Updated Sept. 27, 2007 and Sept. 18, 2009
This is a rainy day post I’ve wanted to do for years. Thanks to the tremendous YankeeNumbers.com, and in the spirit of Jon Weisman’s recent All-Time Dodger Alphabet Team, I’m pleased to present the Yankees by the Numbers. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
A quick bit of history before I begin: though often credited as such, the Yankees were not the first major league team to wear numbers. The Indians wore numbers on their left sleeves for several weeks in 1916, but abandoned the practice after another brief period of use in 1917. The 1923 Cardinals were the next to try, the numbers again appearing on the players’ left sleeves, but quickly removed them because the players were “embarrassed.” Both the Indians and the Yankees were set to begin the 1929 season with numbers on their backs, but a rainout in the Bronx gave the Indians the precedent. Still, the 1929 Yankees were, along with the Indians, the first team to wear numbers for a full season. Here’s where the legend synchs back up with reality. Those 1929 Yankees wore numbers that corresponded with what was likely their opening day line-up, thus the original single digits were:
1 – Earl Combs (CF)
2 – Mark Koenig (3B)
3 – Babe Ruth (RF)
4 – Lou Gehrig (1B)
5 – Bob Meusel (LF)
6 – Tony Lazzeri (2B)
7 – Leo Durocher (SS)
8 – Johnny Grabowski (C)
Catchers Benny Bengough and rookie Bill Dickey wore numbers 9 and 10 (Dickey won the starting job that year and took Grabowski’s #8 in 1930). Top pitchers Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt and George Pipgras wore numbers 11, 12 and 14 (the Yankees skipped #13 for the usual reasons).
Enjoy . . .
1 – Billy Martin (1951-1957 and in four stints as manager from 1977 to 1988) Earl Combs wore this first and is at least as deserving as Martin here, but I’ll concede to history. That said, #1 was only retired for Martin as a show of goodwill by Steinbrenner, which taints it’s inclusion in Monument Park more than a little. Bobby Murcer wore this in his first stint with the Yankees. Bobby Richardson took both Billy’s position and number in 1958 and kept both until 1966. Frank Crosetti and Snuffy Stirnweiss filled most of the space between Combs and Martin with #1 on their backs. Only three other men not listed here ever wore #1 for the Yankees.
2 – Derek Jeter (1995-present) Red Rolfe comes in second. Frankie Crosetti wore this for what seemed like forever as a coach from 1947-1968 as well as during his last two seasons as a player. Graig Nettles wore this as a coach in 1991, a crime explained in #9. Bobby Murcer wore it in his second stint with the team.
3 – Babe Ruth (1929-1934) Amazingly the Babe’s number wasn’t retired until just before his death in 1948. In fact, George Selkirk took it in 1935, before the concept of retiring numbers was invented (see #4) and wore it for longer than Ruth did. Six other Yankees of little note wore it after Selkirk, the last being Cliff Mapes in 1948.
4 – Lou Gehrig (1929-1939) Currently the only number below 68 to have only been worn by one man and destined to be the only Yankee number to have never appeared on more than one man’s uniform. Cleanup hitter Lou took #4 when the Yankees adopted numbers in 1929 and it was retired for him on July 4, 1939, the first time a number was ever retired for a player in professional sports.
5 – Joe DiMaggio (1937-1942, 1946-1951) Bob Meusel wore it first. Tony Lazzeri took it next, followed by Frank Crosetti for five years, including DiMaggio’s rookie year. Nick Etten wore it while Joltin’ Joe was away at war. Nolen Richardson, who shared it with Crosetti in 1935 was the only other Yankee ever to wear #5.
6 – Joe Gordon (1938-1943, 1946) Just barely over Tony Lazzeri (1929, 1934-1937) because Lazzeri, though he had it before anyone else, also wore three other numbers. Roy White wore it longest. Of course this will probably be retired for Joe Torre, but I find that unfortunate. It seems a waste to retire the last single digit for a manager. Miller Huggins didn’t wear a number as manager of the 1929 team and Joe McCarthy managed the Yankees for 16 years without a number on his back (likely because neither coached third base, as was the custom at the time). Nods to Clete Boyer and Dr. Bobby Brown. Mickey Mantle wore this as a rookie. Later that year he rebelled against being designated as the next great Yankee after Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, and switched to #7.
