New York Yankees Top 10s: The Yankees most notable home runs throughout history

The New York Yankees are the winningest baseball team with the most World Championships in all sports with 27. In baseball, part of winning is hitting home runs, and the Yankees have hit plenty. Today we look at my selection for the ten most influential home runs in Yankee history. This is part of my Top 10 series that covers everything in Yankee baseball, from the best seasons to the best outfielders and more.

10. Bucky Dent gives the Yankees the lead over the Red Sox

In 1978, Bucky Dent and Ron Guidry stepped up to lead the Yankees past the Red Sox and into the playoffs. One measly game at Fenway Park determined whether Dent and the 1978 Yankees would continue their season. That time it wasn’t a playoff game, but rather a 163rd regular-season game as a tiebreaker made necessary. Dent’s seventh-inning, two-out, three-run homer off Mike Torrez sealed the deal for the Yankees, and they advanced to the postseason. The Yankees won that series four games to two over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

9. Did Babe Ruth call that shot?

Number 9 is controversial as to this date no one knows if Babe Ruth really called that home run. The “Bambino” supposedly pointed to the center-field fence at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, calling that he would hit a home run to center field, much to the joy of Yankee fans, he did just that. In a recently uncovered audio from Lou Gehrig, he seems to agree that he did, in fact, point out that he would hit a home run.

8. Mikey Mantle dents the facade

On May 22, 1963, it was looking like another Yankees romp over the Kansas City Athletics as they led by the score of 7-0 going into the eighth inning. Much to the chagrin of Yankees fans, the Athletics hit seven unanswered runs in the ninth inning, tying up the game. The tie remained until the bottom of the eleventh inning when Mickey Mantle took to the plate. Bill Fisher on the mound, Mantle swung so hard at his first pitch he fell to the ground. Fischer then tried to sneak a fastball by him, and Mickey unleashed a powerful blast at just the precise moment, with his bat speed at its maximum, the ball was hit off the sweet spot of Mantle’s bat, the ball looked as if would be the first ball ever to exit Yankee Stadium, but it hit the third tier facade 370? from home plate and 118? Off the ground for game-winning, walk-off home run. 

7. The “Babe” hits his 60th

On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the 1927 season and, with it, sets a record that would stand for 34 years. No one had ever before hit 60 home runs in a single season. The record would hold up until Roger Maris would beat it in 1961.

6. Roger Maris tops baseball with his 61st

My number six and another baseball first and first for the Yankees. Roger Maris exceeded Babe Ruth’s home run record with 61 home runs. During 1961 it was a season for the M&M boys as Maris and Mickey Mantle raced to have the most home runs of the season. Mantle came close, but injuries at the end of the season allowed Maris to pass him. Maris hit 61, and Mantle hit 53 long balls.

5. Reggie Jackson named Mr. October

The Yankees faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. New York headed back to the Bronx for Game 6 with a 3-2 lead. Jackson had caught fire, clobbering home runs in Game 4 and Game 5. He was as hot as ever. Jackson would give the Yankees the lead with a big bomb in the fourth inning. He would hit another home run in the fifth inning to right field. Then in the eighth inning Jackson the show off he was strutted to the plate and hit his third home run of the game, a blast that seemingly never landed. The Yankees won the World Series four games to two. After the game, in an interview with catcher Thurman Munson, the told reports ask Mr. October, the rest is history.

4. Jim Leyritz kicks off a dynasty

On Oct. 23, 1996, the Yankees had not won a World Series since 1978. On that day up stepped a backup catcher named Jim Leyritz, with just a stick for Mark Wohlers’ nuclear fastball. He hung the slider. And Leyritz hammered it out of the Atlanta Braves park. The Yankees won the World Series and would go on to win four in just five years. It is said that Leyritz fueled that dynasty.

3. Chris Chambliss struggles to get to home plate

On a cold New York Yankees autumn night on October 14, 1976, the fifth game of a winner take all ALCS game, the game would be at a standstill in the bottom of the ninth. Kansas City relief pitcher Mark Littell would be taking warm-up tosses, Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard was cautioning the crowd of over 58,000 about throwing debris onto the playing field. The game had already been stopped several times for bottles, firecrackers, beer cans, and rolls of toilet paper being thrown from the stands. 

Meanwhile, Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss waited in the cold. The delay prevented Littell from staying loose and interfered with his rhythm. Finally, at 11:13 PM, Chambliss stepped into the batter’s box, and home-plate umpire Art Frantz yelled, “Play ball” Littell would throw Chris a high fastball that Chambliss would smash over the right-field wall for a walk-off win and one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, as the Yankee fans emptied the stands and filled the fields.

