Guest Post: Replacing a Legend: The Story of A Bust Prospect

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, and Miller Huggins.


For the 2015 season, the New York Yankees had a tough task to deal with, replacing the legend Derek Jeter. Thankfully, Brian Cashman brought us the answer in Didi Gregorius. That being said, this is far from the only time the Yankees have had to replace a legend. David Robertson did an excellent job replacing Mariano Rivera in 2014 and of course, the late Yogi Berra did a legendary job replacing the legendary Bill Dickey as the Yankees primary catcher. People, however, won’t always handle the job of replacing players well at all. The Yankees attempted to replace Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, and tried to replace them with Stephen Drew, none of which have worked out thus far. Now sure, Robinson Cano wasn’t a legend, but he was the stalwart of the second base position for the Yankees the last several years.

In 1969, the New York Yankees were facing another less than enviable situation. How the hell do you replace Mickey Mantle, the Yankees’ legendary center fielder? On October 7, 1968, the 36-year old Mantle announced that he wanted to be part of the 1969 pennant race and work with the extremely young team (Tommy Tresh being second-eldest at age 29!). Rumors had been evident in the idea of Mantle wanting to retire at the end of the 1968 season, but Mantle said he felt great and was planning to attend Spring Training in 1969. He even showed concern about the upcoming expansion draft, stating that he will retire as a Yankee when he is hitting only .240 and making $100,000 and with no one else.

However, on March 1, 1969, Mantle announced in Fort Lauderdale that he would retire after talking with Ralph Houk and that for the team it would be best if Mantle stepped away. He also cited that the chain of restaurants he was creating (Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ Restaurants) as well as clothing stores. Mantle admitted that the previous autumn he would play another year if he felt good in Spring Training, but decided as the months went by that it was time to hang up the spikes. Mike Burke, then President of the Yankees, announced on the spot that the Yankees would retire his No. 7 as a result. But with the retirement, a new question was to be asked, who is going to replace him?

The Story of a Man from Wisconsin

Jerry Kenney was born on June 30, 1945 in the city of St. Louis,  Missouri. A three-sport player, Kenney made his prime in basketball in the city of Beloit, Wisconsin, an exurb of Chicago, Illinois. Kenney was named one of the prime eight in the Big Eight Conference’s all-star team for 1962. Sports writers of Racine, Madison, Kenosha and Janes, Wisconsin all represented the Beloit Purple Knights on the crew. Later that March, Kenney had managed to get honorable mentions for his basketball performance at the state level. The next year, the 6ft 0in senior from Beloit High School was chosen on the first team for the state of Wisconsin in 1963. That year, Kenney managed to finish as a top scorer at the 1963 State Basketball Tournament at the fieldhouse for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In 1963, the Beloit Purple Knights went undefeated in basketball and later on, when Kenney was presented a gift for their performance in 1969, his coach mentioned that he was a baseball and basketball star.

In May 1964, the New York Yankees signed the former high school standout to a contract to play baseball for the Yankees in the brand new Florida Rookie Baseball League, which a year later became the Gulf Coast League. He was signed to the Sarasota team, which was under control of the Yankees. By the beginning of 1967, Kenney was in the International League (AAA) for Columbus. He was the all-Star shortstop in 1966, hitting .292 and kept climbing the ladder in the Yankees organization. Houk believed that Kenney was ready for the big leagues in January, mentioning that the infield could possibly be Mantle at 1B, Horace Clarke at 2B, a mix of Bobby Murcer, Kenney or Ruben Amaro, Sr. at SS and a platoon of Charley Smith & Mike Ferraro at 3B. By February 18, 1967, Kenney re-signed with the Yankees for a major league contract along with Lou Clinton. However, on March 22, Kenney was re-assigned to AAA unlike what Houk had said in January. Kenney would not make his MLB debut until September 5. Wearing No. 14, Kenney appeared in 20 games, batting at a .310/.412/.397 clip with 1 home run and OPS+ of 146 in a small sample size of 74 plate appearances.

The next year, however, Kenney along with Murcer were both drafted into the service for the United States Military and missed the 1968 season. The Yankees tried to replace Kenney and Murcer for a year with a couple of newcomers in the form of third baseman Bob Cox (the Bobby Cox) and shortstop Gene Michael. The GM of the Yankees, Lee MacPhail, tried to acquire Luis Aparicio from the Baltimore Orioles, but ended up settling on having Michael play shortstop. Murcer and Kenney were discharged from the Navy and the Army in December 1968.

So, Who is Replacing Mantle?

The decision was made in Spring Training to move Joe Pepitone from center field to 1st base to replace Mantle. As a result, the decision was made by Ralph Houk to have Kenney transition into an outfielder. The 24-year old shortstop was basically making the same transition Mantle had made in 1951. Kenney admitted publicly though that he was not as good as Mantle and that the Yankees knew that. In his minor league career, Kenney had only hit 7 home runs and admitted that he’s a “Punch and Judy Hitter,” meaning he knows he cannot hit home runs, but surprises himself when he does. However, the Yankees saw great value in his ability to reach base, hitting never lower than a .290 batting average in the minors and his speed. The Yankees, who put Murcer at third base were running Tom Tresh at shortstop, who had a rough 1968 as well as Pepitone at 1B, were betting on Murcer and Kenney reproducing at least what they had in the minors.

At the same time, the departing third base coach, Frankie Crosetti, was offered to have his No. 2 retired in his honor for his 37 years of service to the New York Yankees. He ultimately decided against it and asked the Yankees to give the number to the next up and coming player and Kenney was chosen for that regard.

However, there seemed to be a disaster forming coming into the 1969 season. Manager Ralph Houk, having lost Mantle’s bat, also lost the amount of power that was going on in the lineup. The door also opened that the lineup had only one legitimate home run hitter in Joe Pepitone. Houk told the press that without Mantle, it could be a psychological asset for the team. However, Houk was reliant on Kenney, Tresh and Murcer to be the important part of a small ball lineup. The only sure things were really in the pitching with Mel Stottlemyre and Lindy McDaniel. The 1969 season for Kenney was very average, however, and in 130 games, Kenney had only two home runs and 34 RBI. His OBP of .328 and .311 was definitely below the short sample size in 1967 and not like his Minor League numbers. To make things even worse, he managed only an 83 OPS+, which is definitely not the production that a starting player should have. Showing the weaknesses in the 1969 team, he still managed a rate of 3 wins above replacement, which is the only positive of the 1969 season for Kenney when it comes to SABERmetrics. Defensively, despite some promise at the beginning of the season in CF, it was blatant that Kenney was not going to repeat the track of Mantle and become a star in center field. He only played 31 games in the outfield (all center field), and while he committed no errors, he never stayed out there. Kenney managed to play 83 games at 3B and 10 games at SS that season, managing 7 errors when playing at 3B. Contrary to the plans at the beginning of the season, they put Mantle for the most part in the outfield.

