The Yankees have a great and storied history, arguably the greatest history in all of sports. Some of the greatest players in the game’s long history have worn the interlocking NY and the famed pinstripes, either for parts of their careers or all of it. One of the most heated discussions among Yankees fans is – Who are the Greatest Yankees of All-Time?
Here at NY Yankees Digest, Adam Solowiei and Rich Stowe, have tried to figure out just which players should be considered the greatest Yankees of all-time and they settled on determining the Top-5.
In ranking the Top-5 Yankees of All-Time, they only looked at what the player did while they were in pinstripes and what they meant to the franchise (or to MLB while on the Yankees). With that in mind, while a player like Don Larsen or Reggie Jackson may have had some of the greatest moments in Yankees (and MLB) history, their career and what they meant to the Yankees overall just do not measure up to the players listed here. Each writer used whatever criteria they felt best to determine their Top-5 greatest Yankees of all-time.
Starting with number one, Adam and Rich will list the player selected and why they believe the player deserves to be ranked there. Why did we start at number one and count up instead of the standard countdown? We believe there is no suspense in number one, so we just got it out of the way. At the end, they will also list “notable snubs” – those players that just missed the top-five and where they believe each belongs in Yankees History. Also, in each section there will be a poll for you to vote for which player you think deserves to be ranked in each position – this is a great way to make your voice heard (and at some point in the future, these numbers will be tallied to come up with the Greatest Yankees of All-Time decided by fans). So please vote for each section before you move on to the next.
Greatest Yankees of All-Time -Number 1
Adam: While it can be interesting to debate who is number three all-time or even number four, there is no way I can fathom any type of debate around the greatest Yankee of all-time. The answer is just simply Babe Ruth.
Ruth is arguably the most well-known baseball player of all-time and tops almost any test when ranking the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. For all the accolades around the “Sultan of Swat”, people forget that he is also a top-25 all-time in Earned Run Average and winning percentage as a pitcher.
He did only win one Most Valuable Player Award but one MVP award would have been more if the award existed at the beginning of his career and if there wasn’t a point when previous winners were ineligible. He was the first player to 30 home runs, then 40, then 50, and finally 60. In fact, in 1920 his home run total was greater than any other team in baseball.
Ruth was a lifetime .342 hitter with 714 home runs (a record that stood until Hank Aaron), 2213 RBIs, a career slugging percentage of .690 and a WAR over nine on 10 different occasions! In fact, he is baseball’s all-time WAR leader.
Before Ruth was sold to the Yankees, they were not even the biggest name in their city. In fact they rented space from the Giants. However, with his incredible ability and larger than life personality, Ruth became the draw that led to their own stadium. The old Yankee Stadium was referred to as “The House that Ruth Built”, enough said. That is why Ruth tops my list of greatest Yankees of all-time.
Rich: The choice for Greatest New York Yankees Player of All-Time is just one player – Babe Ruth – any other suggestion is simply crazy. Babe Ruth’s stats speak for themselves and there is no need to rehash them here. Chances are, if you visiting this blog you can already recite his stats verbatim, so there is no need to restate them here.
Babe Ruth saved baseball after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. When Ruth was traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees in December 1919, it set the stage for all of MLB going forward, even if it wasn’t known that was what was going to happen.
At the time of the trade, baseball was reeling from the Chicago White Sox players “throwing” the World Series. The Giants and Dodgers, consistently outdrew the Yankees. At one point, the Yankees did not even have their own stadium and were sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants. Ruth changed all that. While I do believe Lou Gehrig may have surpassed some of Ruth’s offensive numbers if not for ALS; without Ruth, I do not believe the Yankees would be in New York anymore, if they existed at all. With Ruth, the Yankees started to outdraw the Giants and the Dodgers (and even forced to Giants to basically kick them out of the Polo Grounds, which eventually led to Yankees Stadium being built and the rest, as they say, is history).
What Ruth did on the field was truly historic and amazing; but I do believe that it was what he meant to the game and directly to the Yankees that surpasses anything and everything any other member of the New York Yankees has ever done or will ever do, earning him the title of Greatest New York Yankees Player of All-Time.
If a player is considered to be the best ever for his position as well as arguably the greatest player in MLB history, that player needs to be the Greatest Ever for the franchise that he played the most for and himself made famous. This is why Ruth is the obvious choice and I do not believe the discussion is close at all.
On a side note – all the “newer” Yankees fans that believe Derek Jeter should be Number One simply because he has the most hits as a member of the Yankees, most games played, etc – there is more to the discussion than simple stats. Jeter was fantastic and is one of the greatest Yankees and MLB players ever, however, in discussion solely for where the players rank in Yankees history, he does not top this list. If you believe Jeter should top this list, you have the right to your opinion…wrong as it may be.