2. Aaron Boone settles it at Fenway Park

Aaron Boone is the present Yankees field manager, but he was not unknown to Yankee fans before he took the managerial job. In 2003 the Yankees met the Red Sox in the ALCS. In the American League Championship Series, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox were tied, 3-3. Boston hasn’t won a World Series since 1918, still plagued by the Curse of the Bambino. Red Sox fans were ready for a game 7 win ending the drought. Aaron Boone had other ideas. The game was tied at five into the eleventh inning. Boone stepped to the plate with Tim Wakefield on the mount. Wakefield offered Boone a floater that Boone sent just inside the left-field foul pole, and the Yankees advanced to the World Series that they lost to the then Florida Marlins 4 games to 2.

1. Babe Ruth baptizes the new Yankee Stadium

Babe Ruth made a lot of money for the New York Yankees allowing them to move out of the Polo Grounds and build their own stadium in the Bronx. As if a forerunner for the Yankees 27 World Championships, Babe Ruth hit a home run in his second at-bat on the opening day of the new stadium. It was April 18, 1923. The Yankees gave the official attendance that day as 74,200 but later amended that number to 62,200. Ruth with his second opportunity of the day to deliver the desired blow. He fouled off Red Sox pitcher Howard Ehmke’s first pitch, took a ball, hit another pitch foul, and watched ball two go by. Then Ehmke left a letter-high curveball over the plate that Ruth ripped several rows up into the bleachers for a three-run blast that gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. This is just one more reason that Yankee Stadium was called the “House that Ruth built.”

Honorable mentions: Bobby Mercer on the day that Yankee great Thurman Munson (1979) was put to rest, Mercer homers for the Yankee win and his passed best friend. Lou Gehrig had a four-homer game on June 3, 1932.

New York Yankee Legends: A most exciting season, the M&M boys race to surpass Babe Ruth

It was 1961, one of the most exciting seasons for the New York Yankees and its fans. Not only did Casey Stengel’s Yankees win the World Series four games to one over the Cincinnati Reds, but an exciting drama played out from the middle of the season until that win. The M&M boys (Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) fought each other for the most home runs that season.

It was so exciting that the season would end, breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record that stood for 34 years. In 1937 Ruth would hit 60 home runs, the most ever by an MLB player. On October 1, New York’s final game of the regular season, Yankees slugger Roger Maris hit his 61st home run, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball to hit more than 60 in a single season. Mantle ended the season hitting 54 long balls, enduring injuries that held him back.

Here is a brief story of these two super players that kept Yankee fans entertained and on the edge of their seats in 1961.

Mickey Mantle

Few players for the Yankees were as good or beloved by fans as #7 Mickey Mantle. His real name was actually Mickey, not Michael. He was born in 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma; his Father “Mutt” Mantle named Micky after the Hall of Fame player Mickey Cochrane, the famous catcher. #7 or the “Mick” as he was called, had an amazing career with the Yankees, achieving an unprecedented 20-time All-Star award winner, seven World Championships, three-time MVP, Gold Glove, and other awards as he spent his entire eighteen years career, all spent with the Yankees. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility in 1974.

He was a multi-talented athlete playing baseball, basketball, and football at Commerce High School in his teen years. He was offered a football scholarship, but that was not to be. In a game, he was kicked in the shin and endured a crippling disease known as Osteomyelitis that almost took his leg had it not been for the newly discovered Penicillin. Saved from amputation, Mantle recovered while being treated at Children’s Hospital In Commerce.

Mantle began his baseball career in the neighboring state of Kansas when he joined the semi-pro Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. In 1948 a Yankee scout was scouting the Whiz’s third baseman Billy Johnson, but during that game, the scout took notice as Micky hit three home runs in the game. 

Mantle was invited to the Yankees instructional camp before the 1951 season. After an impressive spring training, Yankees manager Casey Stengel decided to promote Mantle to the majors as a right fielder instead of sending him to the minors.

In the 1951 World Series, Mantle was playing right field and raced to catch a long fly ball; in doing so, he tripped over a drain pipe and tore his ACL. This was the first of numerous injuries that plagued his 18-year career with the Yankees. He played the rest of his career with a torn ACL. However, from 1952 to 1960, Mantle played his brains out and achieved all kinds of awards. During this time in World Series games, Mantle would hit 18 home runs and score 42 times. Mantle escaped the military draft because of his leg ailment. Still, when he was selected to the All-Star team, the military ordered another physical exam, but he was rejected for the final time.

