans are not familiar with Earl Combs.  Combs played for the Yankees between 1924 and 1935.  It should be noted that the top five players on this list have played at least 12 years with the Yankees and are generally considered not only Yankee greats but some of the best players to ever play the game.  Combs in his 12 years with the Yankees compiled a .325 batting average, and in five of his years, he batted over .342.  He also had a .970 fielding percentage in centerfield.  Combs contributed to teams that won the World Series three times during his career. This baseball Hall of Famer nearly averaged 200 hits a year while striking out an average of only 31 strikeouts per season.

3.  Bernie Williams

One of the most beloved Yankees is Bernie Williams who graced centerfield from 1991 to 2006.  In his 16 years, all as a New York Yankee, he compiled a .297 batting average with 1257 runs batting in a while hitting nearly 300 home runs.  One thing fans enjoyed was that Bernie was a doubles machine.  Bernie was a five-time All-Star, a six-time MVP candidate, and was awarded the Golden Glove award four times for his defense in centerfield. Bernie Williams contributed to four Yankee World Series wins.   Williams was such a good player that early in his career, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner three times considered trading Williams for other star players to plug holes in the team. Still, luckily for Yankee fans, none of those trades came to fruition.  On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted a minute and 42 seconds.  In 2015 Bernie Williams was rewarded a plaque in Monument Park.

2.  Joe DiMaggio

With the top two on this list, we step into rarified greatness.  Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Joe was nicknamed the “Clipper” and “Joltin’ Joe” spent his entire 13 years career as a Yankee.  DiMaggio is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands today.  His career batting average of .325 with 361 home runs is among the best in baseball.  He spent his entire career in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Baseball fans remember him as a Yankee legend and cultural icon of the era. His nine World Series rings trails only Yogi Berra in team history, and his number 5 is immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Yankee’s Monument Park. Being one of the more colorful players of his time, he is also known for his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

DiMaggio was a thirteen-time All-Star and a twelve-time MVP candidate winning the coveted award three times.  Many baseball analysts believe that if he hadn’t missed three years in the heart of his career while in the military that his career would have been even better.  They also cite that the 457-foot left-center field fence in the old Yankee Stadium robbed DiMaggio of more home runs than any other player in history.

1.  Mickey Mantle

If the last four on this list leapfrog the bottom five, Mickey Mantle leapfrogs Joe DiMaggio as the second greatest Yankee in history next to the famed Babe Ruth. Mantle played centerfield at Yankee Stadium for eighteen years from 1951 to 1968.  Over his career spent entirely as a New York Yankee, he had a .298 batting average and hit 536 home runs and 1,676 runs scored.  The sixteen-time All-Star also was an MVP nominee 14 times.  He was the MVP in 1956, 1957, and again in 1962. Most sportswriters regard Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter in baseball history.

Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and runs batted (RBI) (130).  Mantle appeared in 12 World Series, including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs (18), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (26), runs (42), walks (43), and total bases (123).  Mantle was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and has a plaque in Yankees Monument Park.  Mantles number 7 was retired by the Yankee on June 8, 1970.

Here are a few more interesting facts about the “Mick”.  He hit two or more home runs in World Series games twice. He hit an unbelievable ten Grand Slams and hit six inside the park home runs, five in the old Yankee Stadium and one against the Chicago White Sox in the old Cominsky Park.

 

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. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

New York Yankees: This week in Yankee history (videos)

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

There probably isn’t a day that goes by that something in New York Yankee history hasn’t happened that is memorable in their 109-year history. Here is a look at this week’s happenings in that history.

1933 April 25th:

Yankee pitcher helps himself. Rookie Russ Van Afta shuts out the Senators 16-0 while hitting 4 for 4. the 26-year-old ended his rookie season 12-4 with a .283 batting average in 67 at-bats.

1904 April 25th:

The New York Yankees’ winningest ever pitcher Jack Chesbro wins his first game of the season at American League Park, the Washington senators’ home. The Highlander right-hander would go on that season and win 41 games, creating a pitching record that still holds today.

