Haven’t you ever wondered which Yankees past and present best fit each President of the United States?
No? That’s not a normal thing that people do?
Well too bad, because now you’re getting Pinstripe Alley’s thoughts on the matter. With the help of the PSA staff, particularly my fellow former history major Tyler Norton, we assigned a Yankee to each U.S. president, even the mediocre ones! Each comes with the caveat of this: yes, we understand that the effects of politics are much more serious than grown men throwing and hitting a ball while wearing pajamas. The world might not have demanded it, but deep down, it did.*
*Ron Howard voice: “It did not.”
George Washington - Babe Ruth
The most obvious comparison in that both Ruth and Washington are essentially mythical figures at this point, and also enormous figures in the origins of the country and the team, respectively.
John Adams - Bill Dickey
Of the famous Founding Fathers, Adams is the one who gets overlooked a lot in favor of Washington, Jefferson, and others, especially his presidency. Likewise, Dickey was a Hall of Famer just like Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, and he even had an argument for the greatest catcher of all-time prior to Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. Those other larger-than-life figures doomed him to the background though.
Thomas Jefferson - Joe DiMaggio
Jefferson and DiMaggio did terrific things in their tenures. Their private lives, however, were extremely murky and have somewhat marred their legacies.
James Madison - Phil Rizzuto
Madison was the shortest president in history at 5’4” and “the Scooter” didn’t stand much taller at 5’6”. The Hall of Famer Willie Keeler would also have been a good fit since he was the same height as Madison, but he doesn’t have Rizzuto’s fame, particularly with the Yankee focus.
James Monroe - Bucky Dent
Monroe spent eight years in office as U.S. president and Dent was on the Yankees for eight years as a player or manager. Yet for all they did, they are almost exclusively known for one feat each: the Monroe Doctrine and the 1978 AL East playoff homer.
John Quincy Adams - Randy Choate
This would be unheard of today, but after Adams was voted out of office, he spent 17 years continuing to serve his country in the House of Representatives. He achieved far more outside the presidency than during his one term, much like how the bulk of the journeyman Choate’s success came after leaving the Yankees in December 2003. He only just retired after 672 games of LOOGY lore.
Andrew Jackson - Goose Gossage
Both Jackson and Gossage were quite popular in their times, and many people still hold them in high regard. However, they’ve both hurt their legacies through their own actions. So it goes.
Martin Van Buren - Phil Niekro
Sometimes it’s simple: both Van Buren and Niekro looked old as shit.
William Henry Harrison - Kevin Youkilis
Within 30 days of their tenures, Harrison was dead, and Youkilis was on the DL. The latter briefly returned (it would have been a helluva thing if the former did), but he was gone in an instant. That was the end of his career.
John Tyler - Ben Chapman
Several years after filling in as president for the rest of Harrison’s term, Tyler planned to defect and serve in the Confederate House of Representatives during the Civil War. Death prevented that, but history will remember. Meanwhile, Chapman went to the Red Sox after several years with the Yankees, albeit by trade. Also, they were both horrible racists.
James K. Polk - Bartolo Colon
Polk was a one-term president who simply chose to not run for a second term, which was a good call since he died two months later. A crazy amount of stuff happened during that term though—”54’40 or fight,” the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War, just to name a few. He was a surprising presidential choice too, a true dark horse like Colon, who came out of nowhere in 2011 to resurrect his career in the Yankees’ rotation. As Polk served one term, Colon served one season.
Zachary Taylor - Randy Johnson
Taylor and Johnson both came to their positions with positive reputations and combative natures. Neither really got it going in their new jobs though (despite some decent months in 2005 for Johnson), and after just two years, both were gone. At least “gone” for Johnson only meant “Arizona” and not “to the crypt keeper for eating bad cherries.”
Millard Fillmore - Chase Headley
No one remembers Millard Fillmore. No one remembers Chase Headley. Next.
Franklin Pierce - Boone Logan
James Buchanan - Javier Vazquez
Yeah, this didn’t turn out well, and neither did Javy’s two separate years in pinstripes. He would have been a good candidate for Grover Cleveland too, though that would probably be a little harsh on Cleveland’s first term.
Abraham Lincoln - Lou Gehrig/Derek Jeter
We were divided on whether Lincoln compares better with Gehrig or Jeter. I suggested Gehrig since both are legendary figures whose lives ended in tragedy when they still could have contributed more. Jason suggested Jeter since both are well-regarded and there are debates about they both might be overrated to a certain extent.
Andrew Johnson - Stephen Drew
Johnson and Drew both admittedly entered difficult situations. They still somehow made them worse. Remarkable.
Ulysses S. Grant - Billy Martin
Occasionally hot temper? Check.
Drinking problem? Check.
Struggled with the job after reaching the highest level in the profession? Check.
Rutherford B. Hayes - Dustin Ackley
Ackley’s beard with the Mariners certainly brought Hayes to mind. Their tenures were also both pretty forgettable.
James A. Garfield - Carl Pavano
To quote Jason, “Garfield can be Pavano because they both died so quickly.”
Chester Arthur - Sal Fasano
Grover Cleveland - Alfonso Soriano
Cleveland and Soriano each had separate tenures, leaving their post in a decision that wasn’t their preference, only to return later with worse second terms. Whoops.
Benjamin Harrison - Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Harrison and Hairston both came from notable families, though the patriarchs did not spend much time at the top of their professions. Harrison’s aforementioned grandfather spent just about one month in office, and Hairston’s grandfather Sam spent just about one month in the major leagues. Grandsons Ben and Jerry had much more time in their terms.
