Imagine if these all-time New York Yankees greats were in the same lineup
Whether you love them or hate them, the New York Yankees are arguably the greatest franchise in professional sports.
Besides the 40 World Series appearances and 27 titles, the playoff runs, the reach of the Yankees brand and the franchise’s value; the Yankees have played home to plenty of baseball’s greats.
Since their establishment as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the Yankees have seen 61 Baseball Hall of Famers don the pinstripes on the field, in the dugout or in the front office. And there are more who are considered great alumni to the team, especially those who have had their number retired and/or their own dedicated plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
Which nine players make up the best dream New York Yankees lineup?
With so many legends associated with the Yankees, it may be tough to narrow down a nine-person lineup. But, here’s an attempt at assembling what could be the all-time Yankees lineup.
There are no true set criteria for these selections — just a combination of the player’s on-the-field accomplishments (almost always with the Yankees, but sometimes outside the organization as well), their time spent in pinstripes and their lasting legacies.
Also, this is a starting nine — so as much as Mariano Rivera is important to the Yankees, he’s ineligible for this list. Of course, if there was a relief pitcher position on this list, he’s the unanimous choice. Similar circumstances for managers like Casey Stengel, Billy Martin and Joe Torre.
And on that note, this includes a pitcher, not a designated hitter. There are several names that could be “honorable mentions” that would fill this slot technically, but we’re focused on the nine guys we want on the field defensively in the first inning (or if we were playing a National League game).
Catcher: Yogi Berra
A child of the 1970s might be a bigger fan of Thurman Munson, a terrific Yankees captain whose career was ultimately, and unfortunately, cut short due to his untimely passing. A child of the 1990s may have a bigger love for Jorge Posada, a switch hitter who proved to be one of the greatest catchers with offensive production, a multiple-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, as well as a two-time AL MVP candidate.
But it’s tough when you go against one of the most beloved men in Yankees history like Yogi Berra. A member of the Yankees from 1946 through 1963, Berra was not only a member of 13 World Series championship teams (12 of them as a Yankee, 10 of them as a player, plus a coach of the 1969 champion Mets), he was an 18-time All-Star and a 3-time AL MVP. No one else in MLB history has won more World Series titles as a player, and only five other men have been a three-time AL MVP. Additionally, he was the catcher for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series — the only postseason perfect game ever thus far. And how can we forget his Yogi-isms?
Berra’s playing career ended with a .285 batting average, 358 home runs and 1,430 RBIs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
First baseman: Lou Gehrig
As one of the most classic, memorable and decorated Yankees to ever play the game (and spending his entire career in pinstripes), it’s hard to look elsewhere but Lou Gehrig for the first base slot.
Joining the Yankees during their 1923 championship season, Gehrig’s claim to fame began a couple of seasons later, when he pinch hit for Paul Wanninger on June 1, 1925. The next day, Gehrig filled in as the starting first baseman for the team, and there was never any looking back as Gehrig’s play heated up and he became one of the most pivotal members of the Yankees’ early championship runs. He played in 2,130 straight games — a record that wasn’t broken until Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,131st in 1995.
Between 1923 and 1939, Gehrig was a six-time World Series champion and seven-time All-Star, winning the AL MVP award in 1927 and 1936. He led the AL in home runs in three seasons and RBIs in five seasons, and he is currently just one of 17 MLBers to have accomplished the batting Triple Crown, setting that feat in 1934.
Second baseman: Willie Randolph
This is where this writer had his toughest choice. Tony Lazzeri is an underrated member of those classic 1920s-1930s Yankees who was just as dangerous with the bat. Willie Randolph is a beloved New York sports figure who may not have had Lazzeri’s power, but was great defensively and could hang with him all-around. Then, there is Robinson Cano, who this writer got to see as a professional baseball rookie in 2002 before he made it to The Bronx, and would probably be undisputed on top of this category if not for the damage done to his legacy by PEDs.
While Lazzeri had great numbers and is a Hall of Famer, he doesn’t have the popularity with fans considering who else he played with during that era. And as mentioned, Cano’s legacy is in shambles after his PED suspensions, as well as falling off a cliff since leaving the Yankees for the Seattle Mariners (and now the New York Mets). Randolph is a beloved figure and has comparable numbers compared to Lazzeri (and there isn’t any other 1970s-1980s Yankee representation on the list). So, Randolph will get the nod here.
