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Mariano Rivera and 12 of the Greatest Yankees

Bill FordCorrespondent IIIOctober 10, 2016

Mariano Rivera and 12 of the Greatest Yankees

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    The New York Yankees have always been an elite team loaded with charm and excitement.

    Every generation of Yankees fans has had their share of star players who have thrilled them with phenomenal plays that boggled their minds.

    Talking with elderly people about the Yankees always fascinates me. Their memories of certain players and certain games tell me things that I've never seen in highlight reels, nor have I read in the history books of baseball.

    Star players will forever be etched in our memories. Watching the stars of today is exciting, but when I think back to the Yankees of my childhood it makes me feel like a kid pitching in little league again.

    The Yankees have player after player who could be placed on a list like this one, so coming up with just a few is no easy task.

    Take a look at some of the greatest Yankees of all time.

Mariano Rivera

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    All baseball fans should be able to agree that Mariano Rivera is and will always be one of the greatest Yankees of all time.

    Hearts broke last week when it was announced that he injured his knee while shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.

    He began his career with the Yankees in 1995, and has been the most successful closer in the history of baseball.

    At of the end of the 2011 season, he had a record of 75-57, 603 saves, a 2.21 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 1,111 strikeouts.

    Before his likely season-ending injury, he had five saves and eight strikeouts with a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched.

    Rivera is a 12-time All-Star, and a five-time World Series champion.

    He is a five-time Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and a three-time Delivery Man of the Year Award winner.

    In 1999, he was the World Series MVP. He pitched 43 consecutive scoreless innings in the regular season and postseason.

    He is now the all-time leader in regular season saves at 603.

    He is the all-time leader in postseason saves at 42.

    He is the all-time leader in games finished at 883.

    He is the first pitcher to make 1,000 appearances with one team.

    He is the first pitcher over the age of 40 to save at least 40 games in a season.

    Rivera isn't just the greatest closer of all time. He will always be one of the greatest all time Yankees, and he will be severely missed on the mound.

Derek Jeter

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    Future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter hit his first home run on Opening Day in 1996, and is the first Yankee rookie to do so since 1962.

    Over the last 10 years, he has been among the AL leaders in hits and runs scored.

    In 2009, he broke the record for the most hits by a shortstop.

    In 2011, Jeter recorded his 3,000th hit by dazzling the fans with a home run at Yankee Stadium.

    At of the end of the 2011 season, he had a batting average of .313, 3,088 hits, 1,769 runs, 240 home runs and 1,196 RBI.

    Jeter is a 12-time All-Star and a five-time World Series champion.

    He has received five Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards.

    He is a two-time AL Hank Aaron Award winner.

    In 1996, he won the Rookie of the Year Award.

    In 2000, Jeter was the MVP of the All Star game and the World Series.

    He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009.

    As incredible an athlete as he is, my favorite thing about Jeter is that he is a true gentleman of the game. He defines true sportsmanship.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Oh, how people love to hate Alex Rodriguez. Some may dislike him intensely, but there is no denying his talent.

    In his first season with the Yankees, Rodriguez hit .286, 36 home runs, 106 RBI, 112 runs scored and 28 stolen bases.

    He is one of three players in MLB history to hit at least 35 home runs, have 100 runs and hit 100 RBI in seven consecutive seasons.

    He is the youngest player to have hit 500 home runs, and the youngest to hit 600.

    At the end of the 2011 season, he had a batting average of .302, 629 home runs, 1,893 RBI, 2,775 hits, 305 stolen bases and scored 1,824 runs.

    Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star, a 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner, he won the AL Hank Aaron Award four times, and is a three-time AL MVP award winner.

    He has two Gold Glove Awards, and is a World Series champion.

    Rodriguez is an unforgettable Yankee who contributed to the Yankees' great success.

Andy Pettitte

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    Andy Pettitte is just about ready to make his return to the Yankees after a brief retirement, and the fans could not be more excited.

    Pettitte was a major Yankee contributor in five World Series Championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.

    He played a vital role in each of those titles, as well as AL championships in 2001 and 2003.

    Pettitte was a three-time All-Star, playing in 1996, 2001 and 2010 and he was the 2001 ALCS MVP.

    Over the span of his career before he retired, he went 240-138, he had a 3.88 ERA and recorded 2,251 strikeouts.

    He was often the league leader in multiple areas including wins, starts, pick-offs and double plays induced.

    In the 2000s, he had the most wins in MLB.

    Pettitte appears to be ready to make his return to MLB. With some recent bad news about Mariano Rivera, the Yankees need someone to pick them up.

Reggie Jackson

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    Reggie Jackson played for 21 years in Major League Baseball and played for the Yankees from 1977 to 1981.

    He helped the Yankees win two consecutive World Series in 1977 and 1978.

    In Game 6 in the 1977 World Series, Jackson hit three home runs in three consecutive at-bats, each of them on the first pitch of the at-bat.

    Jackson was a 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, earning his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.

    Jackson was known for having a bit of a temper in his playing days, and sometimes being a little arrogant. In the end, he performed, produced and delivered consistently.

Whitey Ford

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    Whitey Ford signed on with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947 and played his entire career as a Yankee.

    As a rookie pitcher, he won his first nine decisions before losing a game.

    In 1950, Sporting News named him the American League Rookie of the Year.

    After serving in the Army in the Korean War from 1951 to 1952, he returned to the Yankees for the 1953 season.

    Ford became well-known for his ability to remain calm in high-pressure situations and keep command on the mound.

