The New York Yankees are perhaps the most successful and recognizable franchise in the history of American professional sports. The world has known them as the ‘Yankees’ since 1913, prior to that they were called the ‘Highlanders’. The Yankees have been a foundational presence in the Bronx, New York for over a century. This franchise has been the flagship of modern Major League Baseball since it’s inception. With 27 World Series Titles, 40 American League Pennants and 18 Division Titles, the Yankees have a bonafide pedigree of success that is virtually unrivaled. Throughout it’s history the franchise has had the good fortune to have some of the greatest individual baseball playing talent the world has ever known on it’s roster(s). Idiots Guide has compiled a serious list that represents the top 15 players in the legend of New York Yankees history.
#15. Bernie Williams / Outfielder / 16 Seasons
Career Average: .297 HR: 287 RBI: 1257 OPS: .858 World Series Champion (1996, 1998–2000). Bernie was always a huge fan favorite throughout his career, this was only bolstered by his membership on 4 World Series Championship teams. Bernie was a 5-time MLB All-Star, a 4-time Gold Glove winner, as well as a Silver Slugger Award (2002) and ALCS MVP (1996). The New York Yankees retired his jersey number (51) in 2015.
#14. Graig Nettles / 3rd Baseman / 11 Seasons
Career Average: .248 HR: 390 RBI: 1314 OPS: .750 World Series Champion (1977, 1978) By the end of his career Graig Nettles was considered to be one of the best third basemen in MLB history, especially in terms of his defensive ability and exploits. He was also a clutch player known for getting the big hit in the big moments. At the time of his retirement Nettles held the American League record for most home runs by a third baseman in a career. A career that saw him be a significant part of 4 AL Pennants and 2 World Series Championship teams. Graig Nettles is an all-time Yankee great for sure.
#13. Richard ‘Goose’ Gossage / Relief Pitcher / 7 Seasons
Career Wins: 124 Losses: 107 Saves: 310 ERA: 3.01 World Series Champion (1978) Richard Gossage got his nickname ‘Goose’ from a friend. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Goose was a pioneer of what would later become the ‘closer’ relief pitcher position. He was an imposing figure on the mound with trademark facial hair and an intimidating demeanor backed up with a violent exploding fastball. Gossage was a force of nature. He was the American League leader in saves on three different occasions. At the time of his retirement his career save total was 310, which was fourth all-time. From 1977 through 1983 his earned run average never posted over 2.62. Yankee fans love the Goose.
#12. Ron Guidry / Starting Pitcher / 14 Seasons
Career Wins: 170 Losses: 91 SO: 1778 ERA: 3.29 World Series Champion (1977, 1978) He was known as ‘Louisiana Lightning’ a nickname that belied his membership with the ‘Yankees’, regardless, Ron Guidry’s pitching performances were certainly electric. In addition to his 2 World Series Rings, Guidry has an AL Cy Young Award (1978) on his mantle as well as 5 Gold Glove Awards. He played his entire MLB career with the Yankees. Ron Guidry is arguably one of the best pitchers in Yankee history, and certainly one of the greatest left handed pitchers. Ron Guidry is a true Yankee great.
#11. Don Mattingly / 1st Baseman / 14 Seasons
Career Average: .307 HR: 222 RBI: 1099 OPS: .830 Yankee fans of the 1980’s and 1990’s knew Don Mattingly as ‘Donnie Baseball’. His entire 14-year MLB career was as a member of the New York Yankees. During his time Mattingly was one of the best sluggers in all of MLB and he has the hardware to prove it. Sitting on his mantle are 3 Silver Slugger Awards, an AL batting title (1984), and a AL Most Valuable Player (1985). Don was Yankee team captain from 1991 through his final season of 1995. His departure hailed the beginning of another Yankee dynasty (1996-2001) but his contributions have not been forgotten. Mattingly’s 1985 MVP season was one for the ages: a .324 batting average, 35 home runs, 48 doubles and a mind-blowing 145 RBIs (the most RBIs by a left-handeder since Ted Williams). Don Mattingly is probably the best Yankee to have never won a W.S. Title.
