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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#36)

Updated: Jan 25

By Paul Semendinger

***

When one looks as the many players (55 in all) who wore #36 for the Yankees, just two names stand out.


These two players are very similar in a number of ways and each has a legitimate claim to the honor as being the best Yankee to wear #36.


Let’s begin by looking at some similarities in their careers:


  • Both players were stars before ever becoming Yankees

  • Both players were important contributors to Yankees dynasties

  • Neither player was an every-day player

The interesting thing is that these two players played completely different positions. One was a back-up first baseman/pinch hitter, the other was a starting pitcher.


One is in the Hall of Fame, the other isn’t.


One was a 10 time All-Star, the other a five time All-Star.

***

Johnny Mize was a Yankee from 1949 to 1953. In each of his five seasons with the Yankees, the Yankees won the World Series. Mize was a great player in the National League before coming to the Yankees. In the N.L., he was a legendary power hitter. Mize, as a Yankee, though, played in over 100 games in a season just once. He hit 25 homers in the 1950 season, but only 19 homers in total over his other seasons in New York. He never hit .300 or even as high as .280. Still, he was an important cog in a Yankees machine that only won and won and won some more. Johnny Mize is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Still, Mize’s lifetime WAR with the Yankees was only 3.8.


That low WAR probably makes the debate moot…


The other player was...

David Cone.


David Cone came to the Yankees in 1995 and went 9-2 down the stretch. He was the ace (or right behind ace Jimmy Key). Cone was the big pitcher, the Yankees needed. Cone came in and pitched the Yankees into the post season. He helped the Yankees take that next huge step.


It is possible that without David Cone, the great Yankees of the 1990s never become the great Yankees. Cone was the ace, in name and/or performance for the next four years. The Yankees won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 with Cone on the staff. He won 20 games in 1998. He pitched a perfect game. David Cone was also a leader in the clubhouse.


Cone is not in the Hall of Fame. He might get there one day, but that isn’t likely to happen for a while. He is ranked by JAWS as the #48 best starting pitcher of all time. He ranks ahead of C.C. Sabathia, who many consider a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Ahead of Cone, though are Luis Tiant and Tommy John. Andy Pettitte, might also get the nod ahead of Cone. Still, his 62.3 lifetime WAR is above what many feel is the standard for Hall of Famers (60.0 WAR).


One can make a good argument that the Yankees became a championship team only once they acquired David Cone. It would be difficult to argue that the Yankees would have won without Cone. Johnny Mize was a part of the Yankees dynasty that won four consecutive World Series, but I sense they probably would have won those series with or without Mize.


As a Yankee, David Cone’s WAR was 20.3. Cone was a star before he came to the Yankees, but his WAR as a Yankee eclipses his WAR for any other team.


At the start, it looked like this might be a fair debate, but in the end, David Cone wins this easily.


The greatest Yankee to wear uniform #36 was David Cone.

***

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

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