First off, hello Pinstripe Alley! Thanks to Brandon and Travis for bringing me on board; I love to write about baseball history and the Yankees so it's awesome that I can combine the two for such a great Yankees blog. You might know me from the comment section if you partake in those shenanigans, but if you don't, here's a short introduction. My name is Andrew, and I'm currently a senior at Gettysburg College (in Pennsylvania, not Virginia; you'd be surprised how many people think it's located in the latter), graduating in May with a B.A. in History and a Math minor. I spent last Spring abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and my sister married an Australian, so don't be surprised if you hear me reference the land down under often.
I grew up in North Jersey, so I was able to make many a trip to Yankee Stadium when I was in high school. I've been a Yankees fan my entire life, but I started following them closely during the 2001 season and I've been hooked ever since. I've visited the Baseball Hall of Fame about nine times and I was fortunate enough to attend the '08 All-Star Game and Home Run Derby at the old Yankee Stadium, a trip that ended with me spending the night in Penn Station since the last train home had left. My favorite Yankee is Robinson Cano, and one of my most prized possessions is his old number 22 t-shirt jersey and a commemorative marker of his rookie year.That's enough about me; I'm probably not why you're here- let's get to reason why I'm writing.
Readers of Pinstripe Alley might be familiar with our two discussions about the creation of a Yankees Hall of Fame designed by us. We squabble often about who's really worthy of number retirement, a plaque in Monument Park, et. al, so let's decide as a community who would be in our Yankees Hall of Fame. We'll discuss the players that will automatically be inducted following the jump.
The rules for the PSA Yankees Hall of Fame are simple:
-No current players allowed in. Jeter, Rivera, etc can be let in after they retire.
-No players with less than four seasons in a Yankees uniform allowed in.
-Automatics will be Hall of Famers with at least nine seasons in a Yankees uniform:
Yogi Berra, Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Mickey Mantle, Herb Pennock, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing, Babe Ruth, Dave Winfield
The players listed above are Hall of Famers who spent a great deal of their careers with the Yankees and the numbers they put up are so remarkable that it's hard to imagine a Yankees Hall of Fame without them.
(NYY: 1946-63) Yogi is definitely one of the top two catchers in major league history, and he won an incredible 10 World Series rings with the Yankees. He spent all but one of his 18 major league seasons with the team, and he tied an American League record with three MVP awards (1951, '54, '55), and he probably would have won more if it wasn't for that damn Mantle character. A bad-ball batter, his career triple slash of .285/.348/.482 and .370 wOBA are absolutely remarkable for someone who played nearly 1,700 games behind the plate. The fact that he was a terrific defensive catcher made his value even higher.
Yogi also managed the Yankees to the '64 AL Pennant and briefly managed again in the 1980s before being rudely tossed aside by George Steinbrenner. They kissed and made up in '99 though, and Yogi is now clearly the greatest living Yankee. The Yankees retired his number 8 in '72, the same year he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (on his second year of eligibility- 118 didn't vote for him on his first try and he only earned 67.2 percent of the vote, figure that out.) (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1924-35) Combs was the first in a long line of great Yankees centerfielders, and he was their leadoff hitter for his entire 12-season career. A member of the "Murderer's Row" Yankees of 1927, the year was also Combs's career year, as he set a Yankees record that lasted for nearly 60 years with 231 hits and a still-record 23 triples. His 154 triples are second in team history, and he posted an incredible career wOBA of .392.
Combs's career would have been more spectacular if he hadn't crashed into a wall in '34 and fractured his skull, an injury that effectively ended his career. After many years on the ballot, Combs was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame via the Veteran's Committee in '70. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1936-42, '46-'51) DiMaggio was one of the most legendary players the Yankees ever had, and he was so well-respected that he was voted the Greatest Living Ballplayer in 1969, ahead of many other terrific players. Despite playing his home games in Yankee Stadium and hitting into the cavernous left field Death Alley, DiMaggio still hit 361 homers, fourth in team history. DiMaggio gracefully patrolled centerfield and his teammates rarely recalled him looking bad in the field. He of course set a major league record with his 56-game hitting streak in '41, which was the second of three MVP seasons ('39 and '47).
DiMaggio was an All-Star in every season of his career and appeared in 10 World Series, winning nine of them. He had a wRC+ of 153 and put up a remarkable 92.0 fWAR in just 13 seasons. DiMaggio's number 5 was retired in '52, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in '55 (his third year on the ballot. They were stingy back then.) (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1928-43, '46) Dickey has been greatly overshadowed by Yogi Berra in team history, but his career was arguably just as good as Berra's. He is still the only Yankee with a retired number who has not received a Yankeeography on the YES Network, a shame that needs to be remedied. Dickey put up a .313/.382/.486 triple slash with a .394 wOBA, and he somehow played all 1,708 games of his career at catcher. He was in his 16th season (all with the Yankees) when World War II hit, and by the time he returned to baseball, he was 39 and his career was pretty much over.
