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Celebrating Yankees who started with a bang

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Mark Reynolds’ retirement is a reminder of players who homered in their debut at-bats.

American League Division Series Game 2: New York Yankees v. Boston Red Sox

Mark Reynolds, the journeyman infielder whose 13-year career included a short spell with the Yankees, announced his retirement on Thursday. Though his time in pinstripes was brief — he appeared in 36 games for New York after Cleveland released him in 2013 — it did feature a special moment on August 16th of that year: he homered in his very first at-bat as a Yankee.

By doing so, Reynolds joined a list of 18 other players who went deep in their debut plate appearance for the Bombers, a group that includes illustrious names from Yankees history, fan favorites, and key contributors to the current team. Here are some of the players who started off their Yankees careers with a bang.

Graig Nettles — April 6th, 1973

Arriving from Cleveland via trade, Nettles, a Gold Glove third baseman and a cornerstone of the late 1970s World Series teams, began his tenure in pinstripes with a homer off Red Sox ace Luis Tiant.

It was a good omen. The lefty-hitting slugger finished with 250 home runs in his 11-year career with the Yankees. And perhaps most impressive, he was named captain of the team in 1982 — one of just 15 men to ever bear the title, and successor to the late Thurman Munson in the role.

Marcus Thames — June 10th, 2002

In addition to earning his place on this list, Thames gets extra credit for nailing the degree of difficulty. Not only did he homer in his first Yankees at-bat, he did so on the very first pitch he saw — thrown by World Series foe Randy Johnson, who was in the midst of a four-year run of National League Cy Young Awards.

Thames, whose work at the plate was characterized by home run power, became the hitting coach for the Yankees in 2018, and has helped the team develop one of the deadliest lineups in baseball.

Curtis Granderson — April 4th, 2010

Like Reynolds, Granderson announced his retirement this year. Though he spent just four of his 16 big-league seasons as a Yankee, he exits with plenty of fond memories in pinstripes.

He endeared himself to Yankees fans immediately, launching one out of Fenway Park against Josh Beckett in his first plate appearance as a Bomber, and earned their admiration through his positive clubhouse presence and work in the community. Through his Grand Kids Foundation, Granderson has helped youths across the country with education, physical fitness, and nutrition initiatives.

Aaron Judge — August 13th, 2016

Then-teammate and fellow rookie Tyler Austin actually beat Judge to the punch in this game, going yard in his own first Yankees plate appearance in the at-bat immediately preceding Judge’s.

But the big right fielder’s blast will be the one that’s remembered, as it signaled what was to come for Judge the following season: a 52-home-run campaign that earned him Rookie of the Year, and probably should have netted him the American League MVP.

Giancarlo Stanton — March 29th, 2018.

Stanton announced his arrival to the club in style. His first inning homer off Toronto’s J.A. Happ — now a fellow Yankee! — flew 117.3 miles per hour over the right field wall in the Rogers Centre, a Statcast-era record for a long ball driven the opposite way.

He proceeded to club another in the ninth inning, joining Roger Maris as the only Yankee with a multi-homer debut, who did it in 1960. After struggling with injury since he burst onto the scene, perhaps a now-healthy Stanton will get the opportunity to reintroduce himself to fans with another historic big fly.