1999 April 25th:

The legendary Joltin Joe DiMaggio joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Miller Huggins, and Mickey Mantle with a monument at Yankee Stadium, only the fifth New York Yankee to do so. Unfortunately, DiMaggio had died a month earlier. As part of the celebration, singer-songwriter and life long Yankee fan Paul Simon took to the field to sing Mrs. Robinson; the lyrics included “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes on you.”

1961 April 26th:

Eleven games into the season, Roger Maris hits his first home run of the season in a 13-11 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Maris would go on to his 61 iconic home runs that season, still a Yankee record.

2005 April 26th:

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez hit a home run that day in his first plate appearance; He would do the same in his next two at-bats, becoming only the 11th major leaguer to have 10 or more RBI’s in one game, just one shy of Tony Lazzeri’s feat (11) in 1936.

2012 April 27th:

Yankee right-hander Ivan Nova fails to tie the franchise mark of 16 consecutive wins established last season by Roger Clemens when he doesn’t get a decision in the team’s 7-6 victory over Detroit.

1985 April 28th:

The New York Yankees fire Yogi Berra after the team got to a 6-10 start. The Yankees brought back Billy Martin for a fourth stint as manager. George Steinbrenner broke his promise not to fire Berra causing a rift between Berra and the Yankees that lasted 14 years before the elder Steinbrenner apologized to Berra and celebrated Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium.

1939 April 29th:

The legend Lou Gehrig came to the plate and hit a single. The 2,721st hit of his career and his last. The record endured for 70 years until Derek Jeter broke the record in 2009. ALS debilitated Gehrig; he died two years later of what was named Lou Gehrig’s disease.

1939 April 30th:

Lou Gehrig plays his last game as a New York Yankee; he went hitless in a loss to the Washington Senators. This day would end his 2,130 consecutive games played. He would end his 17-year career with a  lifetime batting average of .340 with 490 home runs.

2010 April 30th:

Mariano Rivera ties the record for the most consecutive saves at a home park with 51 saves. He also moved ahead of Roger Clemens for 10th all-time, with 1,015 strikeouts.

1996 May 1st:

Bernie Williams becomes only the second player in New York Yankee history to hit 6 hits in a single game. On this day, he would go 6 for 8 in an extra-inning contest at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. The Yankees were victorious, winning the game 11 to 6.

2015 May 1st:

Amid loud boos, Alex Rodriguez blasts a 3-0 fastball over the Green Monster for his 660th career home run, tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list. Willie Mays congratulated A-Rod, saying that “milestones are meant to be broken. I wish him continued success throughout his career.”

 

 

New York Yankees top 10’s: A Yankee history of great center fielders (video)

New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle

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.  I’ve dealt with the pitchers, catchers, baseman, and right fielders in my other top ten columns.  In this installment, I will attempt to identify the great Yankee centerfielders.  With so many great centerfielders, some writers will differ with the order of their preferences.  Here are this writer’s top 10.

10. Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson would have been higher on this list, except his tenure with the Yankees was limited.  Granderson played centerfield for the New York Yankees from 2010 to 2013.  2011 was one of the best years of his career.  He scored an incredible 139 times and drove in 119 runs while stealing 25 bases.  He was an All-Star, came in 4th in the MVP voting, and was a Silver Slugger.

9.  Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui is another Yankee player the might have scored higher in this ranking if he had played solely in centerfield.  His time with the Yankees was shared with left-field in the last years of his career as a DH.  Matsui was a great contact hitter and shined at important moments.  In his seven-year career with the Yankees from 2003 to 2009, he drove in over a hundred runs a year four of his first five years. During his Yankee career, he hit .292.

8.  Ricky Henderson

Had Ricky Henderson played his entire 25-year career with the Yankees and had only played in centerfield, he would be closer to the top of this list, but he shared it with eight other teams in both leagues.  With the Yankees, he in five years had 326 stolen bases while hitting .288 and driving in 255 runs.  If it wasn’t for his stolen bases, he might not be on this list at all.