Halfway through the 1946 season, Dickey took over as manager, but he stepped away from the game after the season and returned in '49 as the first base coach and became Berra's mentor. Dickey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 54 (another delayed pick, his eighth year on the ballot), and his number 8 was retired in '72, the same day that Yogi Berra's number 8 was also honored. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1950, '53-'67)The man once known as "Eddie Ford" was unquestionably the greatest starting pitcher that the Yankees have ever had. He pitched 16 years, all with the Yankees, in a tremendous career that likely would have had even better numbers had Ford not served in the Korean War in 1951 and '52. Ford appeared in 11 World Series and won six rings, including the '61 World Series MVP (he also won the MLB-wide Cy Young Award that year).
In that series, Ford set a World Series record with his 33rd consecutive scoreless inning, and he won both games against a good offensive Cincinnati Reds team. Ford is the all-time Yankee leader in wins, innings, strikeouts, and shutouts, and he ended his career with a terrific 2.75 ERA, 133 ERA+, and 3.26 FIP. Ford's number 16 was retired in '74, the same year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1923-39) The "Iron Horse" played in a then-record 2,130 consecutive games, but he was so much more than just durable. Gehrig was a tremendous offensive force, and here's a sample of where he ranks on the Yankees' all-time offensive list in various categories: second in hits (2,721), second in total bases (5,060), third in WAR (118.4), second in batting average (.340), second in slugging (.632), third in homers (493), second in OPS+ (178)... the list goes on. Just gaze at his Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs pages for awhile... it's awesome.
The Yankees retired his number 4 in his last season, 1939, and due to his illness, he was immediately inducted into the Hall of Fame by a special election that same year. Gehrig died far too young in '41 at age 37. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1930-42) True to his nickname, "Lefty" was one of the best southpaws the Yankees ever had, and his name is also speckled all over the Yankees' pitching record book. In his 13 years on the team, the Yankees won six World Series rings, and Gomez showed he was up to the task with a 2.86 ERA in Series play.
Gomez's greatest act might have been somehow befriending the aloof Joe DiMaggio, a trick few could imitate. His career ERA+ was 126, and won the elusive pitching triple crown twice, in 1934 and '37. Gomez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame through the Veteran's Committee in '72, and although his number was not retired, a Monument Park plaque was dedicated to him in '87. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1921-30) Hoyt was a vital cog on the Yankees' pitching staff for the entire decade of the 1920s, and in '27, he had a stellar ERA+ of 148, a career best. Hoyt threw six complete games and a shutout in his 10 World Series starts. The Brooklyn boy had an ERA of 1.83 in World Series play, and in his 10 seasons on the team, he won 157 games, completed 156 games, posted a 3.48 ERA, accumulated 31.0 rWAR, and he only walked 1.7 batters per 9 innings.
While the offense of the the 1920s teams has been well-documented, Hoyt played an important role helping the team establish a terrific pitching staff as well. Hoyt was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame through the Veteran's Committee in '69. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1926-37) 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 five-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 '91. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1951-68) 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 three AL MVPs Mantle would earn, as he took home the honor again in 1957 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 eight occasions, highlighted by a 210 OPS+ in '56. A seven-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 '69, not even a full year after his retirement, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in '74. After a lifelong battle with alcoholism helped allow cancer ravage his body, he passed away in '95, and the Yankees dedicated a monument to him in '96. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1923-33) 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 1920s 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 '48 led to a surprising election to the Baseball Hall of Fame that very same year. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1941-42, '46-'56) "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 seven 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 '85. Rizzuto's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in '94 by the Veteran's Committee might have been questionable, but if you have some time, watch his Hall of Famespeech. It is hilarious. He was also on a Meat Loaf song filled with euphemisms! (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1930-42, '45-'46) 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 six 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 eight 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, second 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 first in complete games (261), second in shutouts (40), second in wins (231), fourth in strikeouts (1,526), and third in rWAR (49.7). The righty was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in '67, and he was given a posthumous plaque in Monument Park on Old Timer's Day in 2004. (B-Ref) (FG)
(NYY: 1920-34) Like 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 three 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 three-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 '36. 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)
(NYY: 1981-90) 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)
Here is a Google Doc of all the current candidates, for your reference. This process should be fun, so feedback is always appreciated with ideas of how to make it better.