Throughout the Yankees’ history, they’ve won more championships than any other team. However, they’ve also had a lot of great teams that ultimately fell a bit short. This week, we’re chronicling the 2003 Yankees, the team we decided on as the best Bombers team not to win it all.
But, which other teams could we have picked? What other Yankees squads live on in our memories, but not in the history books?
Going chronologically, we start with the 1960 Yankees, who were just an inning away from winning the club’s 19th championship. The team included Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in their primes, when they slugged 79 combined home runs. Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Moose Skowron, and Bobby Richardson rounded out the offense; while Whitey Ford, Art Ditmar, Bob Turley and Ralph Terry were as good a rotation as any. Unfortunately, Bill Mazeroski cracked the famous walk-off home run for the Pirates that won them their first title in 35 years. Not to fear, the Yankees bounced back, winning it all in 1961 and 1962, and winning the pennant in 1963 and 1964.
1976 was also a year fondly remembered by Yankees fans, but one that came up short to the Big Red Machine in the Fall Classic. Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss led the way; while Roy White, Mickey Rivers and Oscar Gamble patrolled the outfield. Willie Randolph was just 21 years old and in his first year as a Yankee, and young Ron Guidry only pitched seven innings. Instead, Catfish Hunter, Ed Figueroa, Dock Ellis and Sparky Lyle were the horses, combining to hurl 870.2 regular season innings. The team hit its stride in the next few years, winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978.
The 2001 Yankees are often thought of as the best Yankees team not to win it all, in part because they came so close and overcame so much. People forget though, that the ‘01 team was not nearly as dominant as earlier teams in the dynasty. They almost lost in the ALDS to the A’s and trailed for much of the World Series vs. the Diamondbacks. Although they almost grinded it out, the ‘01 Yankees just couldn’t finish the job. Although it is probably the most painful Yankees team not to win the World Series, others may have been better.
The very next year, the Yankees added Jason Giambi and reunited with David Wells en route to winning 103 games, but couldn’t get out of the ALDS vs. the Angels. 2003 comes next, and although the 2004 team had a painful collapse, its pitching was not up to par with other 2000s Yankees teams. After the Yankees won in 2009, they looked poised for another dynasty. However, those 2010-2012 teams weren’t even able to make a single World Series, a disappointing result given the talent on those squads.
Two more entries as the best Yankees teams not to win come recently in the 2017 and 2019 Yankees. These teams had something of an aura to them, from the playoff heroics of the 2017 team to the “Next Man Up” approach of the 2019 squad. Unfortunately, both teams were vanquished by the Houston Astros, who were later exposed for cheating over that span. Given how close those Yankees teams came, it’s fair to wonder if the Bombers were robbed of another World Series appearance.
Hopefully we didn’t bring up too many painful memories. After all, there were a lot of good memories in those seasons! Which other teams do you consider the greatest runners-up in Yankees history?