7 – Mickey Mantle (1951-1968, as coach 1970) First worn by Leo Durocher. Tony Lazzeri borrowed it from Ben Chapman in 1933. It was Tommy Henrich’s primary number before the war. Bob Cerv was the last to wear it before Mantle.
8 – Yogi Berra (1948-1963, as manager and coach 1964, 1976-1985) Also retired for Bill Dickey (1930-1943, as manager 1946), it was only worn by four others. Johnny Grabowski wore it first in 1929. Johnny Lindell, Aaron Robinson, and Frank Colman wore it in between the two Hall of Fame catchers.
9 – Roger Maris (1960-1966) Between 1984 and 1986, George Steinbrenner retired four numbers, a nearly 50 percent increase in the team total. Of the four, Maris’s #9, retired in 1984, was the most questionable. I could be argued that Graig Nettles, who wore the number from 1973 until 1983, was equally deserving, if not more so. Of course Nettles, like Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield after him, didn’t leave on the best of terms with the Boss. Myself, I’d like to see #9 still active. Among other things it would have solved the Joe Torre problem described in #6 as Torre wore #9 as a player, but took #6 as Yankee manager because #9 was unnecessarily retired for Roger Maris. Also worn to glory by Maris’s predecessor and trade bait Hank Bauer from 1952 to 1959. Bobby Brown wore it in 1951. Joe DiMaggio wore it as a rookie. It was the first and longest used of Charlie Keller’s seven Yankee numbers.
10 – Phil Rizzuto (1941-1942, 1946-1956) The only number the Scooter ever wore. Tony Kubek and Chris Chambliss wore it successfully after him. Bill Dickey wore it in his first full season in 1929.
11 – Lefty Gomez (1932-1942) This one could be retired. Runner up Joe Page (1945-1950). Also Chuck Knoblauch, Gary Sheffield, and Johnny Sain as a player. Waite Hoyte wore this in 1930. Dwight Gooden wore it when he threw his no-hitter. Herb Pennock was the first to wear it in 1929.
12 – Gil McDougal (1951-1960) One of the must underrated Yankees of all time, McDougal was the anti-Bill Dickey, his power stroke crippled by death valley. He still won the Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team at three positions. Runner-up Wade Boggs, who was instrumental in teaching the Torre-era Yankees patience at the plate. Ron Blomberg wore this as the first ever designated hitter. Roger Clemens wore this inverse of his old #21 briefly in 1999 before deciding it was bad luck. Herb Pennock wore #12 in his final two Yankee seasons. Billy Martin wore it as a rookie. Waite Hoyte was the first to wear it in 1929. Of Charlie Keller’s seven Yankee numbers, this was the second-most likely to appear on his back.
13 – Alex Rodriguez (2004-present) Start placing your bets now on whether or not this one will wind up in Monument Park or suffer the fate of its inverse. Given that superstition has kept the number of #13s low (it and #23 were the only numbers skipped by the 1929 team), this is an easy choice, Rodriguez beating out “The King” Jim “There’s No ‘Team’ In” Leyritz and Mike Pagliarulo. Jose Vizcaino wore this when he got the game winning hit in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. It was also one of Spud Chandler’s six Yankee numbers.
14 – Moose Skowron (1955-1962) In a close race over Lou Piniella (1974-1983, then 1984-1988 as a coach and manager), with Gene Woodling (1949-1954) coming in third. Bobby Cox wore #14 as a player.
15 – Thurman Munson (1969-1979) Actually, this number could have been retired for Red Ruffing (1932-1942, 1946) before Munson ever got a shot at it. Tommy Henrich, who wore #15 after the war (and after Ruffing gave it up) is third in line here. Also worn by Tom Tresh, by Joe Collins in the second half of his career, and briefly by Charlie Keller in 1945.
16 – Whitey Ford (1951-1967, as coach 1968, 1974-1975) Worn by Bill Bevens in his near-no-hitter in the 1947 World Series, by Joe Page as a rookie, and for two seasons by Herb Pennock.
17 – Vic Raschi (1947-1953) Worn by Enos Slaughter, Mickey Rivers and Oscar Gamble, and future franchise savior Gene Michael during his playing days. Worn briefly by Tommy Henrich, and by Bobby Richardson and Bobby Murcer in their first two seasons
18 – Johnny Damon (2006-present) over World Series heroes Don Larson and Scott Brosius, whose Yankee careers were of similar length but far less productive. Worn by Whitey Ford as a rookie, and by Red Ruffing in his second season as a Yankee.