    He had extremely accurate control of his pitches making him a highly effective strikeout pitcher.

    Over the course of his career, he had a win-loss record of 236-106, 1,956 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA.

    Ford was a 10-time All-Star, a six-time World Series champion and a Cy Young Award winner.

    Rightfully, the Yankees retired his No. 16 jersey as a great Yankee.

Yogi Berra

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    Yogi Berra was one of the greatest players who spent his entire 19-year baseball career with the Yankees.

    Berra will always be known as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. For those of you who enjoy sabermetrics, Bill James has Berra listed as the greatest catcher of all time.

    Berra had a funny reputation for his interesting sayings. My favorite was "I really didn't say everything I said."

    He was an 18-time All-Star, a three-time American League MVP and a 13-time World Series Champion.

    Over his career, he had 2,150 hits, 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI with a .285 batting average.

    Berra had a knack for hitting poor pitches with his excellent extension and bat control at the plate.

    Adding to his playing abilities, after he retired as a player he became one of only six managers to bring American League and National League teams to the World Series.

    Berra's induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 was well-deserved, as was the retirement of his No. 8 jersey on July 22, 1972.

Joe DiMaggio

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    Joe DiMaggio played his entire 13-year major league career with the New York Yankees.

    His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is a record that still stands, as current MLB players try to reach.

    DiMaggio was selected to the All-Star team all 13 years of his MLB career, and is the only player who has achieved that status.

    Over his career, he had 2,214 hits, 361 home runs and 1,537 RBI with a .325 batting average.

    When he retired, he was fifth in career home runs, and sixth in slugging percentage at .579.

    DiMaggio was a nine-time World Series champion, a three-time American League MVP and won ten American League pennants.

    He was one of seven MLB players who had four 30-home run, 100-RBI seasons in their first five years in the majors.

    He had his No. 5 jersey retired on April 18, 1952, and in 1955, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    DiMaggio died on March 8, 1999 after a battle with lung cancer. He will forever remain in the minds of baseball fans as a true legend.

Mickey Mantle

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    Mickey Mantle played for the Yankees from 1951 to 1968, and will be known as one of the greatest switch hitters of all time.

    He was a 20-time All-Star and seven-time World Series champion, as well as being named a three-time MVP.

    Mantle was a power hitter who hit some of the longest home runs in the history of Major League Baseball.

    He had 372 home runs hitting left-handed, and 164 home runs hitting right-handed.

    Throughout his 18 seasons playing in the major leagues, Mantle had 2,415 hits, 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI with a .2998 batting average.

    Mantle holds the records for walk-off home runs in a career, and the most home runs in a World series at 18.

    On June 8, 1968, the Yankees retired his No. 7 jersey in recognition of one of the greatest.

    In 1974, Mantle was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Sadly, Mantle died on Aug. 13, 1995, but the Yankee legend will never be forgotten.

Roger Maris

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    Most people know the name Roger Maris as the guy who hit 61 home runs in one season, and relate that to the home run race in the 1990s between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

    Most people don't know what Maris was forced to deal with during his road to 61.

    Many people were against him as he got closer to the mark, especially sportswriters. It seemed as though no one wanted him to break Babe Ruth's record.

    Rogers Hornsby once said, "It would be a disappointment if Ruth's home run record were bested by a .270 hitter."

    Maris hit his 61st home run at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961, against Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox.

    A crowd of 23,154 fans watched as he belted that home run.

    The stress of the pursuit of the record led to his hair falling out in clumps, but he managed to achieve the record in spite of all of the stress.

    Maris finally achieved the respect that he deserved after the home run record race in 1998 brought attention to his name.

Babe Ruth

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    Babe Ruth was probably the most famous professional baseball player of all time.

    Ruth set many major league records that all MLB players strive to achieve.

    After 22 seasons playing in the major leagues, he had 714 home runs, 2,217 RBI and a batting average of .342.

    Before being sold to the New York Yankees, Ruth was a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

    As a pitcher, he had a career win-loss record of 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA.

    Once sold to the Yankees, he became a right fielder. His fielding skills and his powerful bat helped the Yankees to win seven pennants and four World Series titles.

    In 1923, Ruth had a .393 batting average, which is still a Yankee record today.

    After his retirement, he was one of the first five players to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    As long as baseball exists, fans will always know his name.

Lou Gehrig

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    Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports, and I wish that I could have watched him play in person.

    Like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, he was a true gentleman of the game, and a genuinely nice and decent man.

    Gehrig was a bit shy and reserved, and never took part in drinking, smoking and partying like many other players did. Babe Ruth tried many times to get him to take part, and often teased him playfully.

    When Gehrig took the field or stepped into the batter's box, his shyness turned into a ferocious and feared player. He could not be stopped until he developed the disease ALS.

    He was a man of tremendous strength, both physically and mentally. ALS ravished his body and broke him down.

    While healthy, he had a career batting average of .340, 493 home runs, 2,721 hits and 1,995 RBI.

    Gehrig was a seven-time All-Star, a six-time World Series champion and a two- time American League MVP.

    On June 3, 1932 he hit four home runs in one game.

    Sadly, Lou Gehrig died at the age of 37 on June 2, 1941, when he succumbed to the devastation of ALS. He died in his home several blocks from where I grew up in the Bronx.

    Although some may disagree with me, he was the greatest Yankee, in my opinion.

    Other Yankee players may have had some better numbers, but with the difficulties that he dealt with throughout his childhood and into adulthood, he had tremendous success and never complained.

    He died brutally, and he died too young, but he died a hero.

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