Assembling a historic New York Yankees roster is always all parts fun, challenging and a great way to start a debate. With February being Black History month, I figured, why not try and put together an all African American Yankees squad? It’s a tall order but here’s my best crack at it.
Catcher – Elston Howard: Became the first African American player for Yanks in 1955. Ellie won four World Series titles with New York. The nine-time All-Star Howard, was the first African American player in the American League to win MVP, garnering honors in 1963. Howard’s number 32 is retired in Monument Park.
First baseman – Chris Chambliss: Spending parts of seven season’s in the Bronx, Chambliss won a pair of World Series with the Yanks. Blasting 79 home runs in the regular season, the 1976 All-Star is best remembered for his walk-off jolt in the ALCS of that year, sending the Yanks past the Kansas City Royals and back to the Fall Classic.
Second baseman – Willie Randolph: Playing 13-years in the Bronx, the former co-captain was a two-time World Series champ with the Yankees. Randolph was a five-time All-Star with New York. Willie tops the franchise list for runs scored, walks and stolen bases for second basemen. Randolph will be honored with a plaque in Monument Park in 2015.
Shortstop – Derek Jeter: To quote from the movie “The Other Guys,” “Derek Jeter is a biracial angel,” so he makes my list. Name an offensive category for Yankees shortstops and Jeter literally tops every single one. Jeter has five World Series titles on his ledger. The surefire Hall of Famer is sixth on the all-time MLB list for hits, tabulating 3,465 on his career. The 14-time All-Star, was also 1996 AL Rookie of the Year and won the All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP in 2000.
Third baseman – Charlie Hayes: When I played Little League, for a few years I wore a clear face shield like Charlie Hayes did when he played for the Colorado Rockies, which as a kid I thought was kinda cool. Charlie was also a heck of a player in his two stints with the Yanks. Hayes played three years in New York and was a member of the 1996 World Series championship team, catching the final out in Game 6. During his time with the Yanks, Hayes hit 31 home runs and drove in 132.
Left fielder – Roy White: Quite possibly the most underrated Yankee ever. White was a member of two World Series winning squads, during his 15-year run with the Yanks. White was also twice an All-Star with New York. White tops all Yanks left-fielders in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and walks.
Center fielder – Curtis Granderson: When I first started laying this out, “Mick The Quick” initially came to mind. Then I did a second take and “The Grandy Man” absolutely crushed it. In his four-years as a Yankee, Granderson was a two-time All-Star and between both of those campaigns, Curtis hit over 40 home runs in consecutive season’s, combining for 84 long balls, across 2011 and 2012. When it comes to center-field, only Joe DiMaggio and Bernie Williams have more home runs in franchise history, than Granderson and his 115.
Right fielder – Dave Winfield: Winny. If he’d played in New York in any other decade, he’d probably have his number retired too. Winfield’s 205 home runs are the fifth most of any Yanks outfielder. During his nine-year tenure in the Bronx, Winfield was an eight-time All-Star, five-time gold glove award winner and a five-time recipient of the silver slugger award. Enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Winfield played his best ball in Pinstripes.
Designated hitter – Reggie Jackson: Mr. October. Reginald Martinez Jackson didn’t play as long with the Yanks as most in Monument Park but he had a “Koufaxian” impact with his bat. From 1977 to 1981, Jackson slammed 141 home runs with New York. In all five of those season’s, Jackson was an AL All-Star and in 1980 he led the Junior Circuit with 41 bombs. Reggie was made for New York and he was a huge part of consecutive titles for the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. In 1977, Jackson won the World Series MVP, batting .450 with five home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During Game 6, Jackson hit three home runs at Yankee Stadium. Jackson is a member of the Hall of Fame and his number 44 is retired in Monument Park.
Rickey Henderson: This is quite the list if Rickey is on the bench. Henderson played parts of five seasons for the Yankees. In that time frame, Henderson was a four-time All-Star, led the league in runs scored three times, stolen bases four times and one in walks. Rickey is second in club history with 326 steals.