7.  Mickey Rivers

Mickey Rivers spent four years with the New York Yankees.  Rivers was a hugely popular Yankee with a cannon for an arm.  He had a fielding average of .985. He was either an All-Star or an MVP candidate every year he was with the Yankees.  The best years of his 15-year career were with the Yankees.  He stole nearly 100 bases and batted .299.  Few players could cover as much grass in center and run the bases as fast.

6.  Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer is one of the most popular of New York Yankees in the last fifty years.  Murcer played two stints with the Yankees, the first one from 1965 to 1974 and again from 1979 to when he ended his playing days in 1983. Murcer was a complete baseball player who shined in important moments.  With the Yankees, he hit .278 with 687 runs driven in.  He also hit 275 home runs.  On the day of Thurmon Munson’s funeral, he came back to the Stadium and almost singly won the game that night.  After his playing days, he would broadcast from the Yankee booth for sixteen years. The five-time All-Star died of brain cancer at the age of 62.

5.  Brett Gardner

Many sportswriters would put Brett Gardner further down this list, mostly due to his somewhat low batting average of .260. In his 12 years with the Yankees, Brett Gardner has been one of the most consistent players on the team, always on the edge of greatness.  Few Yankee players have left their guts on the field in every game.  This do or die player puts everything he has into every single game and is the heart and soul of the team.  His mentorship to younger players was never more evident last season when the club endured a historic number of injuries.  Gardner, through example, led many minor league replacements to greatness.  In his twelfth year as a Yankee, he had one of the best seasons of his career, hitting 28 home runs while having an incredible .992 fielding percentage in centerfield. Gardner has accrued the fifth-most WAR in Yankees center field history. He has long been an unsung stalwart of the team. He is also the only present player on this list. Below you will see some of the fantastic plays he has made.

4.  Earl Combs

Most Yankee fans are not familiar with Earl Combs.  Combs played for the Yankees between 1924 and 1935.  It should be noted that the top five players on this list have played at least 12 years with the Yankees and are generally considered not only Yankee greats but some of the best players to ever play the game.  Combs in his 12 years with the Yankees compiled a .325 batting average, and in five of his years, he batted over .342.  He also had a .970 fielding percentage in centerfield.  Combs contributed to teams that won the World Series three times during his career. This baseball Hall of Famer nearly averaged 200 hits a year while striking out an average of only 31 strikeouts per season.

3.  Bernie Williams

One of the most beloved Yankees is Bernie Williams who graced centerfield from 1991 to 2006.  In his 16 years, all as a New York Yankee, he compiled a .297 batting average with 1257 runs batting in a while hitting nearly 300 home runs.  One thing fans enjoyed was that Bernie was a doubles machine.  Bernie was a five-time All-Star, a six-time MVP candidate, and was awarded the Golden Glove award four times for his defense in centerfield. Bernie Williams contributed to four Yankee World Series wins.   Williams was such a good player that early in his career, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner three times considered trading Williams for other star players to plug holes in the team. Still, luckily for Yankee fans, none of those trades came to fruition.  On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted a minute and 42 seconds.  In 2015 Bernie Williams was rewarded a plaque in Monument Park.

2.  Joe DiMaggio

With the top two on this list, we step into rarified greatness.  Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Joe was nicknamed the “Clipper” and “Joltin’ Joe” spent his entire 13 years career as a Yankee.  DiMaggio is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands today.  His career batting average of .325 with 361 home runs is among the best in baseball.  He spent his entire career in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Baseball fans remember him as a Yankee legend and cultural icon of the era. His nine World Series rings trails only Yogi Berra in team history, and his number 5 is immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Yankee’s Monument Park. Being one of the more colorful players of his time, he is also known for his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

DiMaggio was a thirteen-time All-Star and a twelve-time MVP candidate winning the coveted award three times.  Many baseball analysts believe that if he hadn’t missed three years in the heart of his career while in the military that his career would have been even better.  They also cite that the 457-foot left-center field fence in the old Yankee Stadium robbed DiMaggio of more home runs than any other player in history.

