COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#32)
By Paul Semendinger
April 15, 2022
(QUICK NOTE - This article ran on April 15, 2022, but it did not seem to transfer over when we changed platforms. I am re-running it to keep the archive of these posts complete.)
Uniform number 32 is retired for the great Elston Howard. But, since the number was retired about sixteen after he left the Yankees, I have to wonder if he was the greatest player to wear #32.
Elston Howard was the most notable, of course, being the Yankees’ first Afraican American to wear the number, but, was he the best player.
This quick study will find out…
Only nine Yankees have ever worn uniform number 32. These players were (in chronological order):
Arndt Jorgens (1929)
Bill Karlon (1930)
Ken Holloway (1930)
Frank Barnes (1930)
Eddie Phillips (1932)
Dusty Cooke (1932)
Steve Sundra (1938-39)
Ralph Houk (1947-54)
Elston Howard (1955-67)
A quick review, makes my initial question moot. Elston Howard wasn’t just the greatest Yankee to wear #32, it isn’t even close.
Besides Ralph Houk who work the number as a back-up catcher who was a Yankee for many years, but played rarely, if ever, most of the players on this list have been lost to the ages. Most are not remembered at all.
Here is the same list of players with a few added statistics, the number of games they played as a Yankee, their WAR as a Yankee, the number of games they played in their career, and their lifetime WAR:
That speaks volumes. The combined WAR of the players (other than Elston Howard) as Yankees totals 1.7. Howard’s WAR as a Yankee was 27.7.
This one isn’t even close. Not by a long shot.
The greatest Yankee to wear #32 was, and will always be, Elston Howard.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.