The regular season is over, the World Series will soon be upon us in all its glory, then comes the long, cold and baseball-less winter. One thing that holds fans over are the annual awards handed out to the cream of the crop, i.e. Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and MVP. One award Yankee fans are keeping their eyes on is the Rookie of the Year, and the reason is simple: The Kraken. Gary Sanchez exploded onto the field and it seemed he was hitting a home run every single night. He made a strong case in his short season for Rookie of the Year. Let’s take a look back at the former Yankees to win the prestigious award.
The first player in franchise history to win the award was Gilbert “Gil” McDougald back in 1951. He was signed by the Bombers in 1948 before making his debut in the Bigs on April 20, 1951. It didn’t take long for Gil to make an impact. On May 3, he tied a then Major League record by batting in six runs in a single inning. In the World Series that year, facing off against the rival Giants, he became the first rookie to hit a grand slam in the Fall Classic. He closed out the year hitting .306/.396/.488 with 14 homers and 63 RBI across 131 games to narrowly beat Mr. White Sox Minnie Minoso for the ROY title.
The Bronx wouldn’t have to wait long to see another Yankee take home the hardware. Pitcher Bob Grim, also signed in 1948, snagged the 1954 ROY after an impressive 20-6 record and 3.26 ERA across 37 games. He gave up just nine homers all year and became the first Yankee rookie since 1910 to record 20 wins in a season. He is one of three Yankee hurlers to win the award.
After just another three year wait, shortstop Tony Kubek brought the ROY back to the Bronx in 1957. Kubek rose rapidly through the team’s farm system and made his debut at 21 years old. In game three of the World Series that year, he had one of the best games a rookie has had. He went 3-5 with two homers, four RBI and three runs scored. He is one of only five rookies to hit two homers in one World Series game. He finished ’57 with a .297 BA, 39 RBI and 56 runs scored across 127 games.
Another Yankee shortstop earned ROY honors five years later. On Opening Day 1962, Tom Tresh was the starting shortstop and would remain the only rookie to start on Opening Day at short for the Yanks until 1996. Tresh had played in nine games in 1961, but only saw eight at bats. In ’62, he hit a career best .286 with 20 homers, 93 RBI and 94 runs scored in 157 games on his way to an All Star Game, World Series title and Rookie of the Year.
The second pitcher in franchise history to win ROY came onto the scene in 1968. Stan Bahnsen was drafted in 1965 and got his first shot at the Majors in 1966. In four games in pinstripes, he went 1-1 with a save and a 3.52 ERA which earned him an invite to Spring Training. He arrived to camp late in ’68 due to an army commitment, but was given a chance to make the team and did so. He pitched to a 17-12 record and an impressive 2.05 ERA in 37 games. He threw 10 complete games that season, averaging 7.3 hits per nine innings and 0.5 homers per nine innings across 267.1 innings pitched. His ERA remained his career low through his 16 years in the league.
1970 saw the next Yankee Rookie of the Year, and he went by the name of Thurman Munson. He only spent one full season in the Minors before making the Big Leagues and making his mark. In his rookie campaign, the captain-to-be batted .302 with 53 RBI and 59 runs scored while throwing out 52% of would be base stealers and adding 80 assists in 132 games. What else needs to be said?
11 years would pass until another Bomber won the ROY. The third pitcher to win it for the Yanks, Dave Righetti, did so in 1981. The team didn’t have room for Rags right away in ’81, so he was sent to the Minors. He got the call in May and pitched well for the team the remainder of the season. In 15 games, he went 8-4 with a 2.05 ERA and allowed 6.4 hits and 0.1 home runs per nine innings while striking out 7.6 batters per nine.
Last but certainly not least, Derek Jeter is the latest Yankee to take home ROY, doing so in 1996 and jump starting a dynasty. The Captain hit .314, 10 homers, brought home 78 and scored 104 of his own through 157 games. The rest is history.
So there you have it, all eight former Yankees who took home the Rookie of the Year Award. Could Gary Sanchez be number nine? He certainly made a strong case. In his 53 games played, he mashed 20 homers with 42 RBI and 34 runs scored to go along with his .299/.376/.657 line. His limited time in the Bigs might keep him from bringing home the hardware, but I see many awards in the Kraken’s future.