William McKinley - Thurman Munson
Ohio natives with close ties to their home state, McKinley and Munson both also met sad endings, the former an assassination victim in Buffalo and the latter a plane crash victim.
Theodore Roosevelt - Mike Mussina
Roosevelt was much more chatty than Mussina, but the moose represents each of them, given Mussina’s “Moose” nickname and Roosevelt’ later attempt to run for president under the “Bull Moose” Progressive party. (Bill “Moose” Skowron also fits here.)
William Howard Taft - Joba Chamberlain
Big, big boys with strong reputations that fell flat. Welp. Hopefully Joba never got stuck in a bathtub, though at the same time, I don’t think Taft ever broke anything while jumping on a trampoline.
Woodrow Wilson - Don Mattingly
Wilson was a strong leader in a turbulent time, guiding the country through the period leading up to and including World War I before suffering a stroke in 1919 that badly curtailed his last years. Mattingly was one of the few consistent highlights during a dark stretch of Yankees baseball, and his back injuries led to an an unfortunate early retirement. At least Mattingly wasn’t a racist.
Warren G. Harding - Hal Chase
A frequently forgotten Yankee, Chase was a Deadball Era player who arrived with much acclaim, but his whole career was dogged by allegations of throwing games. Money played a big role in Harding’s decline, too. He hoped to return the country to “a state of normalcy” after World War I, but instead, he became engulfed in the Teapot Dome bribery scandal and died three years into his term—not much normalcy.
Calvin Coolidge - Shane Greene
It's a close race this week for @sagreeney between scoreless innings and words said.— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) August 7, 2014
“Silent Cal” and Greene would get along quite well.
Herbert Hoover - Kei Igawa
Disaster, though each probably suffered from expectations that were too high. Either way, neither worked out at all.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - Alex Rodriguez
There aren’t many figures in American history more divisive than FDR, and there aren’t many figures in sports history more divisive than A-Rod. They also both set records with their term lengths, as Roosevelt was elected to office four times and A-Rod twice received 10-year contracts with new financial heights. The Yankees may have also established their own 22nd Amendment by not issuing any 10-year contracts since then.
Harry S. Truman - A.J. Burnett
History also has a tough time assessing Truman and Burnett. Truman is generally considered to be a fine U.S. president, but the dark cloud of controversy over his decision to drop the atomic bomb on innocents in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will always linger. Burnett does not have any lives attached to his tenure at least, but there weren’t many pleasant memories in pinstripes after 2009. Although it was a championship season, and his Game 2 World Series start was essential, his Yankee years weren’t the smoothest of times.
Dwight D. Eisenhower - Paul O'Neill
“The warrior” and a beloved hero of World War II, both Eisenhower and O’Neill also had anger issues, though the president’s were typically more bottled up. Both continue to have strong reputations, despite a few blotches.
John F. Kennedy - Mickey Mantle*
Baby Boomers loved JFK and the Mick, and their dashing looks didn’t hurt. They were also, of course, womanizers who had some skeletons in the closet. A bullet and cancer led to tragic deaths for each man.
*DiMaggio would have been good here too, except he would have haunted me for comparing him to JFK and Mantle, both of whom he hated.
Lyndon B. Johnson - Roger Clemens
Texans with a boatload of controversy and highlights? Too easy.
Richard Nixon - Chuck Knoblauch
Nixon and Knoblauch entered their positions with optimism around them, but boy, it did not end well for either of them.
Gerald Ford - Ivan Rodriguez
Ford wasn’t supposed to be president. He wasn’t even elected on a ticket, ascending to the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew resigned, and ascending once more when Nixon left office. Rodriguez wasn’t supposed to be a Yankee either, as he was only brought into the mix in 2008 when Jorge Posada was lost for the year with an injury. Neither did much in their brief stints, and the country and team chose not to bring them back.
Jimmy Carter - Gene Michael
Carter’s presidency could only be described as “meh” at best, but his post-presidency career has been much more beneficial for the world due to his philanthropy. Similarly, “Stick” did not much of a playing career, but his eye for scouting and front office acumen made him a valued member of the organization, ushering in the ‘90s era of excellence.
Ronald Reagan - Tommy John
Arrived to the presidency and the Yankees as older men and somehow survived quite awhile anyway (John even pulled a Cleveland, leaving and returning). Reagan’s policies will be felt, for better or for worse, for years to come, just like the ripple effects of Tommy John surgery.
George H.W. Bush - Ken Griffey, Sr.
History is probably going to have better memory of their sons (much more fondly in Griffey’s case), but the elder Bush and Griffey each had notable careers, too. They shouldn’t be forgotten.
Bill Clinton - Nick Swisher
Comparatively young and jazzy guys who rose to prominence during a booming time for both the country and the Yankees. Their wives were no strangers to the spotlight either, though I’m going to make a bold wager and say that people like Joanna Garcia more.
George W. Bush - Michael Pineda
The 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore was likely the most controversial of our lifetimes, and it also wasn’t easy for the Yankees to pull the trigger on Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda. They did though, and as it turned out, neither choice was a clear winner. The world landed on the zero in roulette.
Barack Obama - Elston Howard
Whether you like him or not, Obama was a trailblazer as the country’s first African-American president, and Howard was the Yankees’ trailblazer as their first African-American player. These milestones should have come before 1955 and 2008, but alas.
Donald Trump - George Steinbrenner
Yes, we’re going off the field here, but it’s the one that makes the most sense. They were simply enormous personalities in New York City life. The end.