A Hitter or Not?

The poor 1969 season didn’t bode well at the beginning of 1970, when the Yankees offered him a total of $18,000 for a salary for 1970, a raise from $12,000 in 1969. However, Kenney wanted more from the front office, asking for $30,000. He ended up signing for an undisclosed amount in early March. Let’s put it this way, if 1969 was bad, 1970 was even worse. Now permanently an infielder, Kenney played 140 games, managing 4 of his 7 major league home runs in that season: April 26 (off Blue Moon Odom of the Oakland As), June 12 (off Aurelio Monteagudo of the Kansas City Royals), July 1 (off Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers) and July 26 (off future Yankee Catfish Hunter!). The homer off Catfish would be Kenney’s final MLB home run, and the 25 year old Kenney managed a whopping .193 batting average! Repeat, .193! Stephen Drew, eat your heart out. The final slash line for the 1970 season was .193/.284/.282, propelled by 52 walks to 44 strikeouts and 7 triples of his 78 hits. To make things even worse, he had an OPS+ of a mere 61. SABERmetrics rips this season to shreds: -17 Rbat! -17! Even his lackluster 1969 season was only good for -9. If you thought it could get any possibly worse, let’s look at his defense: 17 ERRORS AT THIRD BASE in 135 games. We rip Chase Headley’s head off for his errors in the 2015 season and lackluster offense, but holy hell, this takes the cake.

Credit to Kenney, his 1971 season was definitely a turnaround after the disastrous 1970, at least offensively. In 120 games, Kenney ran up his slash line to .262/.368/.311. Credit to him because he reduced his strikeouts even further and raised his walk rate, something he was always good at doing. For the first time in a legit sample size, Kenney managed a 100 OPS+ (exactly 100; he had a 146 in 1967 in a small sample size). However, his defense was not an improvement whatsoever. Still a primary third baseman, Kenney managed 15 errors and a .953 fielding percentage at third base. (You’d think Houk and company would have pulled him by this point!) However, an interesting note courtesy of Retrosheets: On July 18, 1971, Kenney started the bottom of the 6th  with a single, followed by a Bobby Murcer walk and Roy White being hit by a pitch from Tom Bradley of the Chicago White Sox. The unusual part, 2 innings later: Kenney led off the inning with a single, Murcer drew yet another walk and reliever Terry Forster nailed Roy White. You know things went well in a game when déjà vu becomes involved.

The End

Well, 1971, while a much better season offensively, proved to be another flash in the pan. In 1972, Kenney (who was paid $32,000) only appeared in 50 games. The Yankees had seen enough of Kenney at 3rd base finally, playing only 1 game at the position that year and 45 at shortstop. His hitting did not improve whatsoever. In fact, it went backwards again. Kenney only managed a .210/.304/.227 slash line and a 62 OPS+. His walks and strikeouts evened out and there was just no ability to hit whatsoever in that short sample size. Playing shortstop for his time on the season, Kenney managed only 6 errors, but that still was basically 6 errors too many, because his career with the Yankees was basically toast.

On November 27, 1972, the Yankees closed the door on Kenney in Honolulu, Hawaii when Lee MacPhail turned Kenney, along with catcher John Ellis and outfielders Charlie Spikes & Rusty Torres to the Cleveland Indians for their star third baseman, Graig Nettles. (The Yankees also received catcher Jerry Moses in the deal.) This was the last deal that was made under the CBS ownership, as on January 3, 1973, it was announced at a press conference that a ship-builder named George M. Steinbrenner, car manufacturer John DeLorean and a group of investors would buy the New York Yankees from CBS. That said, the 1973 Cleveland Indians marked the end for the 28-year old Kenney, who only appeared in five games for the team. While he made a nice short impression: batting .250 in those 5 games, Kenney was released by the Indians on May 4. After sitting out for a while, Kenney was re-signed by the Yankees on July 30, but never returned to the big league club to play for Houk. His career was over.

When he played for the Yankees, he played in 460 games, hitting a meager .237/.326/.299 for being one of the big name players who was supposed to help the Yankees get through the post-Mantle era. However, it was not to be, as he managed only an 81 OPS+ in his tenure with the Yankees. Kenney was a backdoor prospect who the Yankees liked when they signed him in 1964 out of Wisconsin, but never lived up to the true potential he had as an on-base player who could be an offensive improvement for a power-drained team. His defense was never strong at 3rd base despite being an infielder and by 1972, all the lust was gone. I hate to say this, but I think the best thing he did was get us Graig Nettles, who would go on to have a storied Yankee career as their third baseman.

Guest Post: Death of a Manager: September 25, 1929

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, and Leo Durocher.

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The baseball world and especially the Yankees’ world took a major blow on September 22, 2015, when Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra died at the age of 90. Berra was a Yankee legend for many generations dating back to the 1940s. Grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons around the country knew the name Yogi Berra and would always know what exactly Yogi stood for. Yogi won 13 World Series rings as player, manager and coach for both of the New York teams; the Yankees and the Mets and I think both teams’ fans are hurting right now (more the Yankees than the Mets), because a legend has moved on to the baseball field in heaven.

At the same time as we’re mourning the death of Berra, the 86th anniversary of a similar death, but much more sudden approaches us today. On September 25, 1929, Yankee manager Miller Huggins, the former Cincinnati Red & St. Louis Cardinal second baseman died suddenly at the age of 51. On Friday, September 20, Huggins had been admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village with erysipelas of the face, which basically means the face is bright red due to an acute infection of the upper dermis and superficial lymphatics. His condition had been worsened due to a case of influenza, and though blood transfusions had been performed to help his condition, last rites were called at 12:10 PM on the 22nd. On September 25, the “Mighty Atom,” Miller Huggins was gone.

A Career of Successful Managing

Miller Huggins, up until his death in 1929, had been an excellent manager for the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. But the story of Miller Huggins goes back much further to a kid who was basically handicapped by his own weight for the game of baseball that he loved. The Mighty Atom, standing a mere 5ft 5in tall, worked his tail off against his parents’ wishes (they wanted a lawyer out of him), but instead decided at 16 to make baseball his career. He however, did study at the University of Cincinnati and was accepted to the state bar in 1902.

However, in 1899, Huggins turned his attention to baseball as well, playing his first professional game as a second baseman with the Mansfield Haymakers for the very original Class-B Interstate League that existed as a group of teams through the Midwest. In 1901, Huggins moved onto the St. Paul Saints and showing strong ambition and desire to play the game of baseball, the Cincinnati Reds bought the contract of Huggins from the Saints in 1904. He became a Red permanently for the next six seasons, showing an incredible ability to get on base, even with little power, having a major league high 103 walks in 1905 alone, with a low 46 strikeouts. While Huggins never had any power, his on-base percentage rates were enough to keep him in the league for many years.

