PSA HoF- Catchers Inducted; First Base Nominees

UPDATED WITH FIRST BASE INDUCTEES

Don Mattingly

Lou Gehrig (automatic)

***

The balloting is over, and here are the results of the first Pinstripe Alley Yankees Hall of Fame balloting:

Elston Howard (22/23- 95.6%)

Thurman Munson (22/23- 95.6%)

Jorge Posada (22/23- 95.6%)

Unsurprisingly, all three catchers nominated have been inducted to the Pinstripe Alley Hall of Fame! Don't feel bad about voting for all three of these candidates, as they were all exceptionally worthy.

Now, first basemen on the other hand... this conversation could get interesting. We currently only have Lou Gehrig in our Hall of Fame, but there are six nominees today to join him: Wally Pipp, Moose Skowron, Joe Pepitone, Chris Chambliss, Don Mattingly, and Tino Martinez.

Let's get to profilin' after the jump.

The Nominees

Wally Pipp

(NYY: 1915-25) Don't be so hasty to dismiss Pipp from consideration without hearing his case- he was easily the best first baseman in Yankees history before a certain Iron Horse came along. Pipp was acquired in '15 by new Yankees owners Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Captain Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston (also owner of the most epic name ever), who purchased him from Detroit for $5,000. The 22-year old had a commendable rookie season with a 113 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR, but in 1916 he became the team's best player and helped them make an eleven-game improvement thanks to a league-leading 12 homers to go with 14 triples and a .363 wOBA. Though the team stumbled in '17, Pipp led the league in homers again with 9 and was on his way to another solid season in '18 (career-high 124 wRC+) before the military called him to duty in World War I after 91 games. New top slugger Babe Ruth joined Pipp on the team in '20, and Pipp comfortably settled into the fifth spot of the batting order, helping the team win three consecutive AL Pennants from 1921-23. Pipp played a vital role on the '22 AL Champs when Ruth & Meusel were suspended for barnstorming; Pipp had a career-best .391 wOBA and finished 8th in the MVP voting.

After losing to the Giants in consecutive years, the Yankees and Pipp finally won their first World Series in '23. 1925 was the beginning of the end for the 32-year old Pipp, as concussions forced him to miss some games, and these injuries allowed a Columbia grad named Lou Gehrig to take his job in the lineup. Pipp was sold to the Cincinnati Reds after the season, and his career ended just three years later. Throughout his tenure, Pipp established himself as one of the finest defensive first basemen in the league, and though Total Zone and Fielding Percentage do not always tell the whole story, his career marks of 80 TZ and .992 Fld% are certainly impressive. Pipp had 35.1 fWAR for the Yankees (more than all but one of these first base nominees), and only Gehrig, Earle Combs, and Joe DiMaggio have more triples in team history than Pipp's 121; not bad for someone playing a position not known for speed. Although he is often regarded as little more than a footnote in Yankees history, his contributions as the Yankees' starting first baseman for eleven years and on their first championship team should not be forgotten. It took a player as legendary as Gehrig to replace Pipp. (B-Ref) (FG) (SABR Bio)

Moose Skowron

(NYY: 1954-62) Long before the Yankee Stadium faithful serenaded Mike Mussina with the "Moose" call, an intimidating-looking first baseman named Bill Skowron had the same nickname (although I wonder how many of his teammates realized he earned this moniker by having a haircut as a seven-year that made him look like Benito Mussolini). Skowron was a football player at Purdue University, but his hitting excellence prompted the Yankees to convince him to choose their sport by signing him as an amateur in 1950. After quickly moving through the minors and pounding AAA pitching with the Kansas City Blues for two years (with a startling 607 total bases), he made his Yankees debut in '54 and immediately impressed the team with a .340/.392/.577 triple slash, .430 wOBA, and 167 wRC+ in 87 games. Skowron had earned a permanent spot on the team, but few players were true everyday starters under platoon specialist Casey Stengel, and Moose averaged just 118 games per year during the rest of Stengel's tenure. He made the most of his appearances though, and he earned four All-Star appearances with a .301/.352/.499 triple slash and 132 OPS+ from 1955-60, winning two World Series titles in the process.

By the time Stengel was replaced with Ralph Houk, Skowron had impressed enough to play 146 games in '60, and he was truly the everyday first baseman (especially after tying a then-World Series record with 12 in the '60 Fall Classic) . Moose had a career-high 28 homers in '61, and the Yankees won the World Series both of his final two years in the Bronx. Although he was only 32 years old after the '62 season, the Yankees thought enough of highly-touted first base prospect Joe Pepitone to trade Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his nine years in New York, the offensive threat never had a wRC+ lower than 107, and his OPS+ was 129. In the ultimate case of payback, Skowron's new team swept the Yankees in the '63 World Series, and Skowron led the Dodgers attack with a .385 average and a homer, the last of his 8 career World Series shots. Moose's career came to an end in '67, and the Old Timer's Day regular is now one of the last living links to the dynasty Yankee teams of the '50s and '60s. (B-Ref) (FG)

