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COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#38)

By Paul Semendinger

***

My goodness, everyone wore this number, 71 players in all.

71.

Marius Russo was the first, in 1939.

The Yankees seemed to give this number to a person who they didn’t feel would make a big impact on the team.

Oh, you… sorry, forgot you were on the team. Here, take #38…

It’s almost worth taking a look year by year:

1939 – Marius Russo

1940-41 – Not issued

1942- Hank Borowy

1943-45 – Not Issued

1946- Mel Queen

1947- Karl Drews

1948-1950 – Gus Niarhos

1950-1952 – Johnny Hopp

1952-1953 – Loren Babe

1953 – Willy Miranda

1953-1955 – Art Schallock

1955 – Ted Gray

1955-1965 – Johnny Blanchard (it seems he took the number, stuck around, and kept it, one of the rare few who did this.)

1965 – Doc Edwards

1966 – Not issued

1978-1968 – Frank Fernandez

1969 – Len Boehmer

1970-1974 – Steve Kline

1974 – Cecil Upshaw

1975 – Not Issued

1976 – Ken Brett

1976-1977 – Carlos May

1978 – Not Issued

1979 – Jerry Narron

1980-1981 – Tom Underwood

1982 – Barry Evans

1982 – Dave Stegman

1982-1983 – Curt Kaufman

1983 – Dave LaRoche

1984 – Jose Rijo

1985-1986 – Ed Whitson (once the issued him this number, he might have know it wouldn’t work out well)

1986 – Leo Hernandez

1987-1988 – Pat Clements

1988 – Hal Morris

1988 – Scott Nielsen

1989-1990 – Clay Parker

1990-1994 – Matt Nokes (it seems if you wear #38 and expect to stick around for a while, it’s best to be a left-handed hitting catcher)

1995 – Josias Manzanillo

1995 – Jeff Patterson

1996 – Matt Howard

1997 – Homer Bush

1997 – Scott Pose

1998 – Ricky Ledee

1999-2000 – Jason Grimsley

2001-2003 – Randy Choate

2003 – Drew Henson

2003 – Brett Prinz

2004 – Travis Lee

2005 – Ramiro Mendoza

2005 – Buddy Groom

2006 – T.J. Beam

2006 – Kris Wilson

2007 – Chase Wright

2008 – Chris Britton

2008 – Dan Giese

2008 – Chris Stewart

2009 – Ian Kennedy

2009 – Brian Bruney

2010 – Marcus Thames

2011 – Luis Ayala

2012-2013 – Cody Eppley

2013-2014 – Preston Claiborne

2014 – Brandon McCarthy

2015 – Andrew Bailey

2015 – Jose Pirela

2016 – Ben Gamel

2016 – Chad Green

2016-2017 – Rob Refsnyder

2017 – Kyle Higashioka

2018 – Shave Robinson

2018-2019 – Jonathan Loaisiga

2019 – Cameron Maybin

2020 – Erik Kratz

2021 – Andrew Heaney

(Whew…)

There’s a definite pattern to this number that holds true. If a player gets issued this number, and that player looks like he will stick around, the Yankees quickly give him another number. #38 seems to be the trying ground. It’s used early (as in a player’s career) and often.

In the end, this comes down to the fact that one player, and only one, wore this number for any significant period. That player was Johnny Blanchard.

Johnny played for the Yankees for eight years He hit 64 total homers for the Bombers while hitting .245 and driving in 187. In 1961, he blasted 21 homers in a magical year for the Yankees. That was the high water mark. Blanchard played mostly outfield and catcher.

After playing for the Yankees, Blanchard played for the Kansas City A’s and the Milwaukee Braves.

As a Yankee, the only number he wore was #38.

Blanchard accumulated just 2.9 WAR as a Yankee.

Matt Nokes (5 years, .249/71/222) actually accumulated 4.5 WAR as Yankee. In fewer years, he accumulated more total WAR, but Blanchard went to four World Series (winning two), and played a significant (enough) role on those clubs. Matt Nokes was on the teams that climbed out of the cellar, and he was on the 1994 team that lost its season due to the strike, but Blanchard had the greater impact. When looking at two players who averaged less than 1.0 WAR per season for their Yankees career, other factors must be taken into consideration. For that reason, Blanchard wins.

The greatest Yankee at uniform #38 was Johnny Blanchard.

***

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

***

PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#99)

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#91-98)

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#91-98) UPDATED!

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COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#51)

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COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#44)

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