On February 3, 1910, the Reds traded Huggins to the St. Louis Cardinals along with outfielder Rebel Oakes and pitcher/infield/outfielder Frank Corridon for pitcher Fred Beebe and infielder Alan Storke. Keeping up with his OBP-heavy playing skills, Huggins eventually was declared a player-manager for the Cardinals, hoping to grow a really lackluster franchise into something strong. However, his performance as a manager of the Cardinals came with lackluster success as he could never get the team higher than third in the league. In 1918, he was hired by Col. Jacob Ruppert and Col. Tillinghast L. Huston to form a championship team out of the New York Yankees, who had yet to win a World Series. Now purely a manager, Huggins successfully started getting the team up to snuff, threatening to win the AL pennant in 1919 and 1920, before winning it in 1921. However, in the final 9-game World Series ever, the Yankees lost 3 games to 5 against the rival New York Giants. In 1922, the same two teams met once again in the World Series, but the Yankees were swept in 4 games. After four years of trying, 1923 was the charm. The Giants and the Yankees clashed once again, but this time, the Huggins-led Yankees emerged victorious with a 4-2 series win.

With the win in the 1923 World Series, Huggins had basically created his “machine” for winning championships. While he failed to reach the series in 1924 and 1925, the Yankees returned in 1926, but lost to the Cardinals 3 games to 4. Finally, the next season, the “machine” had its best season ever, led by those such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Pat Collins, Tony Lazzeri and Waite Hoyt, the 1927 Yankees won an astounding 110 games with only 44 losses, one-quarter of which were to the Cleveland Indians. That year, the hot Yankees walked into the World Series and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4 games to none. In 1928, the same team basically walked into the World Series and swept the Cardinals in 4 games.

The 1929 season was a bit different. Even though the team had upgraded with players such as Bill Dickey and Leo Durocher, the “machine” did not have the same fight in them. The Philadelphia Athletics had basically come in and beaten up on the Yankees and Miller Huggins felt like the entire 1929 season was tough because of pennant races. There is a general belief that the poorer performance in the 1929 season affected Huggins emotionally and health-wise, because he couldn’t stand to see his “machine” fall apart. By September 4, it was clear that Huggins had thrown in the towel about defeating the Athletics and taking the American League pennant. Col. Ruppert suggested for Huggins sake to take a vacation and that he would be guaranteed at least a 2nd place finish that year. Huggins denied and wanted to stay with the team, but his health was getting to him, especially with a boil that he ignored and it turned into the disease that eventually took his own life.

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The response to the death of Huggins was extensive. Huggins had a profound impact across the country and it didn’t seem like the baseball season mattered anymore, even though Art Fletcher had taken over as manager for the last 11 days of the season. On September 25, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 11-10 in 11 innings without knowledge of their manager’s passing until the 6th inning, when players from both the Red Sox and Yankees lined up at home plate and had a moment of silence for the late Huggins. At the Polo Grounds, news of Huggins’ death came over telegraph and flags were moved off their poles and the New York Giants honored the late Huggins with a silent tribute. A lone banner ran at half-mast that honored the manager as “the last Flag” before a game with the Boston Braves.

One of the first syndicated columns about Huggins’ death talked about how size didn’t matter to him, even though he was only 5ft 5in, he commanded respect and obedience from players who played for him and with him. People had accused Huggins of having the biggest checkbook owners and a team that could not lose was his only reason for being successful, but it was tougher than that. Yet, this author saw the 1925 season, in which the Yankees finished in 7th place, as a reason to look away from that perspective. Huggins is the one who re-corralled Babe Ruth’s behavior as a Yankee in 1926, and was the reason Col. Ruppert never broke up the special 1927 Yankees because they were “too strong for the rest of the league.” The columnist said: “Now Huggins has gone. Perhaps the greatest possible testimonial to his ability will be the struggle which the Yankees owners face in trying to find a man to take his place.”

Baseball for the Yankees stopped on September 27, 1929 for their captain, who David P. Sentner stated Huggins had “a heart as big as a baseball park.” At the Little Church Around the Corner, Huggins had a team funeral held in his honor, and Sentner stated that Huggins would’ve been proud for the turnout and respect. Fans basically came in droves to the church to visit the open casket of the passed manager, because they mourned a winner in a city which loves winners. The Yankees players would march behind the casket as it was shipped to Cincinnati to be buried with his late parents. This was led by Babe Ruth, with whom Huggins originally had a rocky start with, but soon became good friends. Sentner believed that no one else on the team suffered more from the loss of Huggins than Ruth.

At the same time, it struck Col. Jacob Ruppert hard. Col. Ruppert had hired Huggins in 1918 to create a championship team out of the Yankees and stuck by him, even with the problems in the 1925 season. Ruppert was visibly shaken that Huggins was gone (along with Ed Barrow). Ruppert, a multi-millionaire, always attended World Series games up to 1929, but in 1929, he could not attend, still extremely hurt by the death of Huggins. A lot of what made things a lot more painful was that at his death bed, Huggins could not remember people who had visited him, such as his sister, Myrtle, in-laws, a good friend named Robert Connery, and most importantly, Col. Ruppert and Ed Barrow.


One of his final recorded statements about his 1929 season was this: “I guess I wasn’t born to be a loser.” Miller Huggins was never a loser, except in the fight for his own life. Baseball was Huggins’ life and he died playing the game he loved because he ignored his health in the same process. I do not mean that as demeaning in any way, just a statement of fact. Huggins was the first true Yankee manager, the one who brought the first three of 27 World Championships to the Bronx, and the first to be Col. Ruppert’s right-hand manager. While Huggins was replaced by Bob Shawkey as manager, I don’t think Col. Ruppert fully ever healed from the death of Huggins before his death in 1939. The origination of Monument Park is thanks to a monument built in center field at Yankee Stadium in 1932 for Miller Huggins. The late Huggins was named to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee, but it was for a career that ended much too soon, 86 years ago today.

Guest Post: “Go Kiss Yourself”: Leo Durocher’s 1929 Season

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts about Tim McClelland, the No. 26, Frankie Crosetti, and Casey Stengel.

From left to right: Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Dugan, Benny Begough, Gene Roberston, and Mark Koeing in 1928. (NYDN)
From left to right: Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Dugan, Benny Begough, Gene Roberston, and Mark Koeing in 1928. (NYDN)

The game of baseball has historically been full of flashy players and players who definitely spoke their mind. We’re seeing the latter in the Matt Harvey/180-inning limit controversy and his opinions to the press, which in this day and age are much more open to interpretation. We also have flashy players who like to talk the talk and some who walk the walk. The Yankees have a hot shortstop in the form of Didi Gregorius, who is very flashy when it comes to his glove. However, his personality is much more controlled than the one I want to talk about today. From 1925 to 1929, the Yankees had a flashy shortstop in the name of Leo Durocher. Yes, the famous New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers manager Durocher.