1.  Mickey Mantle

If the last four on this list leapfrog the bottom five, Mickey Mantle leapfrogs Joe DiMaggio as the second greatest Yankee in history next to the famed Babe Ruth. Mantle played centerfield at Yankee Stadium for eighteen years from 1951 to 1968.  Over his career spent entirely as a New York Yankee, he had a .298 batting average and hit 536 home runs and 1,676 runs scored.  The sixteen-time All-Star also was an MVP nominee 14 times.  He was the MVP in 1956, 1957, and again in 1962. Most sportswriters regard Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter in baseball history.

Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and runs batted (RBI) (130).  Mantle appeared in 12 World Series, including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs (18), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (26), runs (42), walks (43), and total bases (123).  Mantle was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and has a plaque in Yankees Monument Park.  Mantles number 7 was retired by the Yankee on June 8, 1970.

Here are a few more interesting facts about the “Mick”.  He hit two or more home runs in World Series games twice. He hit an unbelievable ten Grand Slams and hit six inside the park home runs, five in the old Yankee Stadium and one against the Chicago White Sox in the old Cominsky Park.

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. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

New York Yankee’s Top 10’s: Who was the best Yankee hitter in the postseason? (Videos)

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

This article is a brand new installment of the New York Yankee’s Top Tens. In this top ten, we examine the Yankee players who have had the most hits in postseason play. It may surprise you, of the top 10, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did not make the list, part of the reason is that when they played, there was only the World Series, not all the rounds of the present postseasons. In the illustrious history of the Yankees, they have had a multitude of great players, but those on this list had the most hits in postseason play.

10a.  Chuck Knoblauch – 48 hits.

Chuck Knoblauch only played to the New York Yankees for four years but made his mark in postseason play, with 48 hits. 1998 was his big year with the Yankees. In the World Series, he had an OPS of 1.063 and a .375 batting average.

10b.  Scott Brosius – 48 hits.

Scott Brosius is another player that only played for the Yankees for four years, but he too made his mark in the postseason. He drove in 15 runs in the 1998 postseason and was named the MVP in the World Series that year.

9a.  Joe DiMaggio – 54 hits.

“Joltin’ Joe” was one of the most popular Yankee players. He played his entire 13 years in the majors with the Yankees. From 1936 until 1951, he had 54 hits in the postseason. He would have had more, but he spent three years fighting in World War II.

9b.  Alex Rodriguez  – (54)

Alex Rodriguez was a controversial player with the New York Yankees, whether you liked him or hated him, it can’t be taken away from him, that he was one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball.  For the Yankees, he was often criticized for not hitting in the postseason.  But the fact is, having 54 hits in the postseason placed him 9th in all of Yankee history.

8.   Micky Mantle – 59 hits.

The fan-favorite, Mickey Mantle, had the eighth-most hits in postseason play for the Yankees. Mantle played all his games with the Yankees for 18 years.  He appeared in the postseason in 12 of those years. In the 1960 postseason, he had a 1.345 OPS. His 59 hits put at number 8 on this list.

7.  Hideki Matsui – 64 hits.

Hideki Matsui, called “Godzilla,” is just one of the latest Yankee players to strike gold with his 64 hits in 6 postseason appearances that places him as having the seventh-most hits in postseason play. He set a Yankees record in 2009 when he had an OPS of 2.027 in the World Series with 8 hits driving in 8, and being named the World Series MVP.

6.  Tino Martinez – 69 hits.

Tino Martinez had a big job replacing fan favorite Don Mattingly at first base.  But Tino did not disappoint, especially in the postseason when he had 69 hits. In nine years, he had five series in the postseason, where he hit 8 or more hits.

