Being named captain of the New York Yankees is a prestigious honor granted to very few players in franchise history. Only 11 people have had the honor to officially serve the team in that capacity. The Yankee captain encompasses everything that baseball’s most prestigious franchise stands for hard work, pride and tradition among other things. Here’s a brief look at some of those that have served as Yankee captains.
Hal Chase 1910-1912
Drafted from the minor leaguein 1905, Chase became the Highlanders' first homegrown star. He was widely considered the best defensive first baseman of his time by colleagues using his quickness and smooth glove work. Chase was also no slouch with the bat, as he was among the league leaders in runs batted in and batting average. Unfortunately, his last seasons were spent in turmoil with teammates and allegations of gambling and other shady dealings.
Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-1922
Peckinpaugh was acquired via trade in 1913 and spent a total of eight and a half years in New York until being traded to the Red Sox in 1922. Known as a premium defensive shortstop, he offered a strong throwing arm and great range. He was a leader of men both on and off the field using his calm and steady demeanor to stabilize a clubhouse in disarray.
Babe Ruth 1922
As a player, Babe Ruth is the gold standard in the Yankees universe. The greatest player in history to don the pinstripes, he also served the shortest captain term in history. Named captain before the 1922 season began; he was only able to last six days in the position. During a game on May 25, Ruth threw dust in an umpire's face and confronted a heckler in the stands. After the game, he was stripped of his captaincy.
Lou Gehrig 1935-1941
After a span of 10 years without the team having a captain, Gehrig was named captain in 1935. Gehrig was everything that you could ever want in a baseball player. The "Iron Horse" was a durable player, breaking former Yankee Everrett Scott’s consecutive games played record, a mark that wouldn’t be broken until Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed the feat in 1995. He took great pride in everything that he did on the field giving it his all, whether he was fielding, hitting or base running. Even in the face of his ALS death sentence, he handled it with class and dignity, saying goodbye with his "luckiest man" speech.
Thurman Munson 1976-1979
The tough as nails, gritty catcher was the "heart and soul," of the Yankee teams of the 1970s. He lead the team to three consecutive World Series from 1976-1978, winning titles in two of those three seasons. Munson was an outstanding defender and offensive player. With two World Series and an MVP award to his credit, he, Bill Dickey, and Yogi Berra are the standard to which past, present and future catchers will be judged. Unfortunately, we will never know how much more he could have accomplished due to the tragic plane crash.
Graig Nettles 1982-1984
Graig Nettles was a gifted defensive third baseman possessing a strong, accurate arm, quick reactions and tremendous range. Nettles, was a solid offensive player as well and was a driving offensive force on the 1977 World Series club putting up his career best season. He led by example on the field, with a hard-nosed style that owner George Steinbrenner liked to see in his players.
Don Mattingly 1991-1995
After Nettles left, Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as co-captains from 1986 until the end of their tenures in '88 and '89. "Donnie Baseball" later became the first sole captain since Nettles, and he was the one mainstay of the Yankees during the tumultuous time of the late '80s and early '90s. He is another in a line of greats that played hard with Yankee pride. In his prime he was able to get on base, drive in runs along with hitting for power and average. Don Mattingly was a Gold Glove winner, AL MVP and a fan favorite. It’s unfortunate that his back injury prevented him from capitalizing on his potential.
Derek Jeter 2003-2014
The best shortstop in Yankee history was also their longest-serving captain. Derek Jeter’s legacy of hard work, dedication, professionalism and overall excellence has left him in rare company. He spent most of his career of as the face of Major League Baseball, something that very few players ever accomplish. The greatest demonstration of mutual respect for Jeter is observed in how many current shortstops wear the number two because they want to be like him.
The Yankees have been blessed with some amazing talent and leaders. It appears that ownership and the front office are in no rush to name a new captain, nor should they be. The closest players to fitting the mold would be Brett Gardner and Brian McCann. Players such as Derek Jeter, Lou Gehrig and Don Mattingly had to pay their dues before they were rewarded and the new leadership should have to as well.