Not much is talked about Durocher’s time as a New York Yankee, which was only 3 seasons in 5 years (more like 2 because he only played 2 games in the Yankees horrid 1925 season). The Yankees acquired the young shortstop in August 1925 from the Hartford Senators and manager Paddy O’Connor (a catcher for the Yankees in 1918!) for $12,000 ($161,870 by today’s standards). At that time, Durocher was a 19-year-old who had played in 151 games with 118 hits, 13 doubles, 4 triples, 1 home run and a .220 average with .265 slugging. Durocher made his Major League debut on October 2, 1925 against the Philadelphia Athletics, pinch-hitting for the pitcher Garland Braxton and flying out to the right fielder Walt French. Durocher came in the next game as a pinch-runner for Ben Paschal in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium and scored the game-tying run. A ground out by Mark Koenig scored the winning run as Earle Combs came home and the Yankees won that game 9-8.

Following that short performance in 1925, the flashy Durocher would not appear in a Major League game until April 11, 1928, when he would make his debut at 2nd base as the starter in a lineup that including Combs, Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Joe Dugan, Pat Collins and Herb Pennock. Durocher spent the 1926 season with the Atlanta Crackers of the American Association and 1927 with the St. Paul Saints. In the game against the Philadelphia Athletics, Durocher finally got his first big league hit that day, his first as a Yankee. Interesting factoid: Bill Dineen and Dick Nallin, the home plate and first base umpires, were the umpires in the series in 1925 in which Durocher made his debut. The 22-year old Durocher participated in 102 games in 1928, totaling 296 at bats and only 80 hits with 8 doubles and 6 triples. He managed only 22 walks and 52 strikeouts on a team that ended up with 9 Hall-of-Famers: Durocher, Miller Huggins, Ruth, Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Pennock and Waite Hoyt.

“Cocky Player Forced Self on Yankees”

This headline was written by Frank Getty of United Press International on April 1, 1929 about the new Yankee shortstop. The Yankees had decided to buy the contracts of Jimmie Reese and Lyn Lary from the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in exchange for $125,000. Reese immediately was unable to impress, but Lary was given chances by Miller Huggins to make sure he could be a good shortstop. The decision led them to move Koenig to third base from his normal position at shortstop. Durocher had been serving as a utility infielder for the Yankees, and his behavior on the field, called “riding” opposing players, impressed Huggins significantly. Durocher was a hustler down the line and always worked hard. Despite how much Higgins wanted Lary to become the shortstop during Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida, Lary eventually showed that he was not the shortstop of the 1929 season for the Yankees, showing poor defense and hitting a miserable .180 in Spring Training. Durocher, who spent most of the 1928 season filling in for Lazzeri at second base won the job as the starting shortstop despite needing a lot to learn and expected by Huggins to hit at .280 to help their “Murderer’s Row”.

Durocher was selected to be the starting shortstop for the 1929 Yankees, but Huggins admitted he may not play every day and be a bench player in the summer, with the number 7 debuting on his back with the introduction of uniform numbers based on the position of the lineup. Durocher wasted no time proving Miller Huggins had made the right decision, finishing the month of April with a .323/.417/.323 batting line.

“Just For Laughs”

This headline is something you’d rarely see in this day and age and I am surprised Col. Ruppert even allowed it: an article written by Leo Durocher himself on April 15, 1929. He talked about a scenario of events that occurred in 1928 with the Detroit Tigers, who he called a “scrappy bunch team themselves.” Durocher took it upon himself to have fun with the Tigers by using Bob Fothergill as hit bait. Fothergill, as Durocher hinted as “twice as heavily as Babe Ruth at the time,” was supposed to bat. Instead, Durocher went to the umpire Bill McGowan (who was put in the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1992), and told him Fothergill was batting out of order. George Moriarty, the manager of the Tigers leapt out of the dugout screaming mad at McGowan about Durocher’s protest. He shouted at McGowan “It’s Fothergill’s turn, that man’s crazy.” The umpire, McGowan, turned to Durocher and agreed with Moriarty, while Durocher responded: “Why, yes, it’s Fothergill’s turn all right. But when I looked there a minute ago I could have sworn I saw two men up at the plate.” Durocher admitted in the last sentence of the piece that “Fothergill wanted to brain me with his bat but couldn’t catch me.”

As much as that piece in the newspapers was just for laughs, so was Durocher’s statistics after April 1929. Durocher fell off a cliff from his hot April and had a terrible late spring, never managing higher than a .306 batting average and spending a lot of May and June hovering near the Mendoza line. As the summer entered in 1929, Durocher finally started to hit again, reaching a peak of .281 in the July 10 game against the Chicago White Sox. By now, Lyn Lary had made his MLB debut and was mashing above .300, so Durocher was starting to lose his luster. One article mentioning that Durocher was a “great fielder, but inclined to be erratic.” Despite the statement by Huggins that Durocher was supposed to hit. 280 in the season, he finished the season on October 6, 1929 with a .246 average and having been pulled from his 7th spot in the order and his position as shortstop. Despite all the promise, Durocher basically finished worse than his 1928 season, appearing in 106 games, but changing his style to walk more and whiff less.

One story of an ejection by Durocher occurred on July 14, 1929, when Durocher, called the “Yankees’ sassy little shortstop,” basically decided to give an umpire a piece of his mind. Durocher was ejected for “wagging his tongue too much” aka talking too much crap to the umpires and was promptly ejected in a style you’d never see make the news today: “to give the mouth organ a rest under the showers.” He was replaced by Mark Koenig at shortstop.

“Go Kiss Yourself”

It appears that the Yankees front office had enough of Durocher at the end of the 1929 season, and the sassy shortstop finally said one thing too much. On February 6, 1930, the Yankees announced that they traded Durocher to the Reds for cash and a player to be named later. That same day the Reds traded Adolfo Luque to the Brooklyn Dodgers for pitcher Douglas McWeeny, who was supposedly a good thrower but a poor commander. Word eventually got out that the wisecracking shortstop had asked General Manager Ed Barrow for a raise and an advance from $7,000 salary to $10,000. When Barrow denied both requests from Durocher, Durocher remarked that Barrow could “go kiss yourself.” The next day Durocher stated that he found out he was traded to the Reds. For those who know Durocher well, “Go kiss yourself” became a big piece of baseball English produced by Durocher over his time in baseball.

The media response to the Durocher trade was pretty lackluster, but there was an interesting story produced by the North American Newspaper Alliance on February 16, 1930. George Morarity, the ex-manager of the Tigers and MLB umpire (yes he held both titles!) wrote a story about the kid as “Leo Durocher Champion As Wisecracker.” Moriarty basically ripped Durocher, stating that his abilities to wisecrack were unmatched and that Durocher was called the “The Great American Out” because he could be retired with such ease. Moriarty credited his ability to be a good utility infielder but basically despised his antics.


