The Yankees’ mystique has long been synonymous with home run dominance. From the Ruth-led Murderers’ Row to the M&M Boys of the early 1960s and last year’s “Next Man Up” squad, the long ball has been a part of the Yankees’ legacy for a century.
But what about when the Yankees only reached third base, instead of crossing home? Hitting a triple has always been a difficult feat, but it has become downright rare as the game has evolved. John Owen “Chief” Wilson set the single-season record with 36 triples way back in 1912. For context, only five teams in the big leagues hit more than 36 three-baggers in 2019, per Baseball-Reference. The Yankees finished tied for last, with just 17.
So what would it look like if we were to construct an all-time Yankees lineup that prioritized triples instead of home runs? Glad you asked—it just so happens I’ve been considering this very question. Here’s my batting order for the Yankees’ All-Triples Team:
1. Earle Combs (154 triples as a Yankee) — LF
The Murderers’ Row leadoff man and three-time AL triples leader returns to the top of the lineup, though he now shifts to left from his usual spot in center field to accommodate his new teammates. Combs actually played left field in 214 games, sporting a .986 fielding percentage, his best at any position, so the switch should be comfortable.
2. Mickey Mantle (72 triples as a Yankee) — DH
Mantle’s famous blend of power and speed would make him a great modern-day hitter in the two-hole. In 1955, when his young legs were healthy, he led the AL with 11 triples; over his final seven years of baseball, he managed only six total. To keep his body fresh and triple-ready, I’ve slotted Mantle at DH instead of the outfield.
3. Babe Ruth (106 triples as a Yankee) — RF
Ruth will always be remembered more for home run trots than for high-velocity slides into third. But his place on this list is a testament to his greatness as a hitter, to a bygone style of play, and to the fact that batters can accumulate surprising numbers when they hit the ball really hard for a really long time.
4. Lou Gehrig (163 triples as a Yankee) — 1B
Poor Wally Pipp. The first baseman is fourth among Yankees in career triples with 121. Yet the all-time Yankees leader in the category happens to play the same position, and also happens to be the great Lou Gehrig, the man who won Pipp’s starting job and kept it for 2,130 straight games.
5. Joe DiMaggio (131 triples as a Yankee) — CF
DiMaggio led baseball with 15 triples as a rookie, and racked up double-digit three-baggers in eight different seasons. He gets the nod over Combs in center field as a concession to his sometimes prickly and often admirable pride. If his frosty relationship with All-Triples teammate Mickey Mantle is any indication, DiMaggio would not take kindly to being replaced in center.
6. Tony Lazzeri (115 triples as a Yankee) — 2B
Another member of Murderers’ Row, Lazzeri piled up triples in his early years, but tailed off in his thirties, as he hit only 21 of his 115 triples after his age-29 season. Honorable mention at second base goes to Snuffy Stirnweiss, who like another infielder in this lineup finished his career with 66 triples, and who owns one of baseball history’s most magnificent names.
7. Bill Dickey (72 triples as a Yankee) — C
Dickey’s triple total isn’t as eye-popping as his teammates’ of the 1920s and 1930s, but it’s a big number for a catcher. By comparison, the immortal Yogi Berra knocked 49 triples in 19 years with the Yankees, and Elston Howard had 50 in his 13 years in pinstripes.
8. Red Rolfe (67 triples as a Yankee) — 3B
Rolfe’s selection might be my most controversial pick as the All-Triples Team manager. Bob Meusel hit 87 triples as a Yankee, seventh on the list, and featured at third in 74 games for the Bombers. But Rolfe gets the edge for playing 1,084 games at the position for the Yankees from 1931 to 1942. Plus, he receives bonus points for being born and raised in my home state of New Hampshire.
9. Derek Jeter (66 triples as a Yankee) — SS
I know it’s blasphemous to remove Jeter from his home in the two-hole, never mind stick him at the bottom of the order. But though his numbers are excellent, they don’t quite justify his inclusion over the monsters at the top of the lineup, and he has the perfect skill set to act as a second leadoff man from the ninth spot in the order.
And while Jeter’s 66 triples don’t seem like much compared to some of the old-timers’ numbers, it’s an impressive tally in today’s game. The current active leader in career triples is Dexter Fowler, with 82. In second place? The Yankees’ own Brett Gardner with 68, carrying the triples-hitting torch.