Some fans got up a bit up in arms when Todd Frazier said he was going to talk to Paul O’Neill about possibly wearing #21 with the Yankees. While he’s now given up on that idea, it was briefly a thing some people got mad about.
While numbers often get associated with one Yankee legend in particular, with the exception of #4, they’ve all been worn by someone else. With that in mind, lets take a look at some of the less good players to wear some of the most famous Yankee numbers.
Before the number came to worn and re2pected by Derek Jeter, the #2 was worn by several others. Some of them had good Yankee careers that just weren’t quite enough to get the honor themselves, such as Red Rolfe and Snuffy Stirnweiss. (Bobby Murcer too, but that wasn’t the only number he wore in pinstripes.)
Interspersed with those names are also some duds. Yats Wuestling was given #2 after coming over from the Tigers in a midseason trade in 1930. He hit .190/.242/.224, finishing his Yankee tenure with more strikeouts than hits. He didn’t play in the majors after his stint in New York and finished with a career OPS of .466.
After Babe Ruth left, the Yankees actually continue to use #3. George Selkirk made a couple All-Star games while wearing it. Four different players wore it in 1946.
The number was eventually retired in 1948, but not before Cliff Mapes briefly wore it. Mapes spent the first three and bit years of his career with the Yankees and was decent but not great. It wasn’t the only number he wore with the Yankees as he also had the far less notable numbers of #7 and #13.
Over recent years, the few Yankees that have dared worn #21 have often received boos. While at least in my opinion that’s a tad ridiculous, but Paul O’Neill is undoubtedly one one the most beloved Yankees of the last 20 years.
Before O’Neill started wearing the number, 34 other players were given the #21. That includes pitcher Cuddles Marshall. In 1948, Marshall appeared in one game and threw just one inning. Somehow despite playing in just the one game, Marshall actually wore both #21 and #40 that season. Marshall ended up using four different numbers in his three years in pinstripes, and also has some notoriety as the first Yankee pitcher to ever start a night game in Yankee Stadium.
The number #23 is retired for Don Mattingly, but was also worn by Fenton Mole, a Yankee first baseman of obvious equal stature. Mole, who was nicknamed “Muscles”, went 5-27 in his major league career and didn’t play after his brief cup of coffee in 1949.
Many players wore #46 before it made it’s way to Andy Pettitte. Even Mattingly wore it for a period.
After Pettitte left for Houston, the Yankees did continue giving out the number. None of the times was to particularly good players, but the worst person to get it was Alan Embree. The reliever who’s pitched everywhere made his way to the Yankees in July 2005. He promptly gave up 12 earned runs in his 14.1 innings with the team. Pettitte eventually came back to New York and thankfully reclaimed the number.
The third person to wear #51 was Gordie Windhorn, who made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1959. Windhorn promptly went 0-11 to start his career and did get on base once that season. He didn’t play for the Yankees again and holds the record for most at bats never reaching base for Yankee position players. Windhorn did make it back to the majors and played parts for two other seasons. He eventually did get a hit.
The #20 will be forever known for Jorge Posada, but Horace Clarke and Bucky Dent both had long Yankee careers with the number. The #20 also includes the best collection of names of any Yankee numbers. Other players to wear the number include Burleigh Grimes, Kemp Wicker, Oral Hildebrand, Tiny Bonham, Spec Shea, Mickey Klutts, and Rowland Office.
The Yankees have a storied history, so it makes some sense that they have a lot of retired numbers. However for every Derek Jeter, that number has also possibly been worn by a Yats Wuestling.
A full list of Yankees’ numbers can be found at Baseball Reference.