Durocher remained a player until 1945, but became a player/manager in 1939 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Durocher would eventually become a household name in baseball for teams not named the Yankees, working with their great competitors, the Dodgers and the Giants for many years before ending his career in 1976 in Japan. The great Durocher died on October 7, 1991 at the age of 86 in Palm Springs, California and is buried at Forest Lawn’s Revelation Section (Plot 3211) in Los Angeles. Three years later, Durocher was selected by the Veteran’s Committee to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with some general belief that they did not want him to be alive before being inducted.

As for his Yankee career, it is a story of “What Ifs?” Durocher had excellent defensive talent and was able to play in the infield as needed. He had speed and hustled every opportunity he had. Miller Huggins, the manager, loved Durocher. However, the young Durocher was not tame like his teammates and finally, it bit him in the end with smart-assing Ed Barrow. For all his faults, he was the original No. 7 and being in the Hall of Fame, he is still a Yankee in history.

Guest Post: The Hiring of No. 37: Casey Stengel: October 1948

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, and the No. 26.


For many years, Yankee fans looked at the hiring of Joe Torre in the modern day mass media as an “Is George Steinbrenner crazy?” situation because Torre had never coached a winning team in his entire time as manager between the Mets, Braves and Cardinals. The New York Daily News famously had “CLUELESS JOE: Torre Has No Idea What He’s Getting Into” headline by Ian O’Connor on the Sports Final version of the paper. As we know quite well, the Torre years ended up being some of the best in New York Yankees history.

However, this time, I want to talk about the hiring of another famous manager, No. 37, Casey Stengel. Similar to Torre, the young Stengel had not been very successful before being hired by the New York Yankees. Managing since 1925, originally for Worcester Panthers of the Eastern League, he had very few winning seasons, including none with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in which he recorded only a 208-251 win-loss record. In 1937, he wasn’t even managing at all but was still being paid by the Dodgers. In 1938, he was the manager of the Boston Bees, but once again, showed mediocre results. His best season by far was the 1938 season, in which the team was one of two no-hit consecutively by Midland Park, New Jersey’s Johnny Vander Meer, drawing a 77-75 (.507) record. That 1938 Boston Bees team was not made of many names, but a couple stick out: Vince DiMaggio (Joe & Dom DiMaggio’s older brother) and Jim Turner, who ended up becoming Casey Stengel’s pitching coach from 1949-1959.

Stengel’s record in Boston was not even close to .500 for the rest of the seasons he was there, including a complete low in 1942 in which they recorded a 59-89 season. After 1943, he was out of the National League again and coaching in the minors. By 1946, he had gotten to manage the Oakland Oaks, where he won 321 games and lost only 236, including winning a championship in 1948 over the Seattle Rainiers. The Oaks, actually, were independent most of their time in Emeryville, California, except for a period of 1935-1937, when they were a farm team of the New York Yankees. (The Oakland Oaks soon moved to Vancouver, BC and became the Vancouver Mounties and continued to move to several cities afterwards).

The New York Yankees leading up to October 1948

The years of 1946 to 1948 were a bit strange for the Yankees, because they went through numerous managers in a short period of time. Longtime manager Joe McCarthy resigned on May 24, 1946 after 15 seasons of leading the team. McCarthy had been ill for quite a while, and had issues with pitcher Joe Page and team president Larry MacPhail. The legendary Bill Dickey took over after McCarthy’s resignation and to make things worse, Dickey resigned on September 12. One of McCarthy’s coaches, Johnny Neun completed the season in 1946. For a team with such managerial issues, you’d think they’d have performed poorly like McCarthy complained about in his resignation. The 1946 Yankees ended the season with an 87-67 record (.565), finishing 17 games back of the Boston Red Sox (who went 104-50).

Like a light bulb, the 1947 Yankees flipped a switch under new manager Bucky Harris. The Yankees acquired superstar pitcher Allie “Superchief” Reynolds from the Cleveland Indians on October 11, 1946 for Joe Gordon, a trade that almost never occurred because MacPhail was going for Red Embree (who was out of the league by 1949) until Joltin’ Joe told him to make a trade for Reynolds. Aside of that, the Yankees had a budding catcher to replace the great Bill Dickey, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who was wearing No. 36 at the time. There was also star shortstop Phil Rizzuto, future All-Star third baseman Dr. Bobby Brown and even Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, who had become a leader on the team. That 1947 team won the American League pennant by 12 games with a 97-57 record. They went to the World Series and defeated the cross-town Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games, giving Harris his first ring since the 1924 Washington Senators. (The Twins-version for those curious.)

In 1948, the Yankees were a contender all the way to the end of the season, part of a huge race with the Red Sox and Indians. The 1948 season was famous for the the death of Babe Ruth at age 53 on August 16. Most of the 1947 championship team was still with the Yankees in 1948, including Red Embree, who MacPhail finally got for the 1948 season (after turning him down in 1946). Finishing a mere 2.5 games short of the World Series, the Yankees decided on October 4, 1948 to not extend Harris as the manager of the Yankees after a conference between Dan Topping, George Weiss and Bucky Harris determined they would not continue together.


So, now that Bucky Harris was out as New York Yankees manager, it was time to figure out who would replace him. A statement made by the Yankees indicated the new manager would come from outside of the team, eliminating Joltin’ Joe, Tommy Henrich and coach/infielder Frankie Crosetti despite all being good candidates and Crosetti having a big fan in George Weiss. The statement dropped names such as Bill Skiff of the Newark Bears of the International League, Jim Turner (the former Boston Brave, now coaching for the Portland Beavers) and Dick Bartell, the manager of the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, which was the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.

By October 11, the Associated Press had reported that it appeared Oakland’s Casey Stengel, who had taken the team of “nine old men” to the Pacific Coast League championship, was a candidate. By the time these rumors had come to light, the names had changed a bit: Jimmy Dykes, Al Simmons, Stengel, Neun and Skiff were in consideration. It had announced the Yankees would make a choice in “a couple of weeks.” It didn’t take two weeks. The next day, October 12, the Yankees announced Casey Stengel had been given a 2-year contract to be manager. Stengel stated he was “delighted to be with the Yankees and not have much time to think.”

Media Response

The 57-year old Stengel quickly received mixed support. Stengel had support of Tommy Holmes in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Let’s Hope Casey is Not Restrained” citing that Stengel had been a lifelong baseball player and manager and as a result should’ve been completely accepted by baseball. Holmes stated that when Stengel was the manager of the Dodgers, they had no farm and, somewhat ironically, no money. One of the major articles that came up was “Stengel Specialized in Laughing Off Bad Ball Clubs: Ol’ Case May Have To Do Same Thing For Yankees” by Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association. The argument by Grayson was that players get older regularly and that the Yankees would become very much the same as what happened with Stengel’s Brooklyn Dodgers: they’d get old. However, Grayson denied that as Stengel came with money and that only the St. Louis Browns would be selling.

