PSA HoF- King Kong's Might and Center Field Greats

UPDATED WITH CENTER FIELD INDUCTEES

Bernie Williams

Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle (automatics)

***

Here are the results from the balloting for left fielders to be inducted into the Pinstripe Alley Hall of Fame:

Charlie Keller (26/31, 83.9%)

Bob Meusel (18/31, 58.1%)

Roy White (15/31, 48.4%)

Tom Tresh (1/31, 3.2%)

Keller, the pride of the University of Maryland, has become the lone Pinstripe Alley Hall of Fame left fielder. Though his career was brief, it was fantastic and helped the Yankees win several World Series titles. Meusel and White only came up a few votes shy of the 24 needed for election, but alas. Now, we move from left to center, which is already quite crowded. Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle were the Yankees' first three great center fielders, and they were all National Baseball Hall of Famers, earning them automatic election. Three of their successors look to join them today- Bobby Murcer, Rickey Henderson, and Bernie Williams. Although one might be tempted to judge them simply by comparing them to DiMaggio and Mantle, exercise caution in doing so--those two players are some of the finest to ever play baseball, regardless of position. Appreciate these players for who they were, not who they were not.

Bobby Murcer

(NYY: 1965-66, '69-'74, '79-'83) Murcer led quite an interesting life. He went from Oklahoma high school star to Yankees phenom, courtesy of Tom Greenwade, who had previously scouted Mantle. Greenwade was the first of many to compare the two, and though Murcer was a great player, it was nearly impossible to match Mantle's performance. Murcer made his major league debut in September 1965, only a little more than a year after being signed. A shortstop at the time, he was given a chance to win the starting job in Spring Training '66, but he was not a good fielder, so he returned to the minors. Murcer was drafted by the military and spent the next two years in the military, but he was ready for the pros when he came back to the Yankees. Realizing that he needed Murcer's potent lefthanded bat in the lineup, manager Ralph Houk made Murcer an outfielder, and he hit 26 homers in his first full season, totaling a 118 wRC+. Murcer moved from right field to center in '70, and he quickly matured as a player. His .319 on-base percentage in '69 rose to .348 in '70, and then to a league-leading .427 in '71, which was the first of five consecutive All-Star campaigns. Over the next two years, Murcer was one of the best players in baseball, amounting a higher fWAR (15.5) than any player other than Joe Morgan. He hit .311/.393/.539 with a .414 wOBA and 174 wRC+ and finished in the top seven for AL MVP voting both years. He was second among league leaders in batting average in '71 (.331), and in homers in '72 (33). Murcer also had his finest defensive season in '72, earning a Gold Glove.

After another good season in '73 (132 wRC+), Murcer's offense was hurt by the Yankees' transition to pitching-friendly Shea Stadium, where they played home games for two seasons while the original Yankee Stadium was renovated. Though still a good offensive player, his slugging percentage dropped from .464 to .378, and he only hit 10 home runs (none in Shea until September). However, Murcer was still considered one of the best players on the team, and it was a shock when he was traded to the Giants in the offseason for Bobby Bonds. Murcer, who had been a lifelong Yankees fan, was heartbroken. He was also unlucky enough to miss the team's success in the late '70s, and by the time he found his way back to the team in a June '79 trade with the Cubs, they had started another championship drought. Sadly, his close friend Thurman Munson passed away that August, and in the first game after his funeral, Murcer, his eulogist, was the star, homering and hitting a come-from-behind walk-off single. Though he was now a part-time player, Murcer played a couple more effective seasons with the team (120 wRC+ in '80-'81) and he finally made playoff and World Series appearances. Murcer retired in '83 and became a beloved member of the Yankees broadcast booth until his untimely passing from brain cancer in 2008. The YES Network just isn't the same without him. (B-Ref) (FG) (SABR Bio) (YES Tribute)

