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