COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#12)
By Paul Semendinger
We're getting closer to the shortest posts in the series where the answer to the best at each number is clearly obvious.
But we're not there quite yet...
52 players in Yankees history wore uniform #12. 52!
Currently, the much-maligned Isiah Kiner-Falefa wears uniform number 12.
What is interesting is that a host of Hall of Famers also wore #12 at one point in their Yankees career. This list consists of the following:
Waite Hoyt (1929)
Herb Pennock (1932-33)
Wade Boggs (1993-97)
Ivan Rodriguez (2008)
When Roger Clemens gets into the Hall of Fame, he will raise the total of Hall of Famers to five. Clemens wore #12 in 1999. Kenny Lofton has an outside shot at the Hall of Fame. He wore #12 in 2004.
Other All-Stars and award-winners who wore the number include:
Babe Dahlgren (All-Star) - 1938-40
Buddy Rosar (5x All-Star) - 1941-42
Oscar Grimes (All-Star) - 1943
Charlie Keller (5x All-Star) - 1945-48
Bill Martin (All-Star) - 1950
Gil McDougald (6x All-Star, Rookie of the Year) - 1951-60
Mike Hegan (All-Star) - 1964
Ron Blomberg (First DH in history) - 1969-76
Jim Spencer (All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves) - 1978-81
John Mayberry (2x All-Star) - 1982
Roy Smalley (All-Star) - 1983-84)
Eric Chavez (6 Gold Gloves) - 2011-12
Vernon Wells (3x All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves) - 2013
Alfonso Soriano (7x All-Star) - 2002-14
Chase Headley (Gold Glove) - 2014-17
Troy Tulowitzki (5x All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves) - 2019
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (Gold Glove) - 2022-
Holy Cow! Uniform #12 easily has the largest collection of Hall of Famers, stars, and award winners. While many of the awards the players who wore #12 came while members of other teams, it's still an impressive list. Many of baseball's best players who also played for the Yankees ended up in uniform number 12.
For the sake of this exercise, determining which player was the greatest Yankee in #12, I'll look at the players who wore the number the most seasons. This list consists of the following players:
Jack Saltzgaver (1934-37) - 4 seasons
Charlie Keller (1945-48) - 4 seasons
Gil McDougald (1951-60) - 10 seasons
Ron Blomberg (1969-76) - 8 seasons
Jim Spencer (1978-81) - 4 seasons
Wade Boggs (1993-97) - 5 seasons
Alfonso Soriano (2002-03, 2013-14) - 4 seasons (He also wore #33.)
Right from the start, three names jump out: Gil McDougald, Ron Blomberg, and Wade Boggs.
As Yankees, their traditional stats are as follows:
McDougald: .276/112/576 (1,336 games, wore #12 exclusively through his entire career, spent as a Yankee only.)
Blomberg: .302/47/202 (461 games, wore #12 exclusively through his entire Yankees career, also played 61 games for the White Sox.)
Boggs: .313/24/246 (601 games as a Yankee, only wore #12, but, of course had a long caeer with the Red Sox and then played with Tampa Bay after his Yankee days.)
If we go to bWAR, the numbers read as follows:
At that point it becomes a no-brainer.
There were a host of very good and great players who wore #12 while in pinstripes, but the greatest of these was Gil McDougald, an under-appreciated Yankee from one of the team's greatest eras.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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