19 – Dave Righetti (1981-1990) just barely over Johnny “Grandma” Murphy, “Bullet” Bob Turley, and Fritz “Wife Swap” Peterson. One of three numbers Vic Raschi wore in 1947. Whitey Ford wore this as a rookie and finished off the Yankees’ World Series sweep of the Phillies with 8 2/3 shutout innings. Aaron Boone wore it when he hit his famous homer to end the 2003 ALCS. Luis Sojo wore it when collecting the game winning single of the 2000 World Series off Al Leiter, who wore it in 2005 in honor of Righetti.
20 – Jorge Posada (1997-present) Jorge’s close to earning a spot in Monument Park for #20. Runner-up is fellow catcher Mike Stanley. Shout-outs to no-hit shortstops Bucky Dent, Horace Clarke, and Alvaro Espinoza, and wartime hurler Tiny Bonham. Lefty Gomez wore #20 in his sophomore season, Burleigh Grimes wore it in his final season.
21 – Paul O’Neill (1993-2001) Hasn’t been assigned since O’Neill retired. Spud Chandler wore six numbers as a Yankee, but this was his primary one. Red Ruffing’s first Yankee number. Roy White wore it briefly in 1968. Ralph Terry wore it as a rookie in his first stint as a Yankee.
22 – Allie Reynolds (1947-1954) over Roger Clemens and Jimmy Key. Worn by Lefty Gomez and Tommy Henrich as rookies, by Robinson Cano for his first two seasons, and by Jorge Posada in early 1997. Red Ruffing’s last Yankee number and Paul Waner’s number for his last major league game.
23 – Don Mattingly (1982-1995, as coach 2004-2007) Ralph Terry’s a distant second here. Worn by Tony Lazzeri in 1932.
24 – Rickey Henderson (1985-1989) over Tino Martinez, though Robinson Cano could soon claim this one. Honorable mention to Billy Johnson and Al Downing. One of three numbers worn by Spud Chandler as a rookie. Worn by Deion Sanders as a rookie. Worn by Paul Waner, Ralph Branca, Felipe Alou and Jimmy Wynn on their way out of the majors.
25 – Jason Giambi (2002-2008) over Tommy John, though it could ultimately belong to Mark Teixiera. Honorable mention to Joe Pepitone, Bobby Bonds, and Don Baylor. Worn by Irv Noren, Hank Bauer over his first four seasons, Willie Randolph in part of 1976, Cecil Fielder in part of 1996, Jim Abbott when he threw his no-hitter, Brian Doyle in the 1978 World Series, and Wes Farrell and Johnny Callison on their way out of the majors.
26 – Orlando Hernandez (1998-2002, 2004) easily over Ryne Duren and Steve Farr. Worn by Darryl Strawberry in 1995.
27 – Johnny Lindell (1946-1950) Pitcher-turned-outfielder Lindell was a righty-slugging weapon for the Championship Yankee teams of the late ’40s. Over Graeme Lloyd, lefty pitching weapon for the Championship Yankee teams of the late ’90s. Worn by Lew Burdette as a rookie and by Dixie Walker before he went on to stardom in Brooklyn. Worn briefly by Joe Sewell, Spud Chandler, Jackie Jensen, Dr. Bobby Brown, and Paul Blair among many others. Famously worn by manager Joe Girardi in pursuit of the team’s 27th World Championship.
28 – Sparky Lyle (1972-1978) Also worn briefly by Spud Chandler, Charlie Keller and Al Leiter. Tommy Byrne’s primary number as a Yankee. Popular recently thanks to David Justice and Melky Cabrera. Chad Curtis wore this when he hit his game-winning World Series home run in 1999 and Karim Garcia wore this when Pedro Martinez threw at his head and incited a brawl in the 2003 ALCS.
29 – Catfish Hunter (1975-1979) over Mike Stanton. Worn by Johnny Murphy and Rocky Colavito in their final seasons.
30 – Willie Randolph (1976-1988, as coach 1994-2004) Over Eddie Lopat and Mel Stottlemyre, who only wore it as a player only.
31 – Dave Winfield (1981-1990) If not for his conflicts with the Boss, Winfield’s #31 would be retired. It still might have been had Winnie swallowed his pride and chosen to go into the Hall as a Yankee, though it’s certainly understandable why he didn’t. Tim Raines wore #31 for three seasons. Ed Figueroa had it for the five immediately before Winfield.