A major criticism that was brought up by both Holmes and Grayson was Stengel’s style of being not very serious when it came to the game. Stengel liked to spin stories quite a bit, including ones about a bird that flew out of Stengel’s cap when he was standing at the plate, but Holmes’ argued they were just spinning stories to make Stengel not look serious. There was also a story about Frenchy Bordagaray, an outfielder, threw a ball into one of Stengel’s ears. Frenchy joked when he came in the dugout after saving the game that he should be allowed to hit Stengel in the ears every game for good luck, and as a result, Casey told him, “Tell you what George [Earnshaw, the pitcher], I will hold him and you bite him in the leg.” Other articles called it a second chance for Stengel, who also had an issue with umpires in the days of games being called due to darkness, using a flashlight at the umpires to make a point.

Stengel’s return to the Major Leagues had caused quite a bit of media buzz, and by October 21, Stengel told the Associated Press that he is taking a job with challenges, but he also laughed off the idea that “I got the job simply because of my close friendship with Del Webb and George Weiss.” This new contract covered 2 years/$70,000 (1948 USD) and stated his wife could now work on the East Coast shopping. About a month on November 12, Grantland Rice of the Chino Champion, explained that the decision to fire Harris was a dumb one purely because Harris was a friend of MacPhail. He called the hiring of Stengel as a smart one, but only because it was preceded by a dumb one. He also stated that “Stengel is a high-grade manager who knows his trade. But there won’t be as many laughing stories about Casey in 1949-not with the job he has ahead.” Rice stated that the Yankees farm has been pretty bad the couple years prior and that he needed an outfielder, three new infielders, a catcher and three pitchers. This means working a team with Joltin’ Joe, Henrich, Berra, Charlie Keller and Johnny Lindell.


Yeah, there wasn’t as much negativity surrounding the Stengel hiring as there was in the Torre hiring in 1996 due to the lack of media coverage in that era, but the fact Stengel’s hiring caused more than your normal stir for a manager, it was worth pointing out the similarity. Similar to Torre, Stengel became a dynastic manager for the Yankees along with pitching coach Jim Turner and third base coach Frankie Crosetti, leading the Yankees to seven championships in eleven seasons including 1949-1953 straight before being fired for “not needing his services,” or, as Ken Burns argued, he was fired for turning 70. He became the manager of the newly-minted New York Mets in 1962, after being convinced out of retirement.

Stengel is a great manager in the history of the New York Yankees, but if not for the Yankees, you could argue he would’ve never made it into the Hall of Fame in 1966 because of the Veterans Committee. His record outside of the Yankees and the Oakland Oaks were absolutely terrible, but like Torre (who could’ve been in the HoF on player merits alone), he made his managerial career famous with the Yankees and no one would ever deny it.

Guest Post: Frankie Crosetti: Historically Underperformed and Under-Respected

The following is a guest post from longtime RAB reader Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam from the comments. He’s previously written guest posts about umpire Tim McClelland and uniform No. 26.

Crosetti. (Getty)
Crosetti. (Getty)

For several decades from the 1920s to the 1960s, Frankie Crosetti was a household name for the New York Yankees, serving numerous different roles, including starting shortstop and third base coach. Crosetti historically was not the best batter the Yankees had during the early dynasty years, but the young man from San Francisco fit right in with the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Bill Dickey under manager Joe McCarthy. Offensively, he was in his prime from his debut in 1932 at age 21 to his age 29 season in 1940. In that time period, the Yankee dynasty had racked up 5 World Series rings (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939) while Crosetti served as the starting shortstop for the Yankees.

However, in this day and age, Crosetti is almost completely forgotten but in the form of historical records. Crosetti’s teammates from many World Series: Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing are all in Monument Park in one way or another (with their numbers retired or with just a plaque). By the time Crosetti left the Yankee organization in 1969 to join the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers), he had racked up 17 World Series rings in 23 tries, which is more than even Yogi Berra had ever gotten (13/21). Crosetti is not in Monument Park and no one has seemed to make an argument to why he does not deserve induction. Monument Park isn’t just for retired numbers of Yankee greats but for the greatest of the Yankees and those who serve the franchise in a major fashion. This article is about the argument over the reasons why Crosetti does and does not deserve his induction.

His Tenure

Crosetti first played Minor League Baseball for the Pacific Coast League team in San Francisco until his contract was acquired by the Yankees on August 23, 1930 for a player to be named later and three other players. The player to be named later ended up being Julie Wera, a third baseman and the very first No. 20, which will be inducted in Monument Park later this month for Jorge Posada. Crosetti’s first season for the Yankees was 1932, in which he was paid a grand total of $8,000. Only age 21 at the time, he hit a meager .241/.335/.374/.709.

Twice an All-Star (1936 and 1939), Crosetti’s best year arguably would be 1938. That season, Crosetti played a MLB high 157 games and set a then-record 757 plate appearances with 166 hits, 9 HRs and 55 RBI as well as a .263/.382/.371/.752 slash line. However, the negatives to those numbers, he set a major league high in 97 Ks (he had 106 walks in return) and stole 27 bases, also a season high for the league. Crosetti also has a MLB high 15 HBPs, a thing he learned quite well from Manager Joe McCarthy. That year, he finished a measly 29th in the MVP voting, which went to Jimmie Foxx of the Red Sox.

After that peak in 1938, he was able to set high numbers in HBPs, PA and at-bats for 1939, but his numbers were visibly declining. After hitting .263 the last season, Crosetti’s average dropped to only .233. By 1940, the numbers became even worse, when in 145 games; he hit an absolutely terrible .194/.299/.273/.572. The Yankees finally had enough and had the next best thing coming in 1941 in a young shortstop prospect named Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto was intended to replace Crosetti in 1940, and some article we would’ve won the 1940 American League Pennant with Rizzuto, who hit .347 in AA.

1941 was the year. Crosetti was relegated to a bench player and only appeared in 50 games as a utility infielder, and while his numbers went up to a respectable .223 (and a 31st place spot in the MVP voting!), it clearly was the end. For 1942, 1943, and 1944, Crosetti was a bench player, but managed to get into 95 games in 1943 (another WS year) and hit only .233. 1945 was a bit unusual because he got into 130 games and only managed a .238 batting average. A lot of the extra playing time from 1943-45 was due to the fact that his replacement, Phil Rizzuto had spent all three years fighting in combat for World War II. Once Rizzuto returned from action, Crosetti went to backup status and after missing most of the 1947 season, he went from 1946 to 1948 participating in a grand total of 48 games, which he had only 1 HBP (his strength) and a .284 average in 86 plate appearances.

