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  • Paul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#14)

By Paul Semendinger

***

When I think of the #14, I immediately think of Lou Piniella. Sweet Lou. Some other Yankees have worn #14, but I don't recall many of them. I believe Curtis Granderson wore this number. Tyler Wade too. Isn't that interesting. Some things just stick in our heads...others, not so much. It was (way) before my time, but Moose Skowron also wore #14, as I recall.


Let's dive into this...


In total (through the 2022 season), 45 different players have worn #14 as a Yankee. The most noteworthy of these players were:

  • Gene Woodling (1949-54)

  • Moose Skowron (1955-64)

  • Lou Piniella (1974-84)

  • Pat Kelly (1991-97)

  • Curtis Granderson (2010-13)

Some other players of note who wore #14 were:

  • George Pipgras, in 1929, the first to ever wear this number

  • Bump Hadley (1936-40)

  • Ruger Ardizoia (1947) - A Least Among Them Yankee

  • Pedro Ramos (1964-66)

  • Bobby Cox (1968-69)

  • Ron Swoboda (1971-73)

  • Hideki Irabu (1998-99)

  • and Tyler Wade (2019-21)

It's funny, three of the least productive Yankees in recent years, Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, and Neil Walker, all who struggled in the years the Yankees spent trying to replace Robinson Cano at second base, each wore #14 - as did Robinson Cano at the start of his career (in 2005).


In looking at the best Yankees to wear the number 14, we can first look at WAR. This should bring the list to a precious few...

  • Moose Skowron = 23.7

  • Gene Woodling = 16.3

  • Curtis Granderson = 14.9

  • Lou Piniella = 9.3

  • Pat Kelly = 4.7

The first shocking reality is that Lou Piniella ranks so low. He wore #14 in more seasons (11) than any other Yankee. Let's also look at games played:

  • Lou Piniella - 1,037 (11 seasons)

  • Bill Skowron - 1,000 (as #14, he also wore #53) (9 seasons as a Yankee)

  • Gene Woodling - 698 (6 seasons)

  • Pat Kelly - 591 (7 seasons)

  • Curtis Granderson - 513 (4 seasons)

It is amazing that Lou Piniella played as long as he did and has such a low overall WAR. What is also amazing is that 76% of his total WAR as a Yankee came in two seasons:

  • 1974 (3.4 WAR) = 140 games, .305/9/70

  • 1978 (3.7 WAR) = 130 games, .314/6/69

In 1977, Lou Piniella batted .330, but he played in just 103 games. All in all, Lou Piniella batted .277 or better in ten of his eleven seasons as a Yankee. He had one bad year (1975, where he batted .196).


I'm amazed that Piniella's overall WAR isn't better. Piniella wasn't much of a fielder, as a Yankee, his dWAR was a -6.4. But even if we gave him all those points back, he still wouldn't crack the top three in WAR.


If we look to OPS+, here is how these five players rank:

  • Bill Skowron - 129

  • Gene Woodling - 124

  • Curtis Granderson - 120

  • Lou Piniella - 111

  • Pat Kelly - 82

Lou Piniella still can't crack the top three Yankees to be the best at #14. When I started this article, I thought Piniella might just edge out Skowron as the best #14 ever. (Boy was I wrong!)


So, let's look to the best two...


Gene Woodling played on five consecutive World Series winners. In those five years, he batted .291. He played fine defense as a left fielder, primarily as the left-handed hitter in a platoon. In three seasons, 1951, 1952, and 1953, he received votes for the American League Most Valuable Player. Gene Woodling isn't much remembered, but he was an important part of a team that won more consecutive World Series than any other in baseball history.


The greatest Yankee to wear #14 was, unquestionably, Bill "Moose" Skowron. In his nine-year Yankees career, in an age of much less offense when 20 homers in a season meant a very good year, he averaged 18, along with 75 runs batted in. Moose Skowron batted .275 or better in six of his first seven seasons as a Yankee batting over .300 five times. Moose was an adept first baseman. He was an All-Star for five consecutive seasons and he received MVP votes in two seasons. All told, the Yankees went to seven World Series (winning four) in his nine years as a Yankee. The Yankees sent Skowron to the Dodgers in 1963 and then the Dodgers won the World Series (defeating the Yankees) that same year.


The greatest Yankee in uniform #14 was Bill Skowron.


***

Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.

***

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