First appearing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975, Randolph arrived in New York via trade in December 1975 and stayed through 1988. Born and raised in the borough of Brooklyn, Randolph was a key member of the team not only through his work both offensively and defensively, but also by how popular he was amongst the fans. Randolph helped the Yankees reach the World Series three straight times from 1976 to 1978, helping the team win the latter two titles and earning All-Star status in the former two years.
Randolph would go on to become an All-Star five times while in pinstripes and won a Silver Slugger in 1980. Even as the Yankees entered a period of underwhelming and missing the playoffs, Randolph was still considered a big part of the team, representing a beacon of light, class and consistency in a time where it wasn’t as fun to be a Yankees fan. In fact, Randolph was a co-captain of the Yankees from 1986 to 1988.
Randolph spent four more seasons as a player after leaving the Yankees, earning one more All-Star appearance in 1989, before retiring and transitioning to a coach, rejoining the Yankees and serving as a coach from 1994 through 2004, including the four World Series championship teams of 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Randolph ended his career with a .276 batting average, 2,210 hits, 687 RBIs and 54 home runs. He was also perhaps better known for his defensive work and being so good at securing double plays. Despite not ever winning a Gold Glove, at the time of his retirement, Randolph played in the fifth-most games at second base in MLB history, and he was third in double plays, seventh all-time in assists, eighth in total chances and ninth in putouts.
Third baseman: Alex Rodriguez
It’s very easy to write off Alex Rodriguez from a list like this considering his performance-enhancing drug controversies. It’s easy to disqualify him because of that and replace him with Graig Nettles. But even considering that, looking at the stat comparisons between the two: it’s still hard not to go with A-Rod.
Credit given to Nettles, he was a six-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion and two-time Gold Glove winner. But his numbers and accomplishments pale in comparison to Rodriguez, if not with the Yankees, then considering their entire MLB careers.
Rodriguez began his career with the Seattle Mariners before spending three seasons with the Texas Rangers and being traded to the Yankees for the 2004 season. Rodriguez was the AL MVP three times, twice while he was in pinstripes, where he also won his only World Series title. All-in-all, A-Rod was a 14-time All-Star (seven times in New York), two-time Gold Glove award winner (both while with Texas), 10-time Silver Slugger (three times in New York) and a four-time Hank Aaron Award winner (all three seasons with Texas and 2007 in New York). A-Rod also led the AL in home runs in 2005 and 2007 and led MLB in RBIs in 2007.
Writer’s Note: If you want to go ahead and disqualify A-Rod from this because of his PED controversies, that’s fine. But if he doesn’t deserve to be on this list then neither does Cano.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Growing up in Michigan, Derek Jeter longed to be a New York Yankee. His wish came true when he was drafted by the team in 1992 and made his MLB debut in 1995. Jeter turned his wish into great success by becoming a true leader and role model for the sport both on- and off-the-field and will certainly go down as one of the more beloved, athletic and intelligent Yankees to ever play the game of baseball.
Despite some struggles during his brief time up in 1995, Jeter quickly found success as the Yankees starting shortstop in 1996, going on to win the AL Rookie of the Year award that season and helping to lead the Yankees to its first World Series title since 1978. A member of the “Core Four” alongside Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite, Jeter was a key member in getting the Yankees four more World Series titles (including a three-peat in 1998-2000) in six additional appearances in the Fall Classic. He was named the MVP of the 2000 World Series, and that year he became the only MLB player thus far to have won both the MVP of the All-Star Game and World Series in the same season.
Jeter was one of the most clutch players the team has ever seen, especially at the plate. A five-time winner of both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, Jeter is the all-time Yankees leader in hits, doubles, stolen bases, games played, times on base, at-bats and plate appearances. He passed Gehrig for the franchise hits record late in the championship 2009 season. Beyond his work on the field, Jeter was viewed as both a great player and an exemplary human being, that he was named captain of the team in June 2003 and held that distinction until his 2014 retirement.
Jeter will be inducted as a member of the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame class, falling just one vote shy of being the second unanimous Hall of Fame selection.
Outfield 1: Babe Ruth
Come on. It can’t be a Yankees all-time lineup if you don’t bring up one of the game’s earliest great players and the best power hitter in Yankees history — Babe Ruth.
What’s funny is that as much as he was known for his bat and played the outfield, those who don’t know Ruth’s history too well might not know that he was once an excellent pitcher. During his time with the Boston Red Sox between 1914 and 1919, Ruth sometimes took to the mound. In fact, he was the AL ERA leader in 1916 while he won three World Series titles in Boston. He also led the AL in home runs in 1918 and 1919 and RBIs in 1919. Then, he was sold to the Yankees and the rest is history.