After 1948, Crosetti went from a player to a coach (he had been a player/coach in 1947), and became the third base coach for the Yankees. The longest-tenured third base coach in Yankee history (1948-1968), he coached during the Yankees best years with Casey Stengel at the helm and thanks to Joe McCarthy, he took the skills taught by the great manager and brought it to generations of Yankees and the front office absolutely loved it. Crosetti decided to leave the Yankees in 1968 for the new Seattle Pilots that had been established through expansion, but only lasted the year in Seattle because he had many differences in ways of doing things than Jim Bouton, a pitcher for the Pilots.

After coaching for the Minnesota Twins, Crosetti hung up the spikes for good and retired to Stockton, California. He never did appear at an Old Timers’ Day for the Yankees, but did make his fair share of appearances (especially when the Yankees were in Oakland) before passing away in 2002 at the age of 91.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

The reason I wrote this article is I got interested in the fact Crosetti is basically forgotten for someone who has 17 World Series rings and 23 appearances. On paper, that would get you a Hall of Fame nod, but there’s much more than on paper that needs to be examined here. As I mentioned in the intro, Frankie Crosetti’s name is not in Monument Park, the place of the greatest Yankees who ever played, coached or managed the team. If you asked old-time Yankees if Crosetti was a vital part of their success, they’d probably say yes, but statistics can argue away a lot of the personal love.

Let’s start with the blatantly obvious problem. Crosetti spent 16 years as a Yankee player (1932-48), but in 1,683 games, he basically produced a meager 83 OPS+ and only a .245 batting average. Those numbers would never get you in the Hall of Fame and I expect that wouldn’t get you into Monument Park in this day and age short of some abnormalities. SABRmetrics are a little kinder to Crosetti, but even that’s a bit pushing it. He had a 19.9 oWAR (using Baseball-Reference’s WAR) and a 14.2 dWAR. His overall WAR from 1932-48 was only 23.9, which the true stars can manage in one or two seasons at times. Also, while being a figurehead leader, he was not always a big factor in the team’s performance. In games he appeared in, the Yankees only had a .501 winning percentage. That’s not exactly the “I can change the direction of games” player. This is despite the amount of World Series rings won in that time. As a player, if you read the statistics alone, Monument Park has no place for Crosetti, but to base it only on statistics as a player would be poor judgement.

As I’ve mentioned, Crosetti became a third base coach in 1948 for the Yankees. He coached for six managers (McCarthy, Bucky Harris, Stengel, Ralph Houk, Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane). Waving home over 16,000 runners, Crosetti arguably was the cornerstone of the Yankees franchise who wasn’t a player named Mantle or Berra. Crosetti was always a person who was fashioned a leader, he would be awake early in the morning and always the first to the clubhouse and made sure that players weren’t always slouching or doing something wrong. He basically was an honest coach, including a famous issue with infielder Phil Linz, who was playing a harmonica during a losing streak and it caused chaos on the Yankees team bus. When the Yankees brought up a new player, the Yankees turned to Crosetti to make sure they were guided well and would give a pamphlet that discussed what to do as a Yankee and as a ballplayer. This even turned into a youth player book in 1966 published as “Frank Crosetti’s Secrets of Baserunning and Infield Play”.

As a coach, Crosetti was the rock who was always present to work on my generations of Yankees of the past and future. When he headed off to Seattle in 1969, his No. 2, which he wore, was not retired on his choice, but rather given to the next flashy player. At the time that player was Jerry Kenney, an infield prospect who made his MLB debut in 1967. In 1969, Crosetti’s 2 was given to Kenney, but it didn’t really work out for the infielder, who had pretty poor years in New York, hitting only .234 from 1969-1972. By 1973, he was in Cleveland and by 1974, out of the game completely. Obviously, the No. 2 has been given in good hands since then in the form of Bobby Murcer and the Captain, Derek Jeter. As a coach, you can see enough service to the Yankees that he deserved his spot in Monument Park as Mel Stottlemyre Sr. does now. While that’s comparing apples to oranges, the reason I compare it is because they were both career Yankees who always felt like there was something a little missing if you ask me.


One issue that was brought up to me when discussing my idea for this article was why would they bother at this point? Yes, Crosetti’s been dead for 13 years now and not in the organization since 1968. However, the Yankees under the George Steinbrenner administration put Red Ruffing in Monument Park with a plaque of his own, 18 years after his death. With the recent trend of installing historic players on Old Timer’s Day (Rich Gossage, Willie Randolph & Mel Stottlemyre), it seems only fair you could use this as a chance to break the trend and get “The Crow” where he belongs, a plaque in Monument Park emphasizing you don’t have to be a great player to be a Yankee.

TiqIQ: One Month Away, Yankees-Rays July 4 Clash Takes on Added Importance

When fans look at their favorite baseball team’s schedule for the first time prior to Opening Day, one of the dates they intently pinpoint on is the good ol’ Fourth of July, undoubtedly one of the most fun and special days of the summer, if not the entire calendar year.

In the baseball world, July 4 seemingly represents the unofficial halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, with teams reflecting on how their year has unfolded up to that crucial juncture of the campaign, while looking ahead at what the summer potentially has to offer for their playoff aspirations. Luckily as it concerns the New York Yankees, they have nothing but good thoughts when looking back on how the first two months have played out, owning a somewhat surprising first-place lead in the AL East division about a month before Independence Day.

Perhaps just as important, the Fourth of July also serves as one of the grandest trips to the ballpark throughout the season for fans, with some unique giveaway usually planned for everyone in attendance, not to mention a fireworks display during the postgame proceedings. The whole allure of Independence Day is certainly one of the most anticipated points of the MLB campaign, and it appears that will be exactly the case once again when the Yankees host the Tampa Bay Rays this year on July 4.

For this year’s Fourth of July promotion, the Yankees are hosting Fathead Day, presented by sweetFrog, in which they are giving away Fathead Yankee wall stickers to the first 18,000 fans in attendance who are age 14 and younger. This is rare giveaway, as a glance at any team’s promotional schedule will reveal most clubs do not offer up the popular Fathead items.

At the moment, the average Yankees tickets on TiqIQ for this July 4 affair is $117.90. On, tickets cost $27.80 with fees to get in the stadium. Surprisingly, this pricing actually represents some of the cheaper Yankees tickets for the month of July. Being a month away, however, it is expected this will not remain the case as we draw close and closer to Independence Day.

That’s especially true given the quality of opponent for the Yankees on this day, when they clash with the division rival Rays, whom just happens to be their closest competition for the top spot in the AL East at the moment. Thus, you can fully expect the price to go up considerably on the secondary market as the next few weeks go by. Not only is there a rare giveaway planned, and not only will this game have an impact on first place in the division, but there’s just nothing quite like being at the ballpark on the Fourth of July.

Guest Post: Uniform No. 26: The Best of a Bunch of Stragglers

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He wrote a guest post about umpire Tim McClelland back in February and will now tackle uniform No. 26. Enjoy.


