COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#26)
By Paul Semendinger
In regard to the greatest #26 in Yankees' history, it really comes down to two players. And it actually comes down, in the end, to what one values more - pitching or hitting.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The most worn uniform number in Yankees' history is #26. 74 different players have worn this number to date.
The number has been worn by a bunch of players that had some impressive names like:
John Kennedy (1967), but of course it wasn't President John Kennedy...
Don Johnson (1947-50), but not the Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame...
Archie Moore (1964-65), but not the boxing champ...
Frank Baker (1970-71), but not Frank "Home Run" Baker...
Casey (1949), but this was Hugh Casey, not the Casey who once had a famous at bat...
Jimmy Hall (1969) and Johnny Oates (1980-81) both wore #26, but they weren't (nearly) as successful as the singers Hall and Oates...
There was a Sears (Ken, 1943) and a McDonald('s) (Darnell, 2012), but not the corporate giants...
But, in the end, to get to the debate, it comes down to two players:
PLAYER A - A second baseman/infielder. This player is a lifetime .300 hitter as a Yankee (or thereabouts). Through early June 2022, he had accumulated 12.1 WAR as a Yankee.
PLAYER B - A starting pitcher. This pitcher went 61-40 as a Yankee, but, more impressively, went 8-0 in his first eight decisions in the post season. He accumulated 19.0 WAR.
Player A is, of course D.J. LeMahieu. It is very likely that he will end up as the WAR leader and the player who had the longest years of service in uniform #26.
Player B is Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
There are great arguments to make for each, but as of the writing of this article, I am going to award this honor to Orlando Hernandez.
El Duque was a clutch pitcher. He was also a champion - multiple times. In the world of the Yankees, winning championships matters, and the Yankees won it all in 1998, 1999, and 2000 with Hernandez being a big part of the pitching staff - especially, as noted, in the post season. This makes the winner, for now at least, is El Duque.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.
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