clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Those Who Learn From the Past May Choose to Repeat It

And now for something completely different... I've felt a little guilty about not getting on with my Championship Histories, but with my first semester as a professor coming to a close I've been crazy busy and I refuse to half-ass the research I'm putting into the project.  I'll get several done between semesters.

Besides, we've found plenty to discuss.

But those of you hungry for a history lesson should check out Steve Tredder's article at the Hardball Times.

He examines the Yankee first basemen from Lou Gehrig's retirement through the Yanks' most dominant era. It's interesting because, while the Yankees had a string of great centerfielders (Combs-DiMaggio-Mantle), we didn't have a great 1B between Gehrig and Mattingly.

I'd like to focus on his conclusion:

Stengel simply eschewed having anything resembling a regular first baseman. In 1949, The Old Perfessor deployed four players (Henrich, Dick Kryhoski, Jack Phillips and Billy Johnson) in more than 20 games at first base, but none in more than 52, yet they combined for solid performance and the Yankees were once again champions. It would set in motion a kaleidoscopic-yet-robust fluidity to the Yankees' first base circumstance that remained for nearly the duration of Stengel's 12-season tenure.

Over that period, Johnny Mize, Joe Collins, Don Bollweg, Bill Skowron, Eddie Robinson, Marv Throneberry and Elston Howard all would play significant roles at first base for the Yankees. But not until 1960, Stengel's final year in the Bronx, would any individual appear in more than 120 games in a season as the Yankee first baseman.

Never in that time was first base anything close to a weakness for the Yankees, indeed often the production they received from the position was tremendous. The organization had found a way to satisfactorily fill Lou's great shoes at last, though it was in the manner least similar to that of the ever-steady Iron Horse.

A platoon of complimentary players can provide All-Star production at bargain salaries if the team can afford to sacrifice the extra roster spot.

With Posada, Duncan, Betemit and Damon in the 1B mix now, and with Arod and Jeter likely to stay with the team for another decade, we have to hope that Girardi can channel some of Casey's magic.