#10. Mariano Rivera / Relief Pitcher / 19 Seasons
Career Wins: 82 Losses: 60 Saves: 652 ERA: 2.21 World Series Champion (1996, 1998–2000 and 2009). Goose Gossage paved the road and Mariano Rivera aka ‘Sandman’ drove a Sherman Tank right over it. Besides being the greatest Yankee closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in MLB history, hands down. The proof is in the hardware: All-Time MLB leader in Saves (652), 5 American League Relief Man Awards, 3 Delivery Man of the Year Awards, 5-time World Series Champion to go with 13 All-Star Game appearances. Any questions? Mariano was as close to a lock you could ever get, whenever he was given the ball to close down a ballgame. He was and I suspect will continue to be, considered the greatest closer in the history of MLB. ‘Mo’ is definitely one of the greatest Yankees, ever.
#9. Whitey Ford / Starting Pitcher / 16 Seasons
Career Wins: 236 Losses: 106 SO: 1956 ERA: 2.75 World Series Champion (1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962). That’s 6 World Series titles if you’re counting. Whitey was the Yankees ‘Ace’ for a majority of his 16-year MLB career. Ford won the AL Wins title 3-times, in 1961 he won both the AL Cy Young Award and World Series MVP Award. Needless to say, Whitey Ford was an incredible starting pitcher, likely the best the Yankees have ever had. The 10-time AL All-Star was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1974. The legend of Whitey Ford endures in New York Yankee history.
#8. Reginald Martinez Jackson / Right Fielder / 5 Seasons
Career Average: .262 HR: 563 RBI: 1702 OPS: .846 World Series Champion (1977, 1978) Reggie Jackson didn’t play for the Yankees for a decade like many on this list, in fact his tenure was only 5 years. However, in the annals of ‘bang for the buck’ you can’t find a better example. From the moment Jackson signed the lucrative free-agent deal offered by ‘Boss’ Steinbrenner, he was a prime-time attraction who knew how to shine when the lights were the brightest. From 1977 to 1981 all Jackson did was be a driving force in the teams winning 4 American League East Divisions, 3 American League Pennants and 2 World Series Titles (consecutively). He was known as ‘Mr. October’ in no small part for his timely clutch hitting during October postseason play. Jackson is most famous for his offensive feats during the 1977 World Series. Between games 4 and 5 Jackson hit four home runs on four consecutive swings! This happened on the way to the 1977 World Series Title. Need I say more? REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!
#7. Yogi Berra / Catcher / 19 Seasons
Career Average: .285 HR: 358 RBI: 1430 OPS.830 World Series Champion (1947, 1949–1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962 and 1969). That’s 11 World Series Titles. Known for his playful nature and predilection for introducing ‘Yogi-isms’ into pop culture this 18-time All-Star was an unforgettable player to fans world-wide. Yogi won the AL MVP 3-times! Making him one of only five players to ever do so. He was also behind the plate calling pitches for Don Larsen during his perfect World Series Game 5 of the 1956 series. In 1972 Yogi Berra was elected to the Hall of Fame. An easy election for one of the very best Yankees of all-time!
#6. Thurman Munson / Catcher / 11 Seasons
Career Average: .292 HR: 113 RBI: 701 OPS.756 World Series Champion (1977, 1978) Thurman Munson was much more than an All-Star catcher, he was a Yankee team captain in fact he was the first player to be named (at the time) as such since Lou Gehrig. Munson is also the only Yankee to win the Rookie of the Year (1970) and Most Valuable Player Awards (1976) in a career. To many teammates and observers, Munson epitomized the ‘Yankee Spirit’ from his rookie year on forward. Munson led the Yankees on a run of success that saw 3 consecutive World Series (1976 to 1978) and 2 World Series Championships in total (1977 and 1978). However, fate took a sour turn in 1979, that was the year that Munson tragically died unexpectedly while practice flying a Cessna plane at Akron-Canton Airport. The plane crashed and Munson broke his neck. He was just 32. His death cut short a career that was certainly headed for Hall of Fame accolades. Nevertheless, Thurman Munson is a classic example of New York Yankee pride and is one of the greatest Yankees of them all.