We complain that the Yankees retire too many numbers (21 by the end of the season) or should un-retire numbers. However, you look at statistics, particularly on Baseball-Reference, the Yankees seem to have an inordinate amount of numbers that have an insane list of players. Yet, 26 seems to stick out. Most recently, we associate the Yankees’ No. 26 with Eduardo Nunez, who was wearing it from 2011-2013 (he wore 12 in 2010, his first season). The first time the No. 26 was assigned by the Yankees was Cedric Durst, a former outfielder for the St. Louis Blues from 1922-1926. Durst joined the Yankees in 1927, but did not get his number 26 until 1929. He only wore 26 for one year, changing to 27 for the 1930 season. That season he was traded to the Red Sox with $50,000 for Yankee legend, Monument Park and Hall of Fame inductee Red Ruffing.

I am not going to go through the entire list of who wore 26 in this blog post, it would take forever. Since Cedric Durst, 71 other players have worn the No. 26 for the Yankees, currently with Chris Capuano wearing it. However, the No. 26 also seems for the most part to deal with a lot of straggler players. In 2012 for example, we had Darnell McDonald wear No. 26 (and cut his famous dreadlocks) for 3 games before being designated for assignment. Since 2009, the Yankees have assigned the No. 26 to 9 players: Austin Kearns, Kevin Russo, Greg Golson and Nick Johnson all in 2010; Eduardo Nunez in 2011; Ramiro Pena, Darnell McDonald and Eduardo Nunez in 2012; Nunez kept it for all of 2013; Yangervis Solarte took 26 after Nunez was designated for assignment in 2014, and after he was traded away, Capuano took the number.

The Best Batter to wear No. 26

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

You’re going to probably watch your eyes melt when you hear me say this, but Eduardo Nunez has arguably had the best statistics for all batters who have worn No. 26. In 270 games with the Bombers, Nunez had 201 hits, 10 home runs and 75 runs batted in. He hit for a .267 average, .313 on-base percentage and .379 slugging. Of course, when the Yankees promoted Nunez in 2010, they thought he was quite possibly the heir at shortstop for Derek Jeter and the future face of the franchise at shortstop. Baseball-Reference’s SABERmetrics have not been so kind to Nunez offensively, as he never produced higher than an 0.4 offensive WAR for the Yankees (he has a 0.5 bWAR for the Twins this season thus far, but he’s only played 17 games due to injury.).

However, his defense has never quite been the same as his offensive production. Nunez has played various positions all over the place since his debut in 2010 (3B, SS, the OF, DH and 2B). From 2010-2013, Nunez managed 30 errors at the shortstop position alone (14 in 2011 and 12 in 2013, correlating with his most active seasons with the Yankees (he spent most of 2012 in the minors, only had 4 errors). At third base, he had another 11 errors, and 1 at second base in 2012. When Yangervis Solarte hit his way into the scene during Spring Training in 2014, the Yankees clearly had enough of Nunez and designated him for assignment on April 1. Regardless of our opinions on Nuney, there has clearly been no sign of a better hitter wearing that number.

The Best Pitcher (and overall player) to wear No. 26

No. 26 has produced many pitchers as well, but there was no one better wearing the number than Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Hernandez, the Cuban free agent, signed on March 23, 1998 with the New York Yankees, two years after his brother Livan signed with the Marlins. During his first stint in New York, Hernandez started 121 games in the regular season for the Yankees, throwing 8 complete games from 1998-2000, when he was in his prime at ages 32-34. He racked up 791.2 innings in that span, striking out 619 (I am not kidding). He allowed 105 home runs and 707 hits. Despite all that, he only had 18 wild pitches when facing 3,324 batters. He had a 114 ERA+ and a 1.232 WHIP. In all, the first stint the Yankees had with El Duque resulted in a 53-38 record and a 4.04 ERA.

As you probably know, the Yankees traded El Duque to the Chicago White Sox on January 15, 2003 for Eddi Candelario and Antonio Osuna. Hernandez was immediately flipped to the Montreal Expos with Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer for Jorge Nunez and future-Yankee Bartolo Colon. El Duque did not pitch in 2003 due to a rotator cuff surgery. As a free agent in 2004, El Duque re-signed with the Yankees for $500,000! His 2004 season was definitely not as electric as his first stint with the Yankees, as he only started 15 games for the Bombers at age 38, pitching only 84.2 innings and a 3.30 ERA (which was his best since 1998 at that point). The next year he signed as a free agent to the White Sox and gained his 4th ring in his career. Interestingly, at the end of that season he was traded to the Diamondbacks with future Yankees Luis Vizcaino and Chris Young (!) for another Yankee, Javier Vazquez.

Hernandez, his eephus pitch and his unusual leg kick were one of the best things to come out of the 1998 season. What Yankee fan doesn’t love El Duque? I sure don’t. He had a memorable time in New York, throwing his glove to Tino Martinez at first base, making quality starts constantly and just being unusual compared to most pitchers. Unlike Eduardo Nunez, who has a very timid reputation in Yankee lore, El Duque is forever a favorite and overall the best player to wear No. 26 since 1929.

Notable Runner-Ups

There is no question that El Duque was the best overall player with No. 26, and the best pitcher. However, there are 70 other players who deserve comment, but I want to focus on one batter and one pitcher. Starting with the batter, you have to scroll back to the 1932-1938 seasons for the arguable second-best batter who wore the No. 26. This player was a catcher named Joe Glenn. Glenn was a backup catcher to the legendary Bill Dickey, debuting in 1932 when he was 23 years old. He wasn’t an offensive powerhouse, but as he got older, he managed to start hitting with some average (.233, .271, .283 and .260 from 1935-38). On October 26, 1938, Glenn was traded with Myril Hoag to the Browns for Oral Hildebrand and Buster Mills.

On the pitchers side is a name older Yankee fans should recognize, John “The Count” Montefusco. Montefusco, a recent addition to Old Timer’s Day, was acquired from the Padres by the Yankees in 1983 after a long career with the San Francisco Giants. He only pitched in 18 starts for the Yankees, a majority during the 1984 season. He did, however, managed a 3.55 ERA and a 19-7 record for the most part of that time with a 106 ERA+ in 208 innings. In total, he allowed 209 hits and 19 home runs with a 1.303 WHIP. Yes Montefusco wasn’t amazing as El Duque was, but there’s no question that Montefusco was one of the better pitchers to wear No. 26. The Yankees were actually Montefusco’s last team in the majors.

Finally, you look at the number 26, one of these days, someone is going to get that number and put it to good use. For those curious, after 26, the number 39 is the most-used number. One of the other pitchers who deserve credit for both 26 and 39 is the great Joe Niekro, who played for the Yankees during the same time as Montefusco, strangely enough. While Capuano has held the No. 26, it’s not going to be forever, and at some point, another straggler will probably inherit the number.