No Hall For You! The Greatest New York Yankees (Unretired Numbers Edition)
When talking about the New York Yankees illustrious history—and the Hall of Fame players that have donned the pinstripes—certain players come to mind.
Players like Babe "The Sultan of Swat" Ruth, Lou "The Iron Horse" Gehrig, "Joltin" Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey "The Chairman of the Board" Ford are just a handful of legendary players that come to mind.
When Derek Jeter calls it a career, his name will certainly be mentioned amongst the greatest Yankees of all-time—as a plaque in Monument Park and Cooperstown will be awaiting The Captain.
Although former manager Joe Torre left the Yankees on "bad-terms, as he felt his new contract offer was an insult, he'll hopefully have his No. 6 jersey retired, as well.
However, people always fail to mention the players whose numbers aren't retired—and whose names aren't inducted into Cooperstown. These players nevertheless had great careers with the Yankees.
It's my Yankee honor and privilege to present "The Greatest Yankees Who Don't Have Their Numbers Retired: No. 11 to No. 25"
Please note the late Thurman Munson (No. 15), Ford (No. 16) and Don Mattingly (No. 23), already have their numbers retired—so they will not be included.
The time has come.
Get your popcorn ready and let the show begin...
No. 11: Vernon Gomez
My heart wants to select Dwight Gooden, who pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees while wearing this number, but my baseball wits tell me otherwise.
Although Gooden will always be a part of Yankees lure for his no-hit performance, by no means, was he the greatest player to don the No. 11 jersey.
That label goes to Vernon "Lefty" Gomez who spent 13 seasons with the Yankees, while being selected to seven consecutive All-star games from 1933-1939, and was a member of five World Series championship teams.
Based on Gomez's career numbers, it's a travesty that his number is not retired in Monument Park.
Gomez won at least 21 games four times during his career. He led the league twice in wins, winning percentage and ERA, and three times in shutouts and strikeouts.
However, Gomez's best season came in 1934, where he led the league in wins with a record of 26-5, along with leading the league in ERA and strikeouts.
Gomez repeated this feat when he won pitching's "Triple Crown" again in 1935, also leading the AL both seasons in shutouts.
His .649 career winning currently ranks 25th all-time. Gomez was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's committee in 1972.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 11: Chuck Knoblauch, Gary Sheffield, Mgr. Buck Showalter, Joe Page.)
No. 12: Alfonso Soriano
Since Alfonso Soriano wore No. 33 when he won the Rookie of the Year award in 2001, shall the debating begin that Soriano cannot qualify as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 12?
When pitcher David Wells rejoined the Yankees in 2002 he took back his No. 33, Soriano then switched to No. 12, and went to have his greatest season with the Yankees wearing this number.
Yankee fans might always remember Soriano for being the player traded to the Texas Rangers in a deal that would bring Alex Rodriguez to New York, but I'll remember Soriano for being one of the greatest lead-off men in the history of the Yankees, and the greatest Yankee to wear No. 12.
Signing as a free agent in 1998, Soriano spent five season with the Yankees (1999-2003) winning two World Series championships, and being selected to two All-Star games.
Soriano had his breakout season during the 2002 season. He led the American league with a team record 696 at-bats, 209 hits, 92 extra base hits, 41 stolen bases, 128 runs scored.
The free swinging Soriano set a team record for most strikeouts in season with 157.
In 2003, Soriano set the record for most home runs to lead off a game in a season with 13.
He also led the leauge in at bats for the second straight year, and finished in the top five for hits, doubles, home runs, stolen bases, and strikeouts.
Since leaving the Yankees, Soriano has played for three different teams, and to date, still wears No. 12.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 12: Wade Boggs, Ron Blomberg, Gil McDougald, Jim Leyritz.)
No. 13: Alex Rodriguez
He's only been a Yankee for only six years, but Alex Rodriguez is well on his way to becoming the greatest player in baseball history.
That is why there is no debating who the greatest Yankee to wear No. 13 was, is, or ever will be.
By the time A-Rod's career is over, he will most likely be all-time home run leader, collect over 3,300 hits, and drive in over 2,500 RBI, and be on a direct flight to Cooperstown, to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
He's one of four members of the elusive 40/40 club (40 stolen bases and 40 home runs), and is considered one of the best all-around baseball players of all time.