Joe Pepitone

(NYY: 1962-69) Ah, the tale of Joe Pepitone. Although he played on some of the worst Yankees teams in the 20th century, his quirkiness earned him a permanent place in the memories of Yankees fans. As previously mention in the Skowron post, Pepitone was a big prospect, and his potential convinced the Yankees to trade Skowron so that they could get the 22-year old's bat in the lineup. The move immediately paid dividends, as despite Skowron's '63 Series heroics, he was awful most of the season while the lefty Pepitone took full advantage of the cozy right-field porch in Yankee Stadium and hit 27 homers. Pepitone was an All-Star, and the Yankees had 104 wins to take the AL Pennant by 10.5 games. He was able to repeat his power display with another All-Star appearance and 28 homers, helping the Yankees make a late-season comeback in '64 to take their fifth consecutive AL Pennant. Alas, in both World Series, Pepitone lost his mojo and he only had 6 hits in 39 at bats. The Yankees' dynasty was over and they descended into the second division, not to emerge until Pepitone was long gone.

It was not all bad for Pepitone personally, who hit a career-high 31 homers in '66, won three Gold Gloves at first base, and even played some centerfield when Mickey Mantle's legs couldn't handle it anymore. There was also an amusing incident where Pepitone tried to get a phone installed in his Yankee Stadium locker and the operator came in the middle of a Ralph Houk team meeting. Though Pepitone missed some time, he did have a 111 OPS+ from '66-'69, but there simply wasn't much he could do to help these subpar teams. The CBS ownership group traded him to the Houston Astros after the '69 season, and that was the end of Pepi's Yankees career. He underperformed, bouncing around from the Astros to the Cubs to the Braves, and his career was over at age 32. Pepitone might not have been an all-time legend, but the fan favorite still gets a terrific hand at Old-Timer's Day every year. (B-Ref) (FG)

Chris Chambliss

(NYY: 1974-79, '88) Thanks to his 1976 ALCS Game 5 home run, Chris Chambliss will forever be remembered by Yankees fans, and this moment was his pinnacle- a season-saving bomb in his best season that broke the team's twelve-year World Series dry spell. Chambliss was drafted by the Cleveland Indians and was the AL Rookie of the Year in '71, but not much winning was going in Cleveland in those days. After three straight losing seasons, Chambliss was dealt to the Yankees in April 1974. The trade was not popular at the time as the Yankees dealt four pitchers (including fan favorite Fritz Peterson) to obtain Chambliss and two other players, but the gamble would pay off. Chambliss got off to a slow start in '74 due to Shea Stadium's unfavorable dimensions, but in '75 he improved to a .304/.336/.434 triple slash. In '76, the Yankees won the AL East to break their playoff drought, and Chambliss was an All-Star for the first time, slugging 17 homers and putting up a career-high 126 wRC+, a performance that earned him 5th place in the AL MVP vote behind teammate Thurman Munson. Chambliss pummeled Royals pitching with 11 hits and a 1.452 OPS in the five-game set, and he hit that somewhat-significant homer that was discussed earlier. The Yankees were swept in the World Series despite Chambliss's .313 average, but after another solid year in '77 (116 wRC+, .500 SLG in the Series), the Yankees returned to the playoffs and won the World Series.

Chambliss's excellent first base defense was finally recognized in '78 as he won the Gold Glove and helped the Yankees rebound from an awful start to win another title (though he struggled in the Series with a broken bone in his hand, Chambliss had a .400 average in the ALCS). After the '79 season marred by Munson's death, the Yankees decided that it was easier to find another first baseman than another catcher, so they dealt Chambliss to the Blue Jays in a November deal that sent Rick Cerone to New York. Chambliss was flipped to the Atlanta Braves a month later, and he spent 886 of his final 887 games with the Braves. Chambliss retired as an active player after the '86 season, and he later added four more World Series rings to his collection as the Yankees' hitting coach from 1996-2000. Chambliss was both the author of an immortal moment in Yankees history and a stellar six-year* Yankees career, and fans from the '70s surely remember him for more than just the homer. (B-Ref) (FG) (SABR Bio)

*An explanation for why I say six and not seven years: As a Yankees coach in '88, Chambliss was activated for a game in May when the Yankees were in dire need of a backup first baseman, and he struck out in his only plate appearance of the season. 0/1, -100 wRC+ isn't exactly a "stellar" year so excluded it.

Don Mattingly

(NYY: 1982-1995) Don Mattingly is the only player in Yankees history with his number retired who never played in the World Series, and that fact is a shame considering Mattingly's excellence. Not much was expected of him when he was drafted by the Yankees in the 19th round of the '79 draft, but Mattingly stormed through the minor league system. After crushing AAA pitching to a .315/.378/.437 triple slash, the Yankees realized that they had to make room for Mattingly in their logjam of major league first baseman, so Mattingly played part-time in the outfield in '83, and his play convinced the team to trade fellow prospect Steve Balboni. Entrusted with the first base job, Mattingly proved his worth by beating out All-Star teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title with a .343 average while also leading the league in hits, doubles, and OPS+. The next year, Mattingly followed up on his 5th-place finish for AL MVP by winning the award and hitting 35 homers as the Yankees won 97 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. Mattingly won the first of nine Gold Gloves with his excellent defense, and he led the league with 48 doubles and 145 RBI, taking advantage of Rickey Henderson batting in front of him. Although he was runner-up for the MVP in '86, he arguably had a better year than '85, setting club records with 238 hits and 53 doubles and career-highs with a .352/.394/.573 triple slash, 7.7 fWAR, .416 wOBA, and 161 wRC+.