32 – Elston Howard (1955-1967, as coach 1969-1979) Ralph Houk wore it as a player. Tommy Henrich wore it as a rookie. This was the highest number worn by a player in 1929, appearing on the back of rookie back-up catcher Art Jorgens.
33 – David Wells (1997-1998, 2002-2003) Double Ruths for Boomer, who threw a perfect game and was the ace of the 125-win 1998 team. Over Ken Griffey Sr. and two years of Alfonso Soriano and with one eye on Nick Swisher.
34 – Dick Howser (1969-1978, 1980) Coach and manager Howser over harmonica man Phil Linz and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. Tony Kubek, Clete Boyer and Doug Drabek wore #34 as rookies, Boyer keeping it into his third season. This was the highest number worn by a Yankee in 1929, appearing on the back of coach Art Fletcher, who became the manager after Miller Huggins’ death, thus also becoming the first Yankee manager to wear a number.
35 – Mike Mussina (2001-2008) over Ralph Houk, who wore it as a manager and coach from 1958-1973. One of three numbers Spud Chandler wore as a rookie. Worn by Yogi Berra in his first World Series in 1947, by Phil Niekro as he won his 300th game, and by 1996 World Series MVP John Wetteland.
36 – David Cone (1995-2000) over Johnny Mize. Gaylord Perry and Jim Kaat also wore #36.
37 – Casey Stengel (1949-1960) Stengel took #37 from the man he replaced, Bucky Harris. The number was first worn in 1946 by Herb Karpel and Gus Niarhos, the only Yankee players ever to wear it.
38 – Johnny Blanchard (1955, 1959-1965) Worn by Yogi Berra and Jose Rijo as rookies and to infamy by Ed Whitson.
39 – Darryl Strawberry (1996-1999) over Roberto Kelly and Steve Hamilton.
40 – Chien-Ming Wang (2005-present) Consecutive 19-win seasons seal the deal for Wang, as his competition isn’t that tough. Really just relievers Lindy McDaniel and Tippy Martinez and coaches Tony Cloninger and Charlie Lau. Jackie Jensen wore #40 before becoming a star for the Senators and Red Sox. Andy Hawkins wore it to infamy one afternoon in Chicago.
41 – Randy Johnson (2005-2006) He may have been on his last legs, but he is still one of the all-time greats. Other options are Cliff Johnson (which adds a nice wrinkle to a #41 Johnson t-shirt) and Joe Collins, the latter of whom wore #41 for the first half of his career, through 1952.
42 – Mariano Rivera (1995-present) Mo is the last active player who was wearing #42 when Bud Selig retired it throughout the game in honor of Jackie Robinson. The Yankees were the last team to include #42 among their retired numbers in honor of Robinson. Rivera would have been the last Yankee ever to wear #42 even without the Robinson honor. Also Jerry Coleman’s number. Derek Jeter, Robsinon Cano, and Joe Torre wore #42 on Jackie Robinson day in 2007, the first time the number was unretired for that occasion.
43 – Jeff Nelson (1996-2000, 2003) Also one of three numbers worn by Vic Raschi in 1947.
44 – Reggie Jackson (1977-1981) Not officially retired until 1993, #44 was only worn by coaches after Reggie left the Yankees.
45 – Danny Tartabull (1992-1995) Tartabull was actually fairly productive as a Yankee, but was disliked by the fans because his hitting wasn’t enough to salvage a terrible team, he couldn’t play the field, and he suffered a swift and early decline. Two trades turned Tartabull directly into #45 runner-up Cecil Fielder, who was in turn replaced by fellow #45 runner up Chili Davis. Worn by Joe Girardi while catching Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter.
46 – Andy Pettitte (1995-2003, 2007-present) Andy wore #21 with Houston, one of two former teammates to take Paul O’Neill’s number after leaving the Yankees (Tino Martinez being the other), though Andy was likely honoring pal Roger Clemens’ salad days rather than his former right fielder. Don Mattingly wore #46 in his first two seasons and passed it off to Mike Pagliarulo the following year.
47 – Luis Arroyo (1960-1963) The relief ace of the 1961 Yankees. Lee Smith, Jesse Orosco, and Jim Kaat also wore #47 as Yankees.