5.  Yogi Berra – 71 hits.

Yogi Berra was not one of the greatest Yankee postseason hitters, but in his 14 World Series, he had 71 hits. However, with Yogi you have to take into account that when he played there was only the World Series, no playoff games.  If he was playing today, he just might be number one on this list. Yogi Berra holds the record for the most World Series wins with ten rings.

4.  Paul O’Neill – 76 hits.

The present YES Network commentator, Paul O’Neill, is one of the most popular Yankees players of the last thirty years, he also amassed 76 hits in postseason play in his nine years with the Yankees.  Other than Derek Jeter, he had his name chanted the second-most by the Yankee faithful.

3.  Jorge Posada – 103 hits.

Jorge Posada was the New York Yankee regular catcher from 1998 to 2011. From 1995 to the end of his seventeen-year Yankee career, he hit 103 hits in postseason play. In 2001 he had 15 postseason hits. He also had 3 home runs. Posada was one of the core four during the Yankee dynasty of the late ’90s and early two thousands.

2.  Bernie Williams – 128

Bernie Williams was one of the most popular Yankees of all time.  He was the heart and soul of the Dynasty years and should have been part of a “core five.” In his 16 year Yankee only career, he amassed 128 hits during postseason games. He also holds the title for the most home runs in postseason play (22). Add to that his 80 RBI’s leads all the Yankees. He also holds the record for the most walks in the postseason (71).

Derek Jeter is number 1 with his 200 hits. He also holds the record for the most doubles and triples in postseason play.  Add to that; he has the most stolen bases (18) in Yankees postseason history. Derek Jeter’s timely hitting throughout his career is the stuff of legends.

As to who was the best player in the Yankees postseason, it’s according to how much weight you put on each category.  My choice is Bernie Williams because his home runs and total hits were more impactful, with his 80 RBI’s than Jeter’s greater number of hits. He also had more postseason hits on average, than Jeter. Overall, Jeter was the best Yankee player, but in the postseason, my nod goes to Bernie Williams.

 

New York Yankees: A history of great centerfielders, find out the top 10

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

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, and right fielders.  In this installment, I will attempt to identify the great Yankee centerfielders.  With so many great centerfielders, some writers will differ with the order of their preferences.  Here are this writer’s top 10.

  1. Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson would have been higher on this list, except his tenure with the Yankees was limited.  Granderson played centerfield for the New York Yankees from 2010 to 2013.  2011 was one of the best years of his career.  He scored an incredible 139 times and drove in 119 runs while stealing 25 bases.  He was an All-Star, came in 4th in the MVP voting and was a Silver Slugger.

9.  Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui is another Yankee player the might have scored higher in this ranking if he had played solely in centerfield.  His time with the Yankees was shared with left-field in the last years of his career as a DH.  Matsui was a great contact hitter and shined at important moments.  In his seven-year career with the Yankees from 2003 to 2009, he drove in over a hundred runs a year four of his first five years. During his Yankee career, he hit .292.

8.  Ricky Henderson

Had Ricky Henderson played his entire 25-year career with the Yankees and had only played in centerfield, he would be closer to the top of this list, but he shared it with eight other teams in both leagues.  With the Yankees, he in five years had 326 stolen bases while hitting .288 and driving in 255 runs.  If it wasn’t for his stolen bases, he might not be on this list at all.

7.  Mickey Rivers

Mickey Rivers spent four years with the New York Yankees.  Rivers was a hugely popular Yankee with a cannon for an arm.  He had a fielding average of .985. He was either an All-Star or an MVP candidate every year he was with the Yankees.  The best years of his 15-year career were with the Yankees.  He stole nearly 100 bases and batted .299.  There were few players that could cover as much grass in center and run the bases as fast.

6.  Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer is one of the most popular of New York Yankees in the last fifty years.  Murcer played two stints with the Yankees, the first one from 1965 to 1974 and again from 1979 to when he ended his playing days in 1983. Murcer was a complete baseball player who shined in important moments.  With the Yankees, he hit .278 with 687 runs driven in.  He also hit 275 home runs.  On the day of Thurmon Munson’s funeral, he came back to the Stadium and almost singly won the game that night.  After his playing days, he would broadcast from the Yankee booth for sixteen years. The five-time All-Star died of brain cancer at the age of 62.