Mantle’s overall performance in 1956 was so exceptional that he was bestowed the Hickok Belt (unanimously) as the top American professional athlete of the year. He is the only player to win a league Triple Crown as a switch hitter Mantle won his second consecutive MVP in 1957 behind league leads in runs and walks, a career-high .365 batting average. He continued his fine play through 1960.

In 1961 began the period of the M&M boys. He and Roger Maris competed for the most home runs and chased Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season home run record. Mantle was the media favorite, and Maris, the surly outsider, was new. They both fought for the title through the season, but again Mantle would be hit with a medical issue. From a flu shot he had gotten earlier in the year, he developed an abscessed hip and was hospitalized. He missed 41 games, and Maris beat out his 54 home runs with 61 for the batting crown.

In 1962 Mantle batted .321 in 121 games. He was selected an All-Star for the eleventh consecutive season and played in the first game but couldn’t play in the second game due to old injuries flaring up. In 1963 while catching a fly ball up against the fence, he dropped to the ground and broke his foot.

In the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mantle hit Barney Schultz’s first pitch into the right-field stands at Yankee Stadium, which won the game for the Yankees 2–1. His 16th World Series home run, the homer broke the World Series record of 15 set by Babe Ruth.

During the late 50′ and early ’60s, Billy Martina and Mickey Mantle were the partiers on the team. Basically, both were alcoholics, and they partied hard. Although Mantle was still a world-class player, his game was starting to slow. Upon the opening of the Houston Astrodome, Mickey would hit the first home run during an exhibition game there. But his alcoholism and numerous injuries were taking their toll. In 1968 his last playing season, his average had slipped to .237 with only 54 RBI’s. Mantle retired from baseball on March 1, 1969.

During this time, his health continued to deteriorate. 

Before Mantle sought alcoholism treatment, he admitted that his hard-living had hurt his playing and family. His rationale was that the men in his family had all died young, so he expected to die young as well. He checked into the Betty Ford Clinic on January 7, 1994, after being told by a doctor that his liver was so badly damaged from almost 40 years of drinking that it “looked like a doorstop.”

In 1995 Mickey received a liver transplant at Baylor in Dallas. Before his death, Mantle would talk of how he wasted his life drinking and urged others not to drink during many speaking events. Mickey passed away from liver failure on June 8, 1995, with his wife by his side at the age of just 63.

Roger Maris

In the fourth inning of the last game of the season, at Yankee Stadium in front of 23,154 fans on October 1, 1961. Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard allowed Roger Maris to hit his record-breaking 61st home run and ended the competition between him and Mickey Mantle. The competition was to beat Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs. Maris’s feat has always been controversial because Maris beat Ruth in 162 games, whereas Ruth had his 60 home runs in a 154 game season.

Born Roger Eugene Maris on September 10, 1934, in Hibbing, Minnesota. His parents, Rudolph and Corrine Maris, were of Croatian heritage; they were also born in Minnesota. They legally changed their name to Maris in 1955. Something that Maris would later say he was pleased with so that fellow teammates would stop making rude comments referring to “ass.” When Roger was just five, the family would move from Minnesota to South Dakota. As he aged, he would become a star at his high school in Fargo. He would excel in football and once returned four kick-offs for touchdowns in a single game. After graduation, he would decide not to attend college, and he turned his full attention to baseball, where he would make an indelible mark.

His strong performance in the American Legion League would draw the attention of several baseball scouts. Maris would sign with the Indians organization and be sent to the Fargo/Morehead minor team. He quickly worked his way up the ladder and was moved to Iowa. In 1954 he would be hitting .303, and he would view himself as a contact hitter. His manager trained him to pull the ball, thus unleashing what would prove to be the making of a historical power hitter.

After a very successful time with the Cleveland Indians, Maris was traded to the New York Yankees on December 11, 1959. Maris got off to a quick start in 1960 with the Yankees, hitting two home runs in his first game in pinstripes. By early August, he already had over thirty home runs and over ninety runs batted in as the Yankees, overcoming a slow start, reasserting their American League dominance, ultimately winning the pennant by eight games over a surprising number Oriole squad. He would finish his first season with 39 home runs. In addition, he would earn the AL MVP award and get a Gold Glove.

