At least two former New York Yankees closers will be enshrined in Cooperstown in the summer of 2019. Alright, alright, that’s a bit of a stretch. The Today’s Game Era Committee voted a unanimous 16 votes for Lee Smith and a minimum 12 for Harold Baines, ensuring both a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The selections are dubious but if you’re a Don Mattingly or Bernie Williams fan, there’s still hope.
During the days before Mariano Rivera, the Yankees bullpen flanked by the likes of Steve Farr, Bob Wickman, and Steve Howe, was hunting down the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 and acquired Smith from the St. Louis Cardinals for minor-league pitcher Rich Batchelor, who I probably saw pitch more with the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees. In eight games in pinstripes, Smith registered eight scoreless frames and recorded three of his 478 career saves.
Lou Piniella, who won two World Series and four pennants as an outfielder with the Yankees from 1974 to 1984 and managed the club from 1986 to 1988, finished one vote shy of induction. Piniella also skippered the 1990 Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title and the 2001 Seattle Mariners to 116 regular season victories.
George M. Steinbrenner III, the late legendary principal owner of the Yankees from 1973 to 2010, was among a group receiving fewer than five votes. Steinbrenner brought prestige back to the pinstripes, helping bring seven World Series titles and 11 A.L. pennants to the Bronx. The Yankees reached the postseason 20 seasons in which Steinbrenner owned the club.