The history of the New York Yankees is forever associated with great managers. Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Miller Huggins, Billy Martin, and Joe Torre are by far the most famous and accomplished, and they are also the ones people remember the most.
But the Yankees have been around for a while, and there has to be other good managers who have left their mark, right? Of course there are. These five skippers are perhaps the most unheralded in the franchise history.
A scrappy second baseman in his playing days, Harris managed MLB teams from 1924 to 1956, with a .493 winning percentage and over 2,000 victories. One of those organizations was the Yankees, more precisely in 1947 and 1948.
His Yankees won a hotly contested 1947 World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games, putting Harris in some pretty good company. New York finished third in 1948 with a 94-60 record, 2.5 games behind Cleveland.
The Yankees weren’t happy after missing the Fall Classic and decided to replace Harris with Stengel, who proceeded to win 10 American League pennants and seven World Series titles in the next 12 years.
Yogi Berra doesn’t need an introduction as a player. He was truly one of the greatest. But he was a pretty good manager too, even if he didn’t have too many chances to show it. He took over the 1964 Yankees as a first-year skipper and took the team to the World Series, where they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
He was, perhaps unfairly, fired by then-general manager Ralph Houk. Between 1972 and 1975, he had a stint as the manager of the New York Mets, and then returned to lead the Yankees in 1984 after a long stint as a coach.
The team again played well under his watch that year, finishing third in the AL East with an 87-75 record. He would return the next year, reportedly under the assurance he wouldn’t be fired, but after a 6-10 start, the impatient George Steinbrenner broke the promise and terminated him through an intermediary.
In the middle of the 1978 season, the relationship between Reggie Jackson and manager Billy Martin reached a point of no return. He resigned and left the team with a 52-42 record, and was replaced by Hall of Famer Bob Lemon.
Lemon helped that ‘78 team come back after Martin’s resignation to go 48-20 the rest of the way, take the pennant after defeating the Red Sox in a one-game playoff (the Bucky Dent homer game), and win the World Series in impressive fashion.
Lemon also won another pennant in his second stint with the Yankees in 1981, but lost the World Series to Tommy Lasorda’s Dodgers in six games. Prior to his experience in the Bronx, he managed the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox, and between the three organizations, compiled a 430–403 record with a .516 winning percentage.
Joe Girardi may not be the most flexible manager in baseball, but he had a very good, long, and fruitful time in front of the Yankees in the 2000s and 2010s. He stayed in the job from 2008 to 2017, and won the last World Series in the franchise history in 2009.
Girardi had to manage some underwhelming teams in the mid-2010s, but made the playoffs in six of the 10 seasons he was in charge. That 2017 team was particularly good, even if it couldn’t get past the Houston Astros in the ALCS.
Girardi also knew how to handle a major league bullpen and kept the Yankees competitive for the most part. His contributions to the franchise, as a player and a manager, are undeniable. With the Bombers, he compiled a 910-710 record with a .562 winning percentage.
The Major was a very successful manager, one that perhaps doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Houk took over for Casey Stengel in 1961 and won back-to-back Fall Classics: 1961 and 1962. He was the skipper in that unforgettable season in which Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle mounted a challenge to Babe Ruth’s long-standing home run record, and the former managed to rewrite the history books with 61 round-trippers.
Houk also won the pennant with the Yankees in 1963, but lost the World Series to Sandy Koufax’s Dodgers. That was the end of the manager’s first stint, which was much more successful than his second one (1966-1973) when he had considerably less talent to work with.
Between his two stints in front of the Yankees, Houk compiled a 944-806 record and a .539 winning percentage. Those two World Series victories as a manager look good with the three he had as a player and the one he earned as a coach.