1961 would see new franchises in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., and the Yankees would see a new beginning. In the middle of the summer, the Yankees began moving ahead of the rest of the AL East teams, but the big story was the race to beat Babe Ruth’s home run record by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Near the end of the season, the Tigers were just down a game and a half, and in a crucial three-game set, both Maris and Mantle would hit dual homers. After that, the Yankees would go on a 13 game winning streak and secure the AL Division. Still, the media and fans were focused on the race to beat Babe Ruth. It was settled when Mantle was injured and couldn’t play while hospitalized.

Few know the pressure Maris was until to beat Ruth’s record, he couldn’t eat at times, couldn’t sleep, and even clumps of hair would fall out of his head. Maris would go on to play six more seasons with the Yankees in right field. But in those seasons, he would never hit above 33 home runs. In his last two years with the Yankees, he would hit only 21 home runs.

He would spend the last two years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was an All-star seven times in his career, would win a Gold Glove, and be an MVP twice with three nominations. Unfortunately, Maris would die very young, at the age of 51, from cancer on December 14, 1985.

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 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 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: A sneak peak into 1960s spring training with Mickey Mantle (WATCH)

New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle

If the coronavirus had hit baseball and the New York Yankees in the 1960s, time would have stood still. There weren’t decades of archived games via video, statistics to analyze, excitement to be extracted…it was just silence. Fast forward to 2020, and the world is capable of many things, including the ability to tap into the past to supplement the loss of the future.

The virus has halted all sporting operations, forcing us to resort to virtual realities to get our baseball fix. However, reflecting on the distant past can be exciting, as this look into a 1960s spring training game can offer.

If you watch deeper into the video, you can spot a struggling Mickey Mantle who’s barely able to run at full speed. Leg injuries plagued Mantle during his career, specifical pain in his leg caused by osteomyelitis. This video shows the toll it took on his body and how dangerously close he should have been to retirement. However, Mantle played until 1969, pushing through the immense pain to go out on his own terms.

After Mickey retired, he became a commentator, featuring in many documentaries and sporting videos. However, the Yankee legend succumbed to alcoholism and passed away due to a heart attack, the very same year he received a new liver after developing cancer.

On a more positive note, Mantle finished his illustrious Yankee career with a .298 batting average over 18 professional seasons. His 536 total home runs are a jaw-dropping statistic, and 1509 RBIs further attests to his ungodly offensive production. Mickey earned 17 consecutive All-Star appearances in the Majors, every one of them with the Bronx Bombers.

As one of the most beloved Yankee players from the past, Mantle will live on in history, and this short clip detailing the immense power and pain he harnessed and pushed through makes him a deserving throwback.

 

New York Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez: Mission Mars

New York Yankees, Jasson Dominguez

The New York Yankees have something brewing in the minors. The Yankees have a star that is just getting ready to shine his light for the first time in rookie ball during 2020. That star is the New York Yankees top prospect Jasson Dominguez who has been given the nickname “The Martian”.

Dominguez was given this nickname because his skills seem out of this world. He reminds folks of a young Mickey Mantle. Incredible speed, incredible power from both sides of the plate, incredible arm from the outfield, and folks are saying that his skills are just “Stupid. They’re crazy.” At just sixteen years old, Dominguez earned a record $5.1 million signing bonus for inking with the Yankees last July. There is so much hype surrounding Dominguez even with him just being seventeen years old. Many are starting to wonder, how soon will Dominguez rise through the minors?

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When will he debut?

MLB Pipeline isn’t projecting the Yankees to land on Mars until 2024 which would make Dominguez 21 years old. I might be buying into the hype just a little, but I think it would be the worst-case scenario if it took that long for Dominguez to crack the major league roster.

These types of prospects are not prospects that just come around every day. To me, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see him take the Juan Soto route and debut in just a couple of years. Obviously, there will be some adjustments that have to be made since he is about to see a drastic rise in competition. However, the raw skills are there to make Dominguez one of the best players in all of baseball.

Extremely High Expectations

Yes, there has been the Mike Trout comparisons. Scouts have said that Dominguez is way more advanced at his age than Trout was. Of course, Trout was passed up by most teams in baseball because he wasn’t projected to turn into the superstar that he is. Players are missed all the time by teams. Also, there are a lot of players that have tremendous skill and never touch the majors. I think Dominguez is going to be one of those players who will show why there is so much hype. I think it’ll take him a couple of years with some ups and downs, but this kid is going to be a superstar for the Yankees. The organization seems to think so as well deeming him “Untouchable” in any trade conversations. The kid has not even touched rookie ball, yet was asked about by multiple teams in trade conversations. The New York Yankees have a star in the making in Jasson Dominguez. And when it comes to history, the Yankees had the commerce comet, and now they about to be blessed with a Martian.