48 – Dave Kingman (1977) The slimest pickings south of #64, Kingman was a Yankee for just two weeks at the end of the 1977 season and hit four homers in eight games. Better Kong than Kyle Farnsworth. This was Roy White’s number before he became a starter and is otherwise dominated by coaches and forgettable pitchers. It wouldn’t take much for Phil Coke to make this his.
49 – Ron Guidry (1976-1988, as coach 2006-2007) Currently both the highest and most recent retired number, that’ll change in the very near future (see #51). Never worn by anyone else of significance and, despite not being officially retired until 2003, was only worn once after Guidry retired (Jeff Johnson, 1992).
50 – Don Zimmer (1998-2000) Slim pickin’s here. Zimmer wore a lot of numbers as a Yankee coach, eventually picking up the habit of wearing the number of years he’s been in baseball on his back. He adopted #50 in 1998 in honor of a half-century in baseball and his three seasons with that number on his back were his most with any given figure as a Yankee coach. Ralph Houk wore this as a rookie catcher, Aaron Small wore it briefly in his 10-0 season in 2005, but had most of his success with #31 on his back.
51 – Bernie Williams (1991-2006) As soon as Bernie officially retires, #51 will follow.
52 – CC Sabathia (2009-present) It didn’t even take a full season for CC to make this his. Prior to 2009, I had awarded it to David Weathers because of his performance in the 1996 postseason. Mark Connor wore #52 as a coach for eight seasons between 1984 and 1993. Fritz Peterson wore this as a rookie. Jose Contreras wore it. There wasn’t much competition here.
53 – Bobby Abreu (2006-2008) Not much competition here. Like CC, Bobby claimed this almost immediately upon arrival. Moose Skowron wore #53 as a rookie. Melky Cabrera is a long shot to claim the number from his old friend.
54 – Goose Gossage (1978-1983, 1989) This one should be retired for Goose, especially as it’s being relegated to the backs of coaches at this point. Worn by Ron Guidry and Jay Buhner as rookies, and Alfonso Soriano in early 2000.
55 – Hideki Matsui (2003–present) over Ramiro Mendoza (1997-2002). Jorge Posada wore #55 in 1996
56 – Jim Bouton (1962-1968) Dave Righetti and Al Leiter both wore this as rookies.
57 – Steve Howe (1991-1996) An easy choice given the competition.
58 – Dooley Womack (1966-1968) Womack had two strong relief seasons for the Horace Clarke Yankees. Alfonso Soriano wore this as a rookie. This is also the number of Bronx Banter favorite Colter Bean.
59 – Juan Rivera (2002-2003) The only player to wear it in multiple seasons. D’Angelo Jimenez, Hensley Meulens and Damaso Garcia were among the others to briefly wear #59.
60 – Mike Lowell (1998) over J.T. Snow. Nick Johnson wore #60 as a rookie.
61 – Ted Lilly (2001) First worn in 1980 by Marshall Brant and only sporadically after that, #61 has appeared on the back of a rookie pitcher each year since 2004, most recently on Matt DeSalvo.
62 – Joba Chamberlain (2007-present) It didn’t take much for Joba to write his name in the Yankee history books. Hal Morris, Doug Drabek, and Jorge Posada all wore #62 as rookies.
63 – Jonathan Albaldejo (2008-2009) Of the nine men to wear #63 for the Yankees, only Albaladejo wore it in more than one season. The biggest name on that list is Mike Morgan, who wore it for part of the 1982 season.
65 – Phil Hughes (2007-present) Only two others have worn this (Juan Espino in 1983 and Adrian “El Duquecito” Hernandez in 2001 and 2002), but Hughes deserves inclusion on the main list for his performance in 2009 and (hopefully) beyond.
For the remaining numbers, the players listed are the only ones who ever wore that number as a Yankee during the regular season.
64 – Bill Fulton (1987), Steve Kiefer (1989), Alan Mills (1990), Bronson Sardinha (2007), Francisco Cervelli (2008)
66 – Steve Balboni (1981-1983), Jim Deshaies (1984), Juan Miranda (2008)
67 – Clay Christiansen (1984), Dale Mohorcic (1988)
68 – Brad Arnsberg (1986), Dioner Navarro (2004)
69 – Alan Mills (1990)
72 – Juan Miranda (2009)
77 – Humberto Sanchez (2008)
88 – Ryan Thompson (2000)
91 – Alfredo Aceves (2008-present)
99 – Charlie Keller (1952), Brian Bruney (2009)