So much has been written about the most winningest sports franchise in American history, our very own New York Yankees. With 27 world championships, 40 pennants and 52 playoff appearances, the Yankees are truly inspiring. In fact their legendary players have inspired many of today's young players and youths to play the game and stay with it despite the challenges and difficulties along the way. But, who are the finest of all of the Yankee lore? Who would you choose?
It took me about three minutes to choose my finest and re-order them into a top ten I am happy to share with you. And much like any die-hard fan, I had my reasons. Here are my criteria in no particular order:
- Did the player do something great or many things great when he played for us, no matter the era?
- Did the player contribute to the dugout talk, day to day motivation and leadership for the team during his tenure as a Yankee?
- Did the player demonstrate professionalism on and off the field?
- Did the fan become beloved?
- Did the player contribute to post season victories more than once?
My Yankees top 10 bring together a combination of all five criteria over various levels of "proficiency." I loved all of these guys for many reasons and sometimes, I was disappointed about something they did on or off the field or possibly both.
I never really liked Reggie Jackson's on field and off field "straw that stirs the drink" antics and attitude, but I did like his home runs and the way he brought us the bat we needed to win the world championships in the late 1970s. I always loved what Ron Guidry did on the field and off, but he just didn't have enough to be recognized by the Hall of Fame voters. I think the Gator was one of the best pitchers we have ever had. He was a realist and a team player; something that seems absent in many pitchers today. Guys like Rich "Goose" Gossage were just consistent. Much like Guidry, you could call on him and he would perform. He is a precursor to our closer of today.
Micky Mantle was an incredible player who didn't take care of himself on or off the field. But his could most certainly hit and play center field like no other. Lou Gehrig contributed to the Yankees by demonstrating that you don't give up and you appreciate the time you have to play, no matter how long or short of a time you have. Yogi Berra gave us athleticism, clutch plays and so many championship seasons behind the plate and in the batters' box. Plus his Yogisms have more longevity than any iPhone, computer or app.
Joe DiMaggio - when I say or write his name, I pause. I remember when Pete Rose was playing and he was creeping up on the Yankee Clipper's 56-game hit streak. I thought about how hard it is to get a hit in one game let alone 56-consecutive. Joe D to me was the greatest hitter we have ever had in our organization. Then there is Derek Jeter who in my mind gave us so much more than consistency, grit and leadership. He gave us professionalism and poise along with the most hits ever by a Yankee.
Our game comes down to two very key things- pitching and hitting. Babe Ruth gave both to the game with a lifetime batting average of .342. Particularly, he is known for his home runs- 714 of them. He was also someone who could be found talking to kids outside the ball park, in hospitals visiting patients (including my own grandmother) and respecting his fans. But there will only every be one Mariano Rivera. What Mo has given to pitching and the game itself is irreplaceable. I don't know if there will ever be anyone like him to play this game with such commitment and precision again. He tops my list of Yankees Finest.
I urge you to take some time and complete the YES poll too. Here's the link. Now go have fun. It is a great way to reflect on our Yankee players of the past and measure what today's guys need to do to get to this place of honor in our hearts.
--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
BYB Hot Stove Columnist
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