In '87, Mattingly set a major league record with 6 grand slams in a season (he had never hit one before '87 and never hit one again after), and he tied a record by homering in 8 consecutive games. Mattingly had probably been the best player in the league for the past four years, but '87 foreshadowed Mattingly's decline as he missed time with a back injury, a malady that would plague him for the rest of his career. However, as Mattingly aged, the team got better, and while he was not the All-Star he once was, Mattingly still had a .445 SLG in '93 and a .397 OBP in '94. Mattingly missed a shot at the title in '94 due to the Player's Strike, but he slugged .472 in September 1995 as the Yankees chased down the Wild Card. The team won it, but while the ALDS against the Mariners brought thrills like Mattingly homering in Game 2 as the team went up 2-0 in the best of five, it ended in heartbreak as the Yankees dropped three games in a row in Seattle to end Mattingly's career. He hit .417 in his only playoff appearance. Mattingly left the game after the season and the Yankees retired his #23 in '97. Though he didn't play nearly as long as others on the lists, Mattingly places among the team's top 10 in games, batting average, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, and RBIs. (B-Ref) (FG) (MLB.com Highlights)

Tino Martinez

(NYY: 1996-2001, '05) The Yankees' previous first baseman was considered irreplaceable, but before long, Yankees fans realized that they had a keeper in "the Bam-tino." Martinez was drafted as the #14 overall pick of the '88 draft by the Seattle Mariners out of the University of Tampa, and he made his MLB debut just two years later. He replaced fan favorite Alvin Davis at first base in '92, the first of eight consecutive 100+ wRC+ seasons for the young slugger, and in '95, Martinez hit 31 homers with a .293/.369/.551 triple slash as the M's made the playoffs for the first time. The Yankees liked what they saw from Tino in their series loss to the Mariners, and with Mattingly's blessing, they traded for him. Faced with the pressure of replacing Mattingly at first base, Martinez initially struggled, but he rebounded to hit 25 homers in his first season as the Yankees won their first World Series in eighteen years. Although '97 was the only season of Martinez's first Yankees tenure that they did not reach the World Series, he had his career year with a .396 wOBA, 141 wRC+, and 5.5 fWAR, becoming the first Yankee since Reggie Jackson to hit 40 homers, and surprising even himself by winning that year's Home Run Derby in Cleveland. Martinez hit 56 regular season homers over the next two years while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense and had an unforgettable moment in Game 1 of the '98 Fall Classic, as he capped the Yankees' Game 1 comeback against the Padres with a grand slam.

Tino slumped in 2000 to 16 homers and a 89 wRC+, but he made up for it with his best postseason ever- a .364 average and 32 total bases in 16 games as he won his third straight World Series ring. Facing replacement after the '01 season, Tino led the team with 34 homers, and then hit a dramatic 2-out, 2-run homer to tie World Series Game 4 in the 9th inning and prevent the team from falling behind in the Series 3-1. Alas, the team lost in seven games and Martinez did indeed depart after the season in favor of Jason Giambi. His hitting declined somewhat during his later years with the Cardinals and Devil Rays, but the Yankees brought him back as backup first baseman in the '05 season. Tino had one last hot streak that May with 8 homers in 8 games, and he hit 17 for the year in his last hurrah. All told, Tino had 192 homers in seven seasons as a Yankee, and slugged .484; for comparison's sake, Don Mattingly slugged .471 and only hit 30 more homers in 731 more games . Although these numbers don't nearly tell the whole story, Martinez and Mattingly might be closer than you'd think. Regardless, Tino was a terrific first baseman for the recent Yankees dynasty, and I don't think their fans would have traded him for anyone. (B-Ref) (FG)

***

So those are your candidates:

Wally Pipp, Moose Skowron, Joe Pepitone, Chris Chambliss, Don Mattingly, and Tino Martinez.

Here's a quick recap of the rules:

  • Anyone who is a member of Pinstripe Alley can vote! Vote in the comment section!
  • There are no limits as to how many players can be on your ballot- zero is even an option.
  • A player needs to appear on 75% of the commented ballots to make it to the PSA Hall of Fame.
  • Don't assume that a player you think is definitely deserving will make it in! Vote for him, we could see some surprises.
  • Please participate! There's not going to be much of a point to getting the community's input on this series if we're only getting ten ballots per position post.

How many of these guys are Pinstripe Alley Hall of Famers? Sound off with your ballots below! Comments will close Sunday at 5 PM. We will examine the second basemen next.

The Pinstripe Alley Hall of Fame
Catchers | First Basemen | Second Basemen | Third Basemen | Shortstops
Left Fielders | Center Fielders | Right Fielders
Starting Pitchers | Relief Pitchers

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