When A-rod call it a career, he will undoubtedly be the greatest player of all-time, and the greatest Yankee ever to wear the pinstripes.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 13: It Doesn't Matter.)
No. 14: Lou Piniella
Although former first baseman Bill Skowron was a five-time All-Star during his nine years with the Yankees, he doesn't get the nod for being the greatest Yankee to wear No. 14; former Yankee Lou Piniella does.
Following his time with the Royals, Piniella spent 11 seasons with the Yankees winning five AL East titles, four AL pennants, and the 1978 and 1979 World Series championships.
Piniella became the Yankees' lead-off hitter after center fielder Mickey Rivers was traded during the 1979 season, and finished his career with 1,705 career hits despite not being a full-time player for almost half of his career.
Nicknamed "Sweet Lou" for his gracious swing, Piniella will always be remembered for his fiery managerial demeanor, and to date, is considered the greatest manager never to win a World Series championship.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 14: Pat Kelly, Enrique Wilson.)
No. 17: Vic Raschi
Selecting who the greatest Yankee to wear No. 17 was not easy.
Do I chose Vic Raschi, who was a member of the Yankees from 1946-1953, and was one of the top pitchers in the American League, winning 120 games and losing 50 from 1946-1953?
Raschi also led the American League with a win/loss percentage of .724 in 1950 going 21-8, and in 1951, led the AL in strikeouts with 164.
How about John "Mickey" Rivers, who was acquired in a deal for Bobby Bonds during the 1975-1976 offseason?
Rivers would spend three seasons in pinstripes from 1976-1979. In his first year as a Yankee, Rivers was named to the All-Star team, batted .312, and stole 43 bases.
Rivers would eclipse his 1976 numbers by ending the 1977 season with career best.326 batting average, hitting 12 home runs and setting a new career-high in RBI with 69.
Rivers would be traded during the 1979 season, but with the Yankees, he won two World Series championships in 1977 and 1978, and posted a .308 batting average in 29 postseason games played.
Or do I go with the sentimental favorite Gene Michael?
If you're a Yankee fan, you know what Michael has meant to this organization. Michael was a member of the Yankees from 1968 until 1974, beginning a life-long relationship with the Bronx Bombers
Michael's best season in pinstripes came during the 1971 season when he finished the year with a .224 batting average, hit only 3 home runs, and drove in 35 RBI.
However, it's what he did as a Yankees executive, is the reason I am considering him as the greatest Yankee to wear this number.
Michael became general manager of the Yankees in 1990, building a Yankees farm system that become the cornerstone of the Yankees dynasty during the mid to late 90s.
During Michael's tenure as general manager, the Yankees drafted or signed Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.
Michael would also be responsible for trading the popular prospect Robert Kelly for one of the all-time Yankee favorites, Paul O'Neill.
Being that I am a nostalgic Yankee fan, I'd love to chose Michael or Rivers, but their numbers just don't cut it.
That is why I'm selecting Raschi as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 17.
No. 18: Don Larsen
In his first year in the Bronx, Scott Brosius batted .300 with 19 home runs and 98 runs batted in.
Although his numbers would drop the following three season, Brosius was a winner during his time in pinstripes.
Brosius was a member of four consecutive American League pennant winning teams from 1998 to 2001, and three straight World Series championship teams.
He was selected to the 1998 All-Star game, and after the Yankees swept the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series, Brosius was named the World Series MVP, finishing the series with an on-base percentage of .824, a .471 batting average, six home runs, and two runs batted in.
After seeing numbers like that, if you think Brosius is the greatest Yankee to wear No. 18, that's fine, but I'm going with Don Larsen.
Game Five of the 1956 World Series.
You know—the game where Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, and to date, remains the only perfect game in postseason play.
Need I say more?
I don't think so.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 18: Johnny Damon, Johnny Allen, Randy Velarde, Mike Stanley.)
No. 19: Dave Righetti
The New York Yankees have produced numerous all-stars who've worn No. 19.
Right-handed relief pitcher John Murphy, was a bullpen specialist, winning three consecutive World Series championships from 1936-39, and being selected to three consecutive All-Star games.
Fritz Peterson, who was a member of the Yankees from 1966-1974, experienced his best season in 1970 when he went 20-11 and pitched in the All-star game; his only All-star game selection.
