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The 1998 Yankees you probably forgot (Part 1)

Most fans remember a good portion of the legendary ‘98 roster, but here’s some names you may have forgotten.

Dale Sveum

With the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Yankees this year, we here at Pinstripe Alley have been doing a daily diary recounting what that team was doing throughout the year. If you read one of those posts on any given day, you’re probably going to recognize the names of the Yankees’ players mentioned.

Many of the players on the ‘98 team were part of or would go on to be part of the ‘96, ‘99, and ‘00 teams during the Yankees’ dynasty. Not all of them a no-doubt Yankee legends, but anyone in that group would get a very nice hand at an event like Old Timers Day. Beyond that, even players who didn’t have long-lasting careers in the Bronx — say, a Ricky Ledee — had some memorable moments.

However, there are some players on the team that you might not have any memory of donning pinstripes. Let’s remember those guys.

Dale Sveum

You probably most remember Sveum for his 12-year MLB career (most notably in Milwaukee) and stints as a manager with the Brewers and Cubs. In the penultimate season of that playing career, he appeared in 30 games as a member of the 1998 Yankees.

In November 1997, the Yankees signed Sveum to a one-year, $1.6-million deal. The idea at the time would be that he would platoon with fellow recent acquisition Scott Brosius at third base. As it turned out, Brosius grabbed the third base spot by the horns and had an All-Star season in 1998. Sveum...did not.

In 30 games as a Yankee, Sveum hit .155/.203/.155 in 64 plate appearances, which was good for a -3 OPS+. Eventually, the Yankees released him in August. You might think that might embitter a player who had a long career up to that point, but the vibes around the ‘98 Yankees were so good that Sveum volunteered to stick around and be a bullpen catcher.

After filling that role, he played one last season in the bigs with the Pirates before fully going into the coaching ranks.

Mike Figga

The player who officially played the least for the 1998 Yankees was Figga, who got in one game as a September call-up/third-string catcher in one of the final games of the regular season. His four plate appearances are less than every other hitter on the team, and every pitcher faced more batters than that.

A 44th-round pick by the Yankees in the 1989 MLB Draft, Figga ground through eight minor league seasons before finally getting the call in September 1997. He was again brought up in September of the next season, going 1-for-4 in his lone appearance as a 1998 Yankee.

In the minors that season, he had hit 26 home runs, getting him a spot as a backup to start the 1999 season with the Yankees. However, the Yankees were still mostly set behind to the plate and after two games and no at-bats with the ‘99 squad, he was waived and picked up by the Orioles.

Mike Jerzembeck

At one point, Jerzembeck was a fairly well-regarded prospect, as the Yankees used a fifth round draft pick on the Queens-born pitcher out of UNC in 1993. Flash-forward to 1998, and he was coming off a very solid 1997 season in the minors across the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

Then, in spring training 1998, Jerzemback was hit by an errant throw from Jorge Posada as the catcher attempted to catch a runner stealing. The weird occurrence knocked the pitcher out for a bit with a bruised elbow, and he ended up spending most of the season in the minors.

Jerzembeck eventually got the call up in August ‘98, coming in a game out of the bullpen. In September, he made two spot starts in the final weeks of the regular season. He ended up having to undergo elbow surgery that offseason and missed the next two seasons.

While he would return to the Yankees’ minor league ranks in 2001, he never made it back to the majors. His son, Eli, just had an impressive freshman season as a member of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

There are several other players on the 1998 Yankees that you could dig in on and find some interesting stories, because almost every who makes the majors is fascinating in their own right.