Over the past two induction classes, three players who had notable careers with the Yankees have been inducted. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera played their whole careers in pinstripes, while Mike Mussina had a long and prosperous stint with the Yankees but also had a long tenure with the Orioles.
There’s also players like Wade Boggs and Phil Niekro for whom the Yankees were a pit stop, but still had notable moments with the team, towards the end of their long careers.
Then there’s these three players.
After falling short on this 15th year of normal eligibility, Lee Smith was elected with the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 as part of the Today’s Game Committee. He was most notable for his time with the Cubs and Cardinals, although he very briefly spent time with the Yankees.
With the Yankees 1.5 games back in the AL East race in 1993, the Yankees made a move at the August 31st waiver deadline and acquired Smith in exchange for the amusingly named Rich Batchelor. The legendary reliever came over and more than lived up to his reputation, not allowing a run in any game he pitched for the Yankees.
The problem was, it was 1993, he was one-inning reliever, and the Yankees struggled down the stretch, meaning they only ended up using him in eight innings. They went just 13-16 from September 1st on, ended up seven games back, and they just didn’t end up using Smith much despite his success with the team. He was a free agent and left after the season. Smith played four more seasons, but no more as a Yankee.
Burleigh Grimes is another example of a pitcher who threw a handful of innings as a Yankee towards the end of his career. Just ahead of him in innings pitched is someone who they had towards the beginning of his career.
Dazzy Vance came through the minors as a Pirate, but they gave up on him after just 2.2 innings and traded him to the Yankees in 1915. He was below average in 30 innings for them, and they proceeded to shuttle him around the minor leagues for the next couple years. He didn’t get another chance in the majors until three years later.
The Yankees finally called Vance back up in 1918, but he was very bad in the few innings they did give him. He gave up nine hits in 2.1 innings with an ERA over 15. They returned him to the minors the next season before a PCL team bought him in December 1919.
Vance reportedly hurt his arm in 1920 poker game, after which a doctor found a previously undiscovered injury. He went on to regain his form on the mound and found himself getting acquired by the then-Brooklyn Robins. He went on to have a 12-year career with them where he led the league in strikeouts seven different times, and was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. If only that poker game had come a year or two earlier.
On the hitting side, the position player Hall of Famer with the least amount of plate appearances for the Yankees is Paul Waner. What’s notable about his stint is that he actually played in two different seasons for the Yankees.
The team acquired the Pirates legend as a pinch hitting option late in the 1944 season, 17 years after his Pirates team lost to the Murderer’s Row Yankees team in the World Series. He got a hit in his first at bat with the team, but struggled otherwise going 1-7 with two walks in nine games.
Despite that, the Yankees brought Waner back for the 1945 season. In the seventh game of the season, he again came in as a pinch-hitter. He drew a walk, but just a week after that after no more appearances, he was released and retired. Despite having a pretty clear case, it took him until 1952 to gain election to the Hall, because old Hall of Fame voting was very dumb.