Now that the old Yankee Stadium is a memory of the past, Peterson holds the record for the all-time lowest earned run average at Yankee Stadium with a 2.52 ERA.
Former starting pitcher Bob Turley played for the Yankees from 1952-1955, being selected to two All-Star games, and in 1958, Turley went 21-7 en route to winning the Cy Young and World Series MVP.
However, Dave Righetti gets my vote for the greatest Yankee to wear No. 19.
During Righetti's tenure with the Yankees from 1979-1990:
1) He won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1990 with a record of 8-4, 2.05 ERA, 80 strikeouts, WHIP of 1.07.
2) He was a two-time All-Star selection (1986, 1987).
3) He was a two-time winner of the AL Relief Man of the Year Award (1986, 1987).
In 1984, Righetti moved to the Yankees' bullpen and replaced Goose Gossage as the team's closer. Over the next seven seasons, Righetti averaged 32 saves per season, and finished the 1986 season with 46 saves.
However, the highlight of Righetti's career would come on July 4, 1983—when he threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory against the Boston Red Sox.
No. 20: Jorge Posada
Bucky Dent will always be remembered for hitting a three-run home run that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the 1978 AL East division playoff game against the Boston Red Sox.
That year he won the 1978 World Series championship and MVP award.
This makes it difficult not to label Dent as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 20, but a single game accomplishment, no matter how legendary of a moment it was, does not overtake a borderline Hall of Fame career.
Therefore, I'm selecting Jorge Posada as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 20.
Posada made his major league debut in 1995, but played in only 69 games between 1995-1997.
Joe Girardi and Posada split time through 1999, until Girardi left as a free agent, at which point Posada became the full-time catcher.
Since Posada took over, both his numbers and accomplishments should lead him to Coopers town and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Posada has won five World Series championships, six American League pennants, he's a five-time All-Star, and a five-time winner of the Silver Slugger award.
Along with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Posada is the only catcher to hit 30 home runs in a season.
After his remarkable 2007 season, Posada became the first catcher to finish a season with a batting average of .330 or better (.338 avg), 40 doubles, 20 home runs, and 90 RBI.
And since 2000, Posada has more RBI and home runs than any other catcher in baseball.
To a Yankees fan, Yogi will always be the greatest catcher in Yankees history, but Posada is certainly right behind him.
No. 21: Paul O'Neill
Even if there was someone else in this discussion for being the greatest Yankee to wear No. 21, in my eyes, there's only O'Neill
He's an all-time favorite, was the greatest "Warrior" in the history of the franchise, and no Yankee has worn his number since he retired in 2001. (Latroy Hawkins doesn't count.)
Although Paul O'Neill had some memorable moments, his greatest moment as a Yankee did not come during an at-bat, but in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series with O'Neill standing in right field during the 9th inning.
The Yankees were trailing 2–0, and the entire stadium began chanting, "Paul O'Neill, Paul O'Neill, Paul O'Neill."
Tears were strolling down O'Neill's face, and he saluted the crowd thanking the fans for all of their support through the years.
During his time with the Yankees, O'Neill won four World Series championships, and was selected to four All-Star games.
In his 17 year career, O'Neill compiled a lifetime batting average of .288, belted 281 home runs, had 1,269 RBI and compiled 2,107 hits.
O'Neill won the AL batting title in 1994 with a .359 average. Starting in 1995, O'Neill and the Yankees never missed the playoffs during his tenure with the team.
And although O'Neill is not in the Hall of Fame, he'll always be remembered as a Yankee great.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 21: Spud Chandler, Roy White, Mgr. Bob Lemon.)
No. 22: Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens was traded to the Yankees before the 1999 season, and in his first two seasons, the Yankees won the World Series Championships.
Clemen's lifelong number was 21, but since that number was occupied by Paul O'Neill, Clemens began his Yankee career wearing No.12, before switching mid-season to No 22.
Clemens made an immediate impact in 1999 when he posted a 14–10 record with a 4.60 ERA.
The following year, Clemens finished with a 13–8 record and a 3.70 ERA for the regular season, and was an integral part of both World Series championships with impressive pitching performances throughout the post-season.
But Clemens' best year with the Yankees came in 2001, when he became the first pitcher in MLB history to start a season 20–1, finishing with a 20–3 record, en route to winning his sixth Cy Young Award.
