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Yankees batting title history

A look back at the eight Yankees who have won the American League batting crown.

It's probably a safe bet that no Yankee will win the American League batting title in 2015. That should be no surprise as only eight players in Yankee history have ever won it and only three of them have done so over the last 60 years. The ever-shrinking dimensions of Yankee Stadium in its various forms have no doubt contributed to this so it may be a while before a Yankee takes home the crown again. In the meantime, here's a look back at those who've done it.

Babe Ruth hits .378 in 1924

Since joining the Yankees in 1919, Ruth had perennially been in the top five before running away with the prize for the first and only time of his career in 1924. As he was prone to do, he also led the majors in on-base and slugging percentage and fell just five RBIs shy of winning a Triple Crown in the process. While Ruth's batting average was impressive it was dwarfed by Rogers Hornsby's National League-leading .424 mark, the highest ever recorded in the live-ball era.

Lou Gehrig hits .363 in 1934

Ten years after Ruth's Triple Crown bid, Lou Gehrig made his own run at history. He paced not only the AL but the entire MLB in all three Triple Crown categories as well as on-base and slugging. What's most amazing about Gehrig's season is that his .363 average represents only the fourth highest of his career. In fact, of the Triple Crown and slash stats he put up in 1934, only his home run total was a career high, and he would match that number again two years later.

Joe DiMaggio hits .381 in 1939 and .352 in 1940

The only Yankee to win multiple batting titles did so in consecutive years. At just 24 years old DiMaggio took full advantage of his speed and the vast real estate in Yankee Stadium's left field to lead the majors in batting by a comfortable margin in 1939. He also won the AL MVP by a landslide and led the Yankees to their fourth consecutive World Series championship. Despite his batting average dropping by nearly 30 points in 1940, he edged out Luke Appling to earn himself another batting crown. He may have added a third had he not lost three years of his prime to World War II.

Snuffy Stirnweiss hits .309 in 1945

DiMaggio wasn't the only big-name major leaguer to miss playing time due to military service during World War II. With superstars like Ted Williams and Bob Feller also out of the picture it allowed otherwise mediocre players to shine in the mid 1940's. Snuffy Stirnweiss is a prime example of this. In 1945 he took advantage of a diluted American League to win the batting title and lead the league in slugging on the strength of his 22 triples which also led the league. His .309 average is the second lowest to win a batting title in the live-ball era, ahead of only Carl Yastrzemski's .301 in 1968.

Mickey Mantle hits .353 in 1956

In what was probably the greatest season of his brilliant career, Mantle did his best Lou Gehrig impression in 1956. Like Gehrig 22 years earlier, a batting title was just one small part of his overall dominance. The Mick earned the major league Triple Crown and the first of three career MVP awards. More importantly for the Yankees, he was the catalyst for a team that won its sixth World Series over a span of eight years. Although Mantle would hit 12 points better the following season, Ted Williams would surpass him by a comfortable margin.

Don Mattingly hits .343 in 1984

Nearly 30 years after Mantle's Triple Crown, the Yankees boasted the top two hitters in the American League. In his first year as an everyday player, Don Mattingly edged out Dave Winfield over the last few days of the season to take the title. Mattingly would remain an elite player over the next five years, making the all-star team each year and winning the AL MVP in 1985. He may have even earned another batting title or two had his peak not coincided with that of Wade Boggs who topped the AL in batting every year from 1985 through 1988.

Paul O'Neill hits .359 in 1994

Most Yankee fans were upset when they traded all-star speedster Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O'Neill prior to the 1993 season. O'Neill won them over with solid production and a fiery attitude that year and by 1994 they forgot who Roberto Kelly ever was in the first place. He racked up clutch hit after clutch hit in what was by far the best offensive season of his career. His .359 batting average just barely eclipsed sluggers Albert Belle and eventual MVP Frank Thomas for the league lead. Instead of the bum they thought they were getting, Yankee fans had a new fan favorite, but of course that damn strike got in the way and ruined everything.

Bernie Williams hits .339 in 1998

It's easy to understand why this one may have flown under the radar. The 1998 Yankees were quite simply one of the greatest teams in Major League history, and because of that it's difficult to recall the great performance of any one individual. However, you can make the case that Bernie Williams was the single most important player of dynasty years in the late 1990's. This was just one season among about eight consecutive that he put up all-star caliber numbers while patrolling center field for a highly successful team. The recognition that the Yankees are finally giving him this year is way overdue.