COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#23)
By Paul Semendinger
And sometimes these are easy.
#23 is Don Mattingly.
Simple. Easy. Period. No questions asked.
The greatest Yankee to wear #23 was Donald Arthur Mattingly.
In the history of the Yankees, 25 different players wore #23. Just for fun, I'll list them all:
Tony Lazzeri (1932)
Floyd Newkirk (1934) - A Least Among Them Yankee!
Frank Masosky (1937)
Dick Kryhoski (1949)
Fenton Mole (1949)
Bob Porterfield (1950-51)
Archie Wilson (1951)
Bill Miller (1951-54)
Tommy Byrne (1954-57)
Murray Dickson (1958)
Ralph Terry (1959-64)
Rich Beck (1965)
Jim Brenneman (1965)
Billy Bryan (1966-67)
Bob Tillman (1967)
Ellie Rodriguez (1968)
Don Nottebart (1969)
John Ellis (1969-72)
Jerry Moses (1973)
Alex Johnson (1974-75)
Oscar Gamble (1976)
Damaso Garcia (1978)
Luis Tiant (1979-80)
Barry Foote (1981-82)
Donnie Baseball (1984-95) - Retired
It's Don Mattingly. Plain and simple.
Mattingly led the American League in hits twice, doubles twice, runs batted in once, and batting average once. He was an MVP. He was a six-time All Star. He won nine Gold Gloves. Mattingly on three Silver Slugger Awards.
Yeah, that's easy.
But, who is the runner-up? It comes down to two pitchers: Tommy Byrne or Ralph Terry.
Byrne (1954-57) : 30 wins, 16 losses, but just 0.5 WAR
Terry (1959-64): 76 wins, 56 losses, 9.0 WAR
Terry gave up the big home run to Bill Mazeroski to end the 1960 World Series in a loss, but he also got Willie McCovery to line out to end the 1962 World Series in a victory for the Yankees.
Terry's best year was 1962 when he went 23-12 and led the AL in games started and innings pitched.
It's great to remember Don Mattingly, but we also shouldn't forget that Ralph Terry was a pretty good pitcher for a nice period of time. Tommy Byrne's WAR belies his second tenure with the Yankees (he was also a Yankees in 1943 (before the war) and from 1946-51).
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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