On June 13, 2003, Clemens recorded his 300th career victory and his 4,000th career strikeout against the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the only player in history to record both milestones in the same game. Clemens finished the season with a 17–9 record and a 3.91 ERA.
Clemens finished his career with a record of 354-184, an ERA of 3.12 and 4,672 strikeouts.
Whether it's the feud with Mike Piazza, his "miss-remembering" in Congress, or never admitting to injecting himself with steroids, however you want to remember the legacy of Clemens is your decision.
There's no denying he was one the most dominating pitchers in baseball history, and without the "Rocket," who knows if the Yankees would've won those two World Series titles.
As a Yankee fan, I didn't care if he was on steroids then, and I certainly don't care now.
(Notable Yankees who have worn No. 22: Homer Bush, Jimmy Key, Xavier Nady, Marius Russo.)
No. 24: Tino Martinez
Who doesn't love a great sports argument?
If I wanted to stir a debate, I would chose Sidney Ponson as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 24.
However, since some great players have worn this number, it's not that easy.
There's Al Downing, who was a 1967 All-Star, and became just the sixth American League pitcher and the 13th pitcher in Major League history to strike out three batters on nine consecutive pitches.
Or Rickey Henderson, who was lighting on the base path.
During Henderson's time with the Yankees beginning in 1985, he led the league in runs scored (146), stolen bases (80), was fourth in the league in walks (99), had an on-base percentage of .419, had 24 home runs while hitting .314, and won the Silver Slugger award.
During the 1985 season, Henderson became the first player in major league history to reach 80 stolen bases and 20 home runs.
The following year, Henderson led the AL in runs scored (130) and stolen bases (87) for the second year in a row.
He was also seventh in walks (89).
Henderson had a down year in 1987, but in 1988, Henderson once again led the AL in steals (93), was third in runs scored (118), fifth in OBP (.394) and seventh in walks (82), while hitting .305.
Henderson was only in New York for four and a half seasons, but during his time here, he stole 326 bases, and on June 4, 1988 he broke the previous franchise record of 248 held by Hal Chase.
Buy why are my two finalists for my choice of the greatest Yankee to wear this number are Robinson Cano and Tino Martinez?
If I were making this list five years from now, there would be no question who my selection would be.
Cano is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in Yankee history, but it's still too early to anoint him that.
This leaves Tino Martinez as the greatest Yankee to wear No. 24.
To many, Martinez might be remembered for his Grand Slam into the right field stands in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series or his bottom of the ninth, two-run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim in Game Four of the 2001 World Series.
However, Martinez did much more than that while in New York.
Martinez was the 1997 Home Run Derby winner, and helped lead the Yankees to four World Series championships.
Martinez was always a fan favorite, and he had his best statistical season during the 1997 season. He was second in the American League in home runs (44), runs batted in (141), and finished second in AL MVP voting.
Martinez returned to the Yankees in 2005, but after the Yankees decided to decline Martinez's three million dollar option, Martinez called it a career on February 15, 2006.
He won't be remembered as one of the greatest Yankees of all-time, but he'll be remembered as one of the all-time fan favorites to wear the pinstripes.
No. 25: Tommy John
Jim Abbot, who is best known for pitching despite having been born without a right hand, pitched a no-hitter on September 4, 1993 while pitching for the New York Yankees.
But he isn't the greatest Yankee to wear this number.
Neither is Jason Giambi, who on December 13, 2001 signed a 7-year, $120-million deal with the Yankees.
Giambi's best season with the Yankees came in 2002, when he led the league in times on base (300), had 109 walks, 41 home runs, a career high 120 runs scored, a .598 slugging percentage, 122 runs batted in, and finished the season batting .314.
It's not Joe Girardi, who won three World Series championships, while being the Yankees catcher from 1996-1999. Having caught Dwight Gooden's no-hitter and David Cone's perfect game, Girardi also served as Posada's mentor, until Posada became the full-time catcher.
My choice for the greatest Yankee to wear No. 25 is pretty simple.
It has to be Tommy John, who was the first professional athlete to successfully undergo "Tommy John" surgery in 1974.
The guy has a surgery named after him, and if that isn't enough for you to anoint Tommy John as the greatest Yankee to wear this number—it's certainly enough for me.