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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#39)

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

By Paul Semendinger

***

As we wind down, slowly, into the lower numbers, we start to see the numbers that have been used the most in Yankees history.


Uniform #28 has been worn by 74 players.


Uniform #38 has been worn by 71 player and


Uniform #39 has been worn by 67 players.


This is the third most popular Yankees uniform number ever.

***

No player has worn #28, #38, and #39.


Four players wore #38 and #39. Those players (in chronological order) were Frank Hiller, Loren Babe, Chris Britton, and Chad Green.


Two players wore #28 and #39. Those two players were Tommy Byrne and Melky Cabrera.

(Where else do you get information like this?)

***

I pride myself on knowing (almost) everything about the Yankees, but among the names of the players who wore #39 were a few that I have never heard of, or have forgotten that they even played for the Yankees:

  • Mike Chartak (1942) – 16 games as a Yankee

  • Wally Hood (1949) – 2 games as a Yankee (that was his whole MLB career)

  • Harry Schaffer (1952) – 5 games as a Yankee (that was his whole MLB career)

  • George Wilson (1956) – 11 games as a Yankee

  • Wayne Granger (1973) – 7 games as a Yankee (and who, I could have sworn pitched for the Mets, but never did*)

  • Jim Magnuson (1973) – 8 games as a Yankee

  • Don Cooper (1985) – 7 games as a Yankee

  • Brent Lillibridge (2013) – 11 games as a Yankee

  • Chris Nelson (2013) – 10 games as a Yankee

***

*I just thought of it – Wayne Garrett (not Granger) played for the Mets!

***

The Yankees with the longest tenures with #39 were:

  • Jim Coates: 1959-62

  • Steve Hamilton: 1963-70 and

  • Roberto Kelly: 1987-92

If one were to pick the best ever at #39, it would have to be among those three players.

***

Of note, in 1963, the Yankees traded Jim Coates to get Steve Hamilton.

***

Jim Coates pitched in 167 games as a Yankee (37-15, 3.84). He accumulated a grand total of 1.0 WAR.


Roberto Kelly played in 638 games as a Yankee wearing #39 (.280/56/258). His total WAR was 13.7.


And then there was Steve Hamilton. He pitched in 311 games over eight years in pinstripes (34-20, 2.78). His WAR was 9.4.


This becomes a question over total WAR and longevity with the club and the value of a pitcher or an outfielder:


Steve Hamilton was a Yankee for 8 years, Roberto Kelly for 6.


Roberto Kelly played in more than double the amount of games than Hamilton pitched in.


Before doing this exercise, I would have thought that Steve Hamilton would have won this honor hands down, but the more I consider it all, it seems clear that the greatest Yankee to ever wear #39 was…


Roberto Kelly.


Although this doesn’t help his case, Roberto Kelly was traded for Paul O’Neill who became a Yankees star. (Steve Hamilton was simply placed on waivers to end his time with the Yankees.)


The greatest Yankee #39 is Roberto Kelly.


(This is fun!)

***

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


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