Over the weekend, it was revealed that the Yankees would be signing veteran reliever Justin Wilson. Once finalized, it will be a notable deal for a couple reasons. The obvious one is that he played for the Yankees in 2015, having been acquired in November 2014 before getting traded for Chad Green and Luis Cessa in December 2015.
It’s also interesting for a reason pointed out by Yankees’ beat writer Lindsey Adler: the Yankees currently have a pitcher in the minors also named Justin Wilson. The younger Wilson was a 2018 Yankees draft pick who reached A-ball in 2019 before last year’s minor league season cancellation. (He was also quick to point out on Twitter that they were different people.)
While it’s still unlikely, it’s now possible that the two could end up teammates someday. While that would be a first in Yankees’ history, it has happened before elsewhere around the game. Just last year, two different pitchers named Josh Smith played for the Marlins. One of them, Josh D. Smith, only appeared in two games, but in both, Josh A. Smith also pitched. In one of them, A relieved D and they combined to complete the eighth inning.
While the Yankees have never had two teammates of the same name, they have had some other familiar names over the years. Here is a not complete, but very thorough list of Yankees who share a name with another famous person.
John Ryan Murphy had a very fun stint as the Yankees’ backup catcher before getting traded for Aaron Hicks. Many decades before he was born, pitcher Johnny Murphy was a multi-time All-Star and champion for the Yankees in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Other Yankees from different eras who shared names are both technicalities (unless I missed one by being dumb). For one, there’s shortstop Frank Baker, who played 78 games over two seasons from 1970-71. It may have been his middle name, but before getting his famous moniker, Home Run Baker also went by Frank.
When he initially came up to the bigs, current Yankee Giancarlo Stanton went by Mike. At that point, he had the same name as the great Yankees reliever who won three rings with the team from 1998-2000: Mike Stanton.
As far as Yankees who share names with other baseball players, there’s 50s pitcher Bill Miller, who has a different spelling but the same pronunciation as former Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller. Pitcher José Ramírez was once a top prospect who appeared in 11 games in pinstripes; Cleveland’s José Ramírez has fared better. Outfielder Chris Young played in the Bronx from 2014-15 and nearly overlapped his entire career with tall pitcher and now-Rangers GM Chris Young. The Yankees also had a Ken Griffey, although it’s unclear if he’s related to Mariners’ legend Ken Griffey Jr.*
*This is a joke, do not @ me.
While not a real player, Jon Dowd was a famous fill-in character for Barry Bonds on the classic video game “MVP Baseball 2005.” Almost a century before that, the Yankees had a real player named John Dowd. The real one was not as good as the fictional one.
The namesakes also go beyond baseball. The Yankees have had a Joe Harris (also a current Brooklyn Net), Tom Daley (also a British Olympic diver), Justin Thomas (also a golfer and 2017 PGA champion), Sam Jones (also a 10-time NBA champion with the Celtics, please note the Yankee was primarily known as “Sad Sam”), Billy Johnson (also an NFL receiver nicknamed “White Shoes”), Archie Moore (also a lightweight boxing champion), and Chris Carter (extremely close to the NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter).
There are even two players with Australian namesakes. Phil Hughes was also the name of an Australian national team cricketer, who tragically died after a head injury sustained in a cricket match. Meanwhile, Greg Bird shares a name with a rugby player, who once made headlines for, uh, interesting reasons.
Beyond athletes, there’s also a number of coaches with the same names as a Yankee. In the early days of the franchise, there was a Jimmy Williams, who matches up with late-90s/early-2000s Red Sox manager Jimy. There’s an Alex Ferguson, who matches up with the knighted former manager of Manchester United. There’s an Eddie Robinson (still kicking at age 100) who matches up with the legendary Grambling State football coach. Lastly, there’s a Bill Donovan, who matches up with two-time NCAA champ and current Chicago Bulls coach Billy.
There are a couple sports media members who have the same name. John Miller hit a homer in his first career at-bat and played six game for the Yankees in 1966, while Jon Miller is a broadcaster for the Giants who called ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” for many years. Infielder Ernie Johnson played three years for the Yankees in the 1920s, while Ernie Johnson Sr. served many years as a Braves announcer. Ernie Johnson is also the name of the latter’s son, who is now the host of “Inside the NBA” on TNT, also working on TBS’s MLB coverage. John Anderson is one of just three MLB players to have ever been born in Norway, while another John Anderson currently works at ESPN as a Sports Center anchor. That John Anderson also hosted the TV show “Wipeout” with a comedian named John Henson, who coincidently shares a name with a basketball player.
There are also a bunch of Yankees with pop culture counterparts. Over the years, they’ve had players named Don Johnson, Bobby Brown (two, actually), Chris Martin, Mike Wallace, Mike Myers, Kenny Rogers, Ray Fisher, Matt Smith, George C. Scott, and Brian Doyle, who sort of counts as a counterpart of actor and Bill Murray’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray.
Joe McCarthy was one of the greatest managers in baseball history, but start talking about the genius of Joe McCarthy around any group that doesn’t involve diehard baseball fans and you’ll start getting funny looks. The politician from the ‘50s has not had a good legacy. (There was also a Yankees catcher named Joe McCarthy in 1905, but he’s even more anonymous.)
Lastly, there are two Yankees that have shared a name with a US president.
There’s been a John Kennedy, who played one season in the Bronx. His middle name is Edward. So while that doesn’t match exact initials with JFK, it does mean that if he went by his middle name, he would’ve also had the name of a Kennedy politician.
While neither of his names were “Zachary,” a Zack Taylor played four games for the Yankees in 1934. His Yankee career may have been fleeting, but it’s fitting since 12th president Zachary Taylor died after just a little more than a year into his presidency.