#5. Derek Jeter / Shortstop / 20 Seasons
Career Average: .310 HR: 260 RBI: 1311 OPS.817 World Series Champion (1996, 1998–2000, 2009). That’s 5 W.S. Titles for the kids at home. Simply put, Derek Jeter’s career was nothing short of story-book. For each of his 20 seasons Jeter epitomized what Yankee baseball was all about. Professionalism, pride and winning with class. He played the game the right way and he played it exceptionally. He is a 5-time World Series Champion, a 5-time Gold Glove winner, a 5-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a 2-time Hank Aaron Award winner and a Roberto Clemente Award winner for good measure. Derek Jeter was a driving force in the Yankees dynastic mid-late 1990’s success. He holds Yankees’s records for all-time hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358) and more. This is in addition to his 14 All-Star selections. He also broke the 3,000 hit mark becoming the 28th player to ever do so. How’s that for a story-book career? I thought so.
#4. Lou Gehrig / 1st Baseman / 17 Seasons
Career Average: .340 HR: 493 RBI: 1995 OPS.817 World Series Champion (1927, 1928, 1932, 1936–1938). That’s 6 titles for those keeping count. Did you know that Lou Gehrig aka ‘The Iron Horse’ was the very first MLB player to have his number retired? True story. He was also a Triple Crown winner, a 2-time AL Most Valuable Player, a 6-time World Series Champion, to go with 7 All-Star Games. Unfortunately, Gehrig’s career was cut short by the insidious disease named after him in 1939. But not before he left an indelible mark on MLB and the New York Yankees. Lou Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.
#3. George Herman Ruth / Outfielder / 15 Seasons
Career Average: .342 HR: 714 RBI: 2214 OPS 1.164 World Series Champion (1915, 1916, 1918, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932). That’s 7 titles all day. By now even the casual fan of MLB is aware of the legend of ‘The Bambino’ and/or ‘The Sultan of Swat’, aka George Herman Ruth, aka ‘The Babe’. Ironically, and legendarily Ruth began his MLB career playing for the Boston Red Sox, as a pitcher. It is a well known fact that Ruth holds or has held a great many MLB career offensive records including career Home Runs (714), RBIs (2,213), Walks (2,062), Slugging (.690), and OPS (1.164). The bottom line is that Babe Ruth is widely considered to be the greatest ballplayers in history, even though it could be argued that he didn’t play against the best of minority players of his era. Nevertheless, in 1936 George Herman Ruth was one of the initial five National Hall of Fame inductees and without question one of the greatest Yankees to ever lace them up.
#2. Mickey Mantle / Centerfielder / 18 Seasons
Career Average: .298 HR: 536 RBI: 1509 OPS .977 World Series Champion (1951–1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962) That’s 7 World Series titles for the folks on the range. How good was Mickey Mantle? We can start with the fact that at the time of his retirement he had the highest career OPS of any center fielder in history. He also had the highest stolen base percentage. He won the 1956 Triple Crown, a 3-time AL Most Valuable Player and he won a Gold Glove. This was in addition to being a 16-time All-Star and no less than 12 World Series appearances, including 7 World Series Championships. The scary thing is that Mantle could have put up even bigger numbers had he took better care of himself and partied a bit less during the season and off-season(s). Nevertheless, ‘The Mick’ is an all-timer with few peers in terms of raw athletic ability. He is arguably the best switch-hitter in MLB history and certainly one of the greatest New York Yankees, ever.
#1. Joe DiMaggio / Centerfielder / 13 Seasons
Career Average: .325 HR: 361 RBI: 1537 OPS .977 World Series Champion (1936–1939, 1941, 1947, 1949 thru 1951). Wow. Joe ‘D’ was a man among boys for the lion’s share of his MLB career. Forget the Yankees for a moment, you’d be hard pressed to find a better Major League ballplayer in history that can hold a candle to DiMaggio. It wasn’t just his productivity, which was otherworldly, it was the way he went about his business, the way he represented the New York Yankee brand. Before Derek Jeter, there was Joe DiMaggio when it came to legendary Yankee ambassador. Joe holds a record that will likely never be broken, his 56-game hitting streak (May 15 – July 16, 1941) is as imposing a record there is. In addition to being a big part of 9 World Series Championships, He won 10 American League Pennants, was a 3-time AL MVP and a 13-time All-Star (one for every season). In short, the total overall package they call Joe DiMaggio is the greatest of the great New York Yankees to have ever lived.