In my previous post, I went over the guidelines for the Pinstripe Alley Yankees Hall of Fame and discussed a few of the Yankees players who have been generally agreed upon as automatics for entry- Yogi Berra, Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, and Waite Hoyt. Before we move on to actual voting, I think it's necessary to give the rest of the automatics their due. Remember, the automatics are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played at least nine seasons with the Yankees.
Tony Lazzeri- Ah, old baseball nicknames. You gave us such curious titles like "Poosh 'Em Up Tony," which apparently stemmed from Italian fans encouraging Lazzeri to drive in the runners on base. Different times, I guess. The Yankees signed Lazzeri as an amateur after he posted an insane season in 1925 with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League (probably due to the thin air): .355, 52 doubles, 60 homers, and 222 RBIs. During his 12 years on the team, Lazzeri became one of the finest second basemen of his era and probably the greatest second baseman the Yankees have ever had. Lazzeri ranks fourth in fWAR of all second basemen from 1920-40, and he ranks among the top ten Yankees in triples, walks, RBI, and rWAR. He provided the Yankees with tremendous offensive output from a position mostly occupied by weak hitters, and the Yankees won 5 World Series rings with Lazzeri at second. During his last hurrah with the team during the '37 World Series, Lazzeri was the Yankees' leading hitter in a 5-game win over the New York Giants, putting up a triple slash of .400/.526/.733. His career ended a couple years later, and only nine years after playing his last game with the Yankees, Lazzeri unfortunately died of a heart attack at age 42 (his lifelong epilepsy likely contributed to his demise). Many years later, Lazzeri was posthumously honored by being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame through the Veteran's Committee in 1991. (B-Ref) (FG)
Mickey Mantle- What can I say that hasn't already been documented about the man with the perfect baseball name? Mantle was the Yankees' all-time leader in games played before Derek Jeter came along, and at his physical peak, he was arguably the greatest athlete ever seen. He could crush home runs to faraway places from both sides of the plate, so he had no weak side, and before injuries ruined his legs, he could outrun anybody. Though he wasn't as graceful as DiMaggio in centerfield, he could make terrific catches. Mantle was the last player in baseball to win the MLB-wide Triple Crown, as he paced baseball in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and RBIs (130) in 1956. That year was the first of 3 AL MVPs Mantle would earn, as he took home the honor again in '57 and '62. Despite taking most of his at-bats as a lefty in lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium, the park did not make that much of a difference in his phenomenal play- he led the AL in OPS+ on 8 occasions, highlighted by a 210 OPS+ in '56. A 7-time World Series champion, Mantle set a record with 18 World Series home runs. Mantle ranks behind few people in the Yankees' record books, and his 536 home runs are the most by any switch-hitter in history. The Yankees retired his number 7 in 1969, not even a full year after his retirement, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. After a lifelong battle with alcoholism helped allow cancer ravage his body, he passed away in 1995, and the Yankees dedicated a monument to him in '96. (B-Ref) (FG)
More players after the jump!
Herb Pennock- We move from one of the most iconic Yankees in history to one of their most forgotten players. Teaming up with the previously-mentioned Waite Hoyt, Pennock was an vital member to the pitching staff of the late '20s Yankees teams. Pennock was initially discovered by Philadelphia Athletics owner/manager Connie Mack in Kennett Square, PA, and he spent a few years with the A's before being claimed off waivers by the Boston Red Sox. As his stellar curveball improved through 1922, the Red Sox realized that they could deal him to the Yankees for some players and cash, as they had been doing for a few years. They did just that, and Pennock proved to be the last piece the Yankees needed to finally win their first World Series title; the team won the AL Pennant for the third straight year, and Pennock beat the crosstown rival Giants (who had triumphed over the Yankees in '21 & '22) twice in the World Series win. Pennock played ten more seasons with the Yankees and won three more World Series rings with the team. He completed four of his five career World Series starts and never lost a game. Although his career was superb, it was not considered "Cooperstown worthy" until his sudden death in 1948 led to a surprising election to the Baseball Hall of Fame that very same year. (B-Ref) (FG)
Phil Rizzuto- "The Scooter" was the best shortstop for the Yankees in the 20th century, and his long career as a Yankees broadcaster simply added to his legacy. Though he was only an average offensive player (he was best known for his bunting prowess) and his small 5'6" stature did not give him much range, his defense was terrific, as his career Total Zone was 107. He won 7 World Series rings with the team, and his best season came in 1950, when everything came together for him and he was voted AL MVP. Rizzuto hit a career-best .324/.418/.439 with 200 hits and a league-leading 7.6 fWAR. Including his time in the broadcast booth, Rizzuto served a role in the Yankees organization for over 50 years, and his number 10 was retired in 1985. Rizzuto's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 by the Veteran's Committee might have been questionable, but if you have some time, watch his Hall of Fame speech. It is hilarious. He was also on a Meat Loaf song filled with euphemisms! (B-Ref) (FG)
