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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#17)

By Paul Semendinger

***

Mickey Rivers and Oscar Gamble. When I think of uniform #17, those are the two players I think of.


I also think of Brett Gardner. Brett Gardner, who wore #11 his entire career, is a player I always remember as wearing #17. I'm not sure why. Sometimes our minds and memories play tricks on us.


But when one looks to see the greatest at #!7, it isn't even really a discussion.


***

The first great Yankee to wear #17 for any length of time was Vic Raschi, the "Springfield Rifle." He wore #17 from 1947 to 1953 which were his best years. In those seven seasons, the Yankees went to the World Series six times, winning all six. A big reason for the Yankees' success was Vic Raschi.


In those years, he had a .702 winning percentage going 118-50, 3.47. He had 205 starts in those years and completed 97 of those starts. Think about that, he completed 47% of all his starts over a long, long period. From 1948 through 1952, Raschi threw over 222 innings every season. He won and won and won:


1947: 7-2

1948: 19-8

1949: 21-10

1950: 21-8

1951: 21-10

1952: 16-6

1953: 13-6


Amazing.


Raschi was, of course, part of the "Big Three" along with Allie Reynolds and Ed Lopat that

anchored the Yankees rotation in those years.


From 1947-1953, Raschi (as noted) was 188-50, 3.47. Allie Reynolds in that period went 118-56, 3.30 (but he also pitched 68 games out of the bullpen). Ed Lopat went 97-47. 3.10 from 1948-53 (in 1947, he was on the White Sox). In short, that was an amazing triumvirate. And Raschi might have been the greatest of all three.


Enos Slaughter next wore #17 from 1954 through 1959, though for part of that time, he was also on the Kansas City A's. Slaughter hit .253 in 350 games as a Yankee at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career.


There were some other notable Yankees who wore #17 in passing. This list includes:

  • Tommy Henrich (1938-39)

  • Bobby Richardson (1955-56, when Enos Slaughter was away)

  • Bobby Murcer (1965-66) and

  • Gene Michael (1968-74)

A few players who made their names with other teams wore #17 over the years. This list includes:

  • Elmer Valo (1960)

  • Mike Easler (1986-87)

  • Rafael Santana (1988)

  • Claudell Washington (1988)

  • Dwight Gooden (2000)

  • Lance Berkman (2010)

  • Matt Holliday (2017) - no one has worn #!7 since Holliday

Two other players of note wore #17 as Yankees:

  • Broadcaster John Flaherty wore it from 2003-05 and

  • Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays' manager) wore it in 2009.

***

For the record, Mickey Rivers wore #17 from 1976 through 1979. People remember Rivers as being a longtime great Yankee, but he only played for the Yankees for three and a half seasons, being traded on July 30, 1979. In that time, Rivera batted .299 for the Yankees. In 1976 and 1977, he had his best two Yankees seasons, batting .312/8/67, with 43 stolen bases in 1976 and .326/12/69, with 22 stolen bases in 1977.


Oscar Gamble was a Yankee from 1979 through 1984. He was the primary player traded for Mickey Rivers in 1979. Gamble had been a Yankee previously, but in 1977, right before the season, he was part of the trade with the White Sox that brought Bucky Dent to the Yankees. From 1979 on, Gamble played in 430 games batting .267/70/219.

***

The greatest Yankee in #17 is easily, and without question, Vic Raschi.


***

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

***

PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES: (All the links should work. If not, please let us know.)


COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#18)


4 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Sep 07, 2022

P.S. The reason no one has worn No. 17 since Holliday is that Aaron Boone has been wearing it as manager since 2018!

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Sep 08, 2022
Replying to

I always forget what number Boone wears as he just wears that hoodie all the time.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Sep 07, 2022

It's a lot closer than you describe it, though I can't argue with the conclusion. Raschi edges Rivers in Yankee WAR, but only 15.4 to 15.1, but in over twice the time. In 1976, Rivers had 6.4 WAR, second on the team to Nettles 8.0 (the real AL MVP that year) and better than the elected AL MVP, Thurman Munson, 5.3 WAR. Raschi's peak was 3.0 WAR in 1949; Rivers' worst full season with the Yankees was 3.5 WAR in 1978. The upshot is that Rivers was a key performer on three pennant winners, two of which won the World Series. Raschi had six rings, but was just a cog in the wheel, averaging 2.2 WAR per year. Duration-wise, …


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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Sep 08, 2022
Replying to

Yes, I knew about #23 in 1976.

I don't think this case is as close as WAR would have you believe. (And I use WAR a lot, as you know.)

Raschi was a more important Yankee than Rivers, and I think by quite some distance.


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