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Reviewing the all-time Yankees team of complementary greats

From Home Run Baker to Didi Gregorius, covering all the eras of complementary Yankees.

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images

Following the selection of Johnny Murphy, we’ve officially finished rounding out this roster of complementary greats. It’s been a blast seeing the response in the comment section. The engagement from you guys with suggestions, questions, and memories of your favorite complementary players is truly awesome.

This last post will once again include the lineup order, like I put out at the beginning of the Eddie Lopat article. We’ll also talk a little bit about each individual selection and provide some honorable mentions.

The final roll inevitably had a bit of a personal touch. One of the first clarifications I made in the comment section of the first segment was that there would not be a standardized method. Each pick was left at my own discretion with the collaboration of our managing editor, Andrew Mearns.

In some positions, I favored total production. In others, I opted for a player with postseason heroics, and at one point or another, I just went further down the list to find an even more unlikely name within the parameters of complementary greats.

All of this happened while also trying to stay mindful of every era in Yankees history, or at least the vast majority of them, from the beginning until now. That was probably the determining factor in going with Didi Gregorius as the team’s shortstop. It’s easy to completely ignore the current era when you’re doing a series like this, and that’s not necessarily fair.

I actually believe that with a team that has been so successful like the Yankees — and whose last World Series came more than a decade ago — it is easier to have a different effect than with other teams, where one might be almost too nostalgic about ballclubs of the past while losing appreciation of the current edition.

The context of Gregorius’ tenure as the shortstop makes it all the more impressive, taking over for Derek Jeter in a transitional period. As far as contention status, well, that took a tremendous amount of pressure, and Didi delivered with the best baseball of his career. Without further ado, here’s our all-complementary roster.

Lineup of Complementary Greats

  1. Earle Combs - CF (1924-35)
  2. Bob Meusel - LF (1920-29)
  3. Tommy Henrich - RF (1937-50)
  4. Oscar Gamble - DH (1976, 1979-84)
  5. Bill Skowron - 1B (1954-62)
  6. Elston Howard - C (1955-67)
  7. Home Run Baker - 3B (1916-22)
  8. Didi Gregorius - SS (2015-19)
  9. Willie Randolph - 2B (1976-88)

Bench - Johnny Blanchard, C/OF (1955-65)

Pitching Staff

LH SP - Eddie Lopat (1948-55)

RH SP - Monte Pearson (1936-40)

Swingman - Ramiro Mendoza (1996-2002, ‘05)

LH RP - Mike Stanton (1997-2002, ‘05)

RH RP - Johnny Murphy (1932-46)

As I finished this list there’s been a few things on my mind, small points if you can call them that. I’d like to take this space and express them.

  • The outfield selection was definitely the toughest one for me, with many worthy candidates. At the end I wanted to highlight the other two thirds of the Yankees outfield during the years of Babe Ruth. Combs and Meusel were really good hitters and obviously got overshadowed by the likes of Ruth and Gehrig.
  • Players like Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, George Selkirk, and Bobby Murcer deserve honorable mentions, though they were excluded for either being a bit too good to be considered complementary, or for better candidates. Side note: In 2021, Shohei Ohtani became the first AL hitter since Granderson with the Yankees to hit 40 or more bombs and steal at least 20 bags.
  • The word underrated has become way too common. However with that being said, Oscar Gamble is an underrated hitter, even if most of his damage came against righties.
  • The history of Yankees catchers is absolutely absurd and more praise should be given for Elston Howard, for both his career and the struggles he had to overcome. The color barrier had been broken by Jackie Robinson, but life still brought more than its share of struggles for players like Howard during that time period.
  • There were probably more qualified choices than Pearson for the right-handed starter spot, but his World Series record jumped out and needed to be in here.

Let us know your favorite and least favorite selection in the comment section. Also feel free to note which players jumped out at you, and any similar ideas for future series, seeing that the lockout shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.