Mickey Rivers: Mick The Quick. Rivers played four seasons in the Bronx, helping the Yanks win two World Series titles. Rivers hit .386 across three ALCS and .333 in the 1978 World Series. Rivers hit .299 with the Yanks and swiped 93 bags.
Oscar Gamble: I really could have placed Gamble and his 87 homers at DH. Gamble played seven seasons in two stints with the Yankees. Gamble was part of two Pennant winners in the Bronx.
Darryl Strawberry: Known mostly for his exploits across town, Straw definitely had some memorable swings in the Bronx. Strawberry played parts of five seasons with the Yankees and won three World Series titles. In the 1996 ALCS, Strawberry batted .417 with three home runs against the Baltimore Orioles.
Gary Sheffield: I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player hit a baseball harder than Sheff. I always loved how Sheffield stood up for his teammates and never took any guff from opposing pitchers. In parts of three seasons, Sheffield blasted 76 home runs, along with a pair of consecutive 30 plus campaigns. Sheffield was also a two-time All-Star for the Yankees.
Jesse Barfield: A bright spot in a bad era for the Yanks. Barfield could rake and had a cannon for an arm in right-field. In parts of four seasons, Barfield swatted 62 home runs. Jesse can still go yard at the Old Timers’ game too.
CC Sabathia: The lone active Yankee on this list. Sabathia was the ace on the 2009 World Series championship team. Ever the workhorse, Sabathia led the AL in victories in 2009 and 2010, winning a combined 40 games. On his Yankee career, Sabathia has 91 wins and a .664 winning percentage, across six seasons. A three-time All-Star with the Yanks, Sabathia was also named 2009 ALCS MVP. Sabathia is tenth in club history with 1,044 strikeouts.
Al Downing: Downing spent nine years in Pinstripes, winning 72 games. In 1967, Downing was named an AL All-Star. Downing ranks eleventh in franchise history with 1,028 strikeouts. In 1964, Downing led the AL in strikeouts, fanning 217.
Rudy May: Between two stints, May pitched seven years for the Yankees. During that frame, May won 54 games for the Pinstripes. In 1980, May won 15 games for New York and topped the AL with an ERA of 2.46.
Dwight Gooden: Gooden pitched parts of three seasons, between a pair of stints with the Yanks. Although not on the World Series roster in either year, Gooden was a solid contributor on those squads, especially 1996. The 1996 season saw Gooden win eleven games and pitch a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners. Another memorable start saw Gooden defeat the New York Mets in a regular season contest at Shea Stadium, in his return to Flushing. Gooden would win 24 games with the Yankees.
Charles Hudson: Across two seasons in the Bronx, Hudson won 17 games for the Yankees.
Tom Gordon: Following the late 90’s, the Yanks tried the likes of Mark Wholers, Jay Witasick, Steve Karsay and Armando Benitez, to setup for Mariano Rivera. They hit it right on “Flash.” Although he was probably spent by the postseason, Gordon was pretty much lights out in the regular season. From 2004 to 2005, Gordon went 14-8 out of the pen, pitching to a 2.38 ERA, appearing in an astounding 159 games. Gordon also whiffed 165 batters in that stretch. In 2004, Gordon was an AL All-Star. Gordon also posted six saves.
Lee Smith: Three of Smith’s 478 career saves came for the Yankees in 1993. Acquired perhaps too little too late, Smith pitched eight innings in eight games, striking out eleven, posting an ERA of 0.00. Smith also recorded his 400th career save, while wearing Pinstripes.
Shawn Chacon: Chacon saved the Yanks bacon in 2005, when they acquired him from Colorado. That season, Chacon gave New York 79 innings and seven wins, pitching to a 2.85 ERA, even making a representative start in the ALDS. Chacon would win 12 games in parts of two seasons in New York.
Willie Banks: In parts of two seasons, Banks had four wins in 14 games with the Yankees.
LaTroy Hawkins: Carving out a respectable 20-year career, Hawkins is probably best known for the “controversy” that saw him become the first player to wear number 21, since Paul O’Neill did so. In 2008, Hawkins pitched 41 innings, across 33 games for the Yanks.