5.  Brett Gardner

Many sportswriters would put Brett Gardner further down this list, mostly due to his somewhat low batting average of .260. But Brett Gardner, in his 12 years with the Yankees, has been one of the most consistent players on the team, always on the edge of greatness.  Few Yankee players have left their guts on the field in every game.  This do or die players puts everything he has into every single game and is the heart and soul of the team.  His mentorship to younger players was never more evident last season when the club endured a historic number of injuries.  Gardner, through example, led many minor league replacements to greatness.  In his twelfth year as a Yankee, he had one of the best seasons of his career, hitting 28 home runs while having an incredible .992 fielding percentage in centerfield. Gardner has accrued the fifth-most WAR in Yankees center field history. He has long been an unsung stalwart of the team. He is also the only present player on this list. Below you will see some of the fantastic plays he has made.

4.  Earl Combs

Most Yankee fans are not familiar with Earl Combs.  Combs played for the Yankees between 1924 and 1935.  It should be noted that the top five players on this list have played at least 12 years with the Yankees and are generally considered not only Yankee greats but some of the best players to ever play the game.  Combs in his 12 years with the Yankees compiled a .325 batting average, and in five of his years, he batted over .342.  He also had a .970 fielding percentage in centerfield.  Combs contributed to teams that won the World Series three times during his career. This baseball Hall of Famer nearly averaged 200 hits a year while striking out an average of only 31 strikeouts per season.

3.  Bernie Williams

One of the most beloved Yankees is Bernie Williams how graced centerfield from 1991 to 2006.  In his 16 years, all as a New York Yankees, he compiled a .297 batting average with 1257 runs batting in a while hitting nearly 300 home runs.  One thing fans enjoyed was that Bernie was a doubles machine.  Bernie was a five-time All-Star, a six-time MVP candidate, and was awarded the Golden Glove award four times for his defense in centerfield. Bernie Williams contributed to four Yankee World Series wins.   Williams was such a good player that early in his career, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner three times considered trading Williams for other star players to plug holes in the team, but luckily for Yankee fans, none of those trades came to fruition.  On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted a minute and 42 seconds.  In 2015 Bernie Williams was rewarded a plaque in Monument Park.

2.  Joe DiMaggio

With the top two on this list, we step into rarified greatness.  Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Joe was nicknamed the “Clipper” and “Joltin’ Joe” spent his entire 13 years career as a Yankee.  DiMaggio is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands today.  His career batting average of .325 with 361 home runs is among the best in baseball.  He spent his entire career in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Baseball fans remember him as a Yankee legend and cultural icon of the era. His nine World Series rings trails only Yogi Berra in team history, and his number 5 is immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Yankee’s Monument Park. Being one of the more colorful players of his time, he is also known for his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

DiMaggio was a thirteen-time All-Star and a twelve-time MVP candidate winning the coveted award three times.  Many baseball analysts believe that if he hadn’t missed three years in the heart of his career while in the military that his career would have been even better.  They also cite that the 457-foot left-center field fence in the old Yankee Stadium robbed DiMaggio of more home runs than any other player in history.

1.  Mickey Mantle

If the last four on this list leapfrog the bottom five, Mickey Mantle leapfrogs Joe DiMaggio as the second greatest Yankee in history next to the famed Babe Ruth. Mantle played centerfield at Yankee Stadium for eighteen years from 1951 to 1968.  Over his career spent entirely as a New York Yankee, he had a .298 batting average and hit 536 home runs and 1,676 runs scored.  The sixteen-time All-Star also was an MVP nominee 14 times.  He was the MVP in 1956, 1957, and again in 1962. Most sportswriters regard Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter in baseball history.

Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and runs batted (RBI) (130).  Mantle appeared in 12 World Series, including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs (18), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (26), runs (42), walks (43), and total bases (123).  Mantle was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and has a plaque in Yankees Monument Park.  Mantles number 7 was retired by the Yankee on June 8, 1970.

Here are a few more interesting facts about the “Mick”.  He hit two or more home runs in World Series games twice. He hit an unbelievable ten Grand Slams, and hit six inside the park home runs, five in the old Yankee Stadium and one against the Chicago White Sox in the old Cominsky Park.

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: The most underrated and overrated Yankee players in modern times!

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

When writing about the New York Yankees, I seldom write opinion pieces.  I usually stick to facts as in breaking news, player profiles and the great Yankees of the past. This morning while reflecting on some of those Yankee greats, I started to examine in my mind those really good players that never really got the notoriety they should have received, which led to those overly-heralded unjustly.

The most underrated:  Roy White

Roy White probably never got the recognition he deserved for two reasons:  One was that he was on some really good teams that had mega-star players that he never really compared too.  The other reason is that stardom usually caused by outstanding achievement.  Roy, on the other hand, was that Roy was not really great at anything, rather he was really good at a lot of things that made him a valuable player.  But instead, he lacked recognition when playing and is mostly forgotten by Yankee fans.

Another reason White may be overlooked is that the big names in baseball usually come from teams that were great of ones that have won World Championships. The fact is that White served mostly on teams that didn’t make headlines. In 1976 when he slashed .286/.365/.409, stole 31 bases while playing excellent defense out in the left-field, he was still overshadowed by players like Munson, Micky Rivers, Catfish Hunter, and others.

In his fifteen-year career all with the Yankees he was a four-time MVP candidate, a two-time All-Star and played in all 162 games twice. He had a career .271 batting average with the Yankees.

Honorable mention goes to Graig Nettles and Bernie Williams.  Nettles was probably one of the best defenders at the hot corner in recent memory.  Nettles made spectacular plays preventing opponents from reaching base.  He made double plays like they were commonplace.  But Nettles like White was on teams that had several star players. Players like Catfish Hunter, Thurmon Munson, Sparky Lyle, and Ron Guidry.

Many may believe that Bernie Williams is the most underrated player and that is certainly true if we were speaking of the last twenty years or so.  He played on teams that included Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, commonly called the “Core Four”.  Many Yankee fans think that should be the core five as the homegrown Williams was just as important in centerfield, and contributed as much to the success of those dynasty years.  Although one of the most popular Yankees he never received the same status as the core four.

The most overrated Yankee:  Don Larson

Don Larson receives this designation hands down.  Larson in his career was just a pedestrian type pitcher.  He is one of the most famous Yankee pitchers of all time due to pitching the only perfect game in a World Series in 1956, a feat that has not been equaled.  Other than that one achievement he was actually a pretty poor pitcher with a career record of 81-91, then more losses than wins.  He ever got more than eleven wins in any season, although he did have a 21 game losing season.

What many Yankee fans are not aware of is that in the same year as his perfect game he had only eleven wins in 38 games.  In the 1956 World Series, in game two, he was pulled after just 1.2 innings in the Yankee 8-13 loss against the Brooklyn Dodgers.  After pitching so poorly in that game he was surprised the Manager Casey Stengel selected him for game

“I must admit I was shocked,” Mr. Larsen wrote in his autobiography, “The Perfect Yankee,” co-authored with Mark Shaw. “I knew I had to do better than the last time, keep the game close and somehow give our team a chance to win. Casey was betting on me, and I was determined not to let him down this time.”

Honorable mention in the overrated category goes to Roger Maris and Jim Abbott.  Maris is the famous Yankee that beat Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961 with 61 home runs.  Other than that feat he wasn’t that great of a player.  He had a career batting average of .260.  In the seven years after his 61 home runs, he only hit an average of 16 home runs a season.  Another reason he obtained fame is that he was on some great teams with great players including his home run rival Mickey Mantle.