All in all, Ruth was a 12-time AL home run leader, a six-time AL RBI leader and the 1923 AL MVP and 1924 AL batting champion. Ruth played in the first two All-Star Games and won a total of seven World Series championships.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, Ruth’s final MLB statistics included a .342 batting average, 2,873 hits and 2,213 RBIs, along with a starting pitching win-loss record of 94-46 and a 2.28 ERA. And of course, his 714 career home runs marked the most in MLB history until broken by Hank Aaron in 1974. His career .690 slugging percentage and 1.164 OPS are still MLB records today.
Outfield 2: Joe DiMaggio
Known as “The Yankee Clipper” or “Joltin’ Joe,” how big was Joe DiMaggio’s contributions to the Yankees, if not the sport of baseball in general? Consider that in 1969, DiMaggio was voted as “the greatest living player” in baseball.
DiMaggio was another key contributor, along with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to the Yankees’ first run of dominance in MLB. Prior to his time with the Yankees, DiMaggio had great success in Minor League Baseball, setting a PCL-record 61-game hitting streak in 1933, the second-best hitting streak in Minor League history. He also overcame a severe knee injury to lead the San Francisco Seals to a PCL title and a PCL MVP in 1935. That would all be a foreshadow of things to come for DiMaggio’s time in pinstripes.
DiMaggio played for the Yankees from 1936 to 1942 before leaving for service time in World War II. He returned in 1946 and played until retirement following the 1951 season. DiMaggio’s career ended with a .325 batting average, 2,214 hits, 361 home runs and 1,537 RBIs. DiMaggio was also praised for his work out in the field, patrolling center field so well that he made it hard for hitters to land one against him in the area.
He won nine World Series titles and was a 13-time All-Star. DiMaggio additionally was a three-time AL MVP, as well as a two-time AL batting champ, home run champ and RBI champ. But of course, DiMaggio is best known for his 56-game hitting streak that began on May 15, 1941 and ended two months later. To this day, no other MLB player has had as long a hitting streak.
DiMaggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Outfield 3: Mickey Mantle
It’s tough to leave such a good outfielder like Roger Marris or Reggie Jackson out of this Yankees list. But when you mention all-time greats from the first century of the Yankees’ existence like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle shouldn’t fall too far behind. Mantle not only goes down as one of the greatest outfielders in Yankees history, but one of the greatest in all of baseball, especially considering what Mantle accomplished with his bat.
During his 18-year MLB career, spending all of it with the Yankees, Mantle was a 20-time All-Star, seven-time World Series champion and three-time AL MVP, more than making up for the fact that despite high hopes as DiMaggio’s successor, he had a slow start in 1951 and was sent back down to the minors for a time. Mantle also won the AL batting Triple Crown in 1956 in addition to also winning the AL home run title in 1955, 1958 and 1960. Mantle also had a career .984 fielding percentage, emphasizing his role as arguably one of the best all-around center fielders the sport has ever seen.
Mantle’s MLB career ended with a .298 batting average, producing 2,415 hits, 536 home runs and 1,509 RBIs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Starting Pitcher: Whitey Ford
When you think of Yankees pitching, it’s hard to go against “The Chairman of the Board” as perhaps the greatest Yankee to have ever taken to the mound in a starting role.
Ford’s MLB career began on July 1, 1950, and he’d spend his entire baseball career in pinstripes. That first season, Ford won nine consecutive games before taking a loss in relief. In fact, his pitching was so impressive that not only did he win the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, he also received some MVP nominating despite just 112 innings pitched in that first season.
After two years away from baseball due to the Korean War, Ford returned in 1953 and things would only trend upward. Ford continued to work his way into being the number-one pitcher in the Yankees’ rotation and became a key contributor to the Yankees’ success in that era.
Ford became a six-time World Series champion and a 10-time All-Star. In 1961, in addition to the World Series title that season, Ford was named the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. He led the AL in wins three times and led the MLB in ERA twice. Ford ended his career with a 236-106 record, 1,956 strikeouts and a 2.75 career ERA.
Ford still holds the franchise records for wins, shutouts, innings pitched and games started. By the time of his retirement, Ford also set World Series records in wins, strikeouts, games started, innings pitched and consecutive scoreless innings.
Ford, who passed away in October, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.