Rickey Henderson

(NYY: 1984-89) Yes, it happened, and yes it was fantastic, if brief. The Yankees employed the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of the game for four and a half seasons during the 1980s, and all they had to do to acquire him in his prime was trade the A's a package of prospects highlighted by Jose Rijo and Stan Javier. As Mike Axisa notes in the linked article, yes, Rijo was a good pitcher the Yankees could have used later in the decade, but he was just 19 at the time and they were getting a superstar in return. The Yankees were a good team in '84, but Henderson made them one of the baseball's best in '85. They won 97 games and only finished two games back of the Blue Jays for the AL East title, and Henderson played a big role in the 10-game improvement, with (coincidentally) a league-leading 10.2 fWAR season. He also led the league in steals (80) and runs (146), hit ..314/.419/.516 with 24 homers, a .405 wOBA and 154 wRC+, and finished third in the AL MVP voting behind teammate Don Mattingly (sorry Donnie, but Rickey deserved that one). Henderson followed up this tremendous season with another great year in '86, as he hit .263/.358/.469 with 28 homers, 6.9 fWAR, and a 140 wRC+, again leading the league in steals (87) and runs (130). Alas, the Yankees again finished runner-up in the AL East, this time five and a half games behind Boston.

Henderson missed time in '87 with a hamstring injury and played just 95 games, but he still hit .291/.423/.497 with a .417 wOBA, 158 wRC+, and 5.2 fWAR. The Yankees could have used him in the lineup, as they finished nine games behind the Tigers. Henderson also endured criticism from owner George Steinbrenner, who thought he was exaggerating his injuries. The team again narrowly missed the playoffs in '88 (three and a half games behind Boston) despite another spectacular season from Henderson. He set a franchise record in stolen bases for the third time (93), a mark that still stands, and even though he was only in his fourth season with the Yankees, he set the franchise record for stolen bases by passing teammate Willie Randolph's total of 251. Henderson's final mark of 326 stood for over 20 years until Derek Jeter surpassed him in May 2011 (Jeter has played over 12 more years with the team than Rickey did). He was playing well for the team again in '89 when the Yankees traded him back to Oakland in June, as both he and the franchise had tired of each other. In his four and a half seasons with the Yankees, Henderson hit .288/.395/.455 with 31.7 fWAR, a truly remarkable performance from a truly remarkable player. Henderson somehow played 14 years more after leaving New York, leaving the pros at age 44 in 2003. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2009. It astounds me that 28 writers did not vote for him. Fools. (B-Ref) (FG) (MLB.com Tribute)

Bernie Williams

(NYY: 1991-2006) Bernie Williams was a generally shy man, but he will never be able to walk the streets of New York without being saluted by Yankees fans for his incredible career. Williams was signed as a 17-year-old in 1985 and trained to become a switch-hitter for several years in the minors. He had become a successful hitter in AAA by '91, but in his first Yankee seasons, he could only break into the major league lineup when outfielders were injured. He impressed in limited action though, posting the first of 13 consecutive .400+ slugging seasons. In November '92, incumbent center fielder Roberto Kelly was traded for Paul O'Neill, opening a spot for Williams to win the job in Spring Training '93. Over the next few years, Williams grew into a star, and in '95, he hit .307/.392/.487 with a 132 wRC+ and 6.7 fWAR. Despite his four consecutive Gold Glove years from 1997-2000, '95 was Williams's finest defensive season in center field (14 total zone, 1.3 dWAR). The Seattle Mariners could not get Williams out in his first playoff series, as he hit .429/.571/.810 in the five-game ALDS loss. He also hit the first of his team record 22 playoff homers.

The next year, he moved to the cleanup spot in the lineup, hit 29 homers, and helped the Yankees win their first World Series title in 18 years. He clubbed three homers in the ALDS win over the Rangers, then won the ALCS MVP by slugging .947 against the Orioles in the five-game win and winning Game 1 with a homer (he would replicate his walk-off heroics three years later in the '99 ALCS against Boston). From '95 through '02, Williams established himself as one baseball premier outfielders. He was named to five consecutive All-Star games from '97-'01, won a batting title in '98 by hitting .339, and during this eight-year period, he hit .321/.406/.531 with a .401 wOBA and 143 wRC+. He won three consecutive World Series rings and was still a vital member of the Yankees through '04 (he walked off the Twins for the AL East title last year, but sadly there is no video). Williams's role on the team diminished as his defense plummeted, and management chose not to re-sign him after the '06 season. Bernie hit .297/.381/.477 with a 125 wRC+ in his career, and he's all over the Yankees' leaderboards--third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), and sixth in homers (287), total bases (3,756), runs (1,366), RBIs (1,257), and games (2,076). It is highly unlikely that number 51 will ever be worn by another Yankee. (B-Ref) (FG)

***

So those are your candidates:

Bobby Murcer, Rickey Henderson, and Bernie Williams

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 Saturday at 5 PM. We will examine the right fielders 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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