Another overrated player is pitcher Jim Abbott, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy for his life story, and his tremendous ambition to become a major league pitcher while having only one hand.  Abbot is a famous Yankee due to his perfect game on September 4, 1993, against the Cleveland Indians.  Other than that feat he was and unremarkable pitcher, going 20-22 with the Yankees.

None of these three overrated players, regardless of their one-time outstanding feat are in the Hall of Fame.  Many of you will have different opinions from mine and I invite you to leave comments on who you think is the most underrated and overrated New York Yankee in modern times.

 

New York Yankees: Burn Baby Bern! Remembering a legend

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

Ever hear of Bernabe Williams Figueroa, Jr? Hmmm. I haven’t.

Translated, the English name is Bernie Williams. The kid from Puerto Rico, who at age 17 signed with the New York Yankees, would become one of the most polarizing players in baseball.

The “kid” spent six years in the minor leagues honing his craft and playing his guitar in the little bit of time he was away from baseball.

The “kid” who developed into one of the best center fielders in modern times. The “kid” who hit the game one 1999 ALCS walk-off home run, and countless others.

Bernie Williams posted a career batting average of 297, with an OBP of 381. He averaged 98 RBI’s per 162 games over his years with the Yankees.

Numbers are just that. Who remembers all of the electric moments Bernie, “BERN BABY BERN” provided us?  When Bernie was up in a crucial situation, more than likely, he came through and I was yelling.

The guy who only twice called the “Boss.” Once about a cancelation of a family day for players that his children were upset about missing. It was rescheduled for the following day.

The second one was about a certain man who had proven himself as a Yankee player and was a free agent. He made his intentions known and the “Boss” made his as well. He was given a contract. History was made.

Bernabe Williams Figueroa became the first man in MLB history to win a Gold Glove, batting title, and World Series ring, all awarded in 1998. He won 4 rings with the Yankees.

He also had his number 51 retired in May of 2015. Humble as usual, of course, Bernie thanked everyone besides himself for the honor of being inducted to Yankee history.

If it wasn’t enough to watch this man play baseball, we can now listen to him play jazz on his guitar, and he had an album reach #2 on the US jazz charts!

BERN BABY BERN…

What Bernie Williams thinks of the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole

New York Yankees, Bernie Williams

The pressures of New York can be overwhelming for the common folk, but when the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking deal, they knew he could handle the fire. Cole, 29, was the league’s best pitcher in 2019, setting career highs in both ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326).

Current and past Yankees players took to the media to express their confidence in Cole and his ability to weather the storm in high-pressure situations. He’s not only physically strong but mentally as well, which is an attribute that takes plenty of psychological refinement. James Paxton endured high-stake situations last season, as he was the Yankees’ top pitcher in the playoffs. The mental skills he developed throughout the year and therapeutic sessions all contributed towards his success on the mound.

One former Yankee great, Bernie Williams, has seen his fair share of ardent moments in Pinstripes, and he was one of the first to advocate for Cole’s dominance moving forward.

“He’s a player that has come into the city with a lot of expectations,” Williams said of Cole during an interview with MLB Network. “Obviously, every time he doesn’t do well with that side, kind of expectations, they’re going to throw his contract in. But I think, for me, has just has to stay the course. He, obviously, has a lot of confidence in his ability to play the game and to pitch. New York is going to challenge that ability and that confidence in many ways.

“So I think in order for him to be successful, he just has to kind of go back to what made him successful and stick with that plan. And no matter what happens, no matter the distractions and everything New York can throw at him, he has to stay firm with his course and having that confidence and his ability that have brought him in the first place to New York.”

The Yankees culture will test Gerrit Cole on all levels:

The fans in New York can be some of the most hostile in the world, especially to their own players. Dishing out $324 million over nine-years to a pitcher comes with its restraints, and Cole will face the harsh reality of failure if he cannot live up to expectations. However, he has proven to be successful in high-leverage situations, helping take the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2019 as their ace.

New York in September is a different type of intensity, though, and Bernie knows all too well what that can do to a fresh face.