Red Ruffing- I might have had a brain lapse in the previous post when I initially said that Lefty Gomez was the best lefty that the Yankees ever had while forgetting that Whitey Ford was a southpaw, but I know for a fact that Ruffing was the best righthanded pitcher in Yankees history. While the Yankees' acquisition of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox was infamous, the trade that they pulled off to get Ruffing from the Red Sox was also a steal. The Red Sox, frustrated that the 25-year old wasn't improving, dealt him to the Yankees for outfielder Cedric Durst and $50,000. Durst played 130 games for the Red Sox, didn't impress them, and was out of baseball the next year. Ruffing would go on to pitch more innings for the Yankees than anybody not named Whitey Ford and win 6 World Series rings in the process. Despite missing four toes thanks to a childhood mining accident, Ruffing became one of the best pitchers in the league, even though Yankee Stadium did not benefit righthanders. He pitched 8 complete games out of 10 starts in World Series play, putting up a 2.63 ERA and 3.00 FIP. He was also a surprisingly good hitter, with a career triple slash of .269/.306/.389 with 36 home runs, 2nd all-time among pitchers. Ruffing left the team for World War II, and he was 40 and near the end of his career by the time he came back. Among starting pitchers in Yankees history, Ruffing ranks 1st in complete games (261), 2nd in shutouts (40, 2nd in wins (231), 4th in strikeouts (1,526), and 3rd in rWAR (49.7). The righty was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1967, and he was given a posthumous plaque in Monument Park on Old Timer's Day in 2004. (B-Ref) (FG)
Babe Ruth- Just as with Mickey Mantle, there's not much that I can say about Ruth that hasn't been written. Start with the nicknames- "The Bambino," "The Sultan of Swat," and how the old Yankee Stadium was "The House that Ruth Built." Almost every baseball fan knows his story, so here's the Sparknotes version of it if you need a refresher, featuring the wonderful semicolon! Baltimore troublemaker; signed as a pitcher for the then-minor league Orioles; signed by Red Sox; became a tremendous young lefthanded pitcher; helped them win 3 World Series; doubled as power-hitting outfielder in 1919; traded to Yankees; set a million hitting records. Ruth became a full-time outfielder at just the right time, when baseball needed a positive figure to help them move on from gambling scandals. Ruth started hitting more home runs than entire teams were producing, and the game was forever changed, as power hitters became essential to team success. Ruth hit 714 homers in his career, 659 of which with the Yankees, and that total does not count his 15 World Series homers (including two 3-homer World Series games). I can't even begin state all of Ruth's records here; just go look at his Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs pages and have your mind boggled. All the bold print on B-Ref means he led the league in that category, and yes, there are 100 numbers in bold when you include his pitching numbers (and not his strikeouts at the plate). Ruth was the greatest hitter who ever lived, and he was a member of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame class of 1936. His number 3 was retired by the Yankees in 1948, which was the last year of his life as cancer took him at age 53. A monument was dedicated to him a year later. Ruth was a fascinating person, and I highly recommend reading more about him. (B-Ref) (FG)
Dave Winfield- Winfield might be in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre, but he spent more years with the Yankees than any other team thanks to the ten-year contract he signed with the team before the 1981 season. Winfield was a multi-sport star, and he was drafted to play basketball by both the NBA and the ABA, but he fortunately decided to play baseball. Winfield and teammate Don Mattingly were two bright spots for the Yankees in the title-less 1980s, and one cannot blame Winfield for his team's failure to reach the playoffs only once during his contract. Winfield hit .290/.356/.495 with a 134 OPS+ during his Yankees career, and although his outfield defense was somewhat overrated during his Yankees career, he did make some highlight-reel catches. Winfield has 1,300 of his 3,110 career hits with the Yankees, and though his Yankees career ended in controversy as George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball for hiring someone to dig up dirt on him, the team has made amends with him. As previously mentioned, Winfield was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, and he remains on good terms with the team. Fun fact- he was also Derek Jeter's favorite player growing up. (B-Ref) (FG)
Now that the automatics have all had their moments, we can finally move on to voting players into the Pinstripe Alley Yankees Hall of Fame. My next post will feature catchers, and the community has nominated Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada to potentially join Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey in the PSA annals! Be sure to catch it.