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COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#43)

By Paul Semendinger

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Good ol’ uniform #43 is sandwiched between #44, Reggie Jackson, and #42, Mariano Rivera (and Jackie Robinson).

#43 has been an often used number in Yankees history. To date, forty-two different players have worn this uniform number. Maybe the next player will be the greatest. That would be somewhat poetic…the greatest player to wear #43 being the 43rd player to wear #43.

But, for now, I need to sort out whom among the other forty-two was the best.

It won’t be easy. At all.

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Frank Hiller was the first Yankee to wear #43. He wore the number in 1946 when he pitched in all of three games. He also wore #38 that year. Three games and two numbers, that might be a record…

Vic Raschi wore #43 in 1947. This was his first very good year. He went 7-2, 3.87 that year. But, Raschi also wore uniform numbers 19 and 17 in 1947, so how many games he actually pitched in this number would take Sherlock Holmes to figure out. Suffice it to say, I’m sure he didn’t do well enough to be the greatest at this number.

This is what we’re up against with #43. It was a number used by passers-by and guys getting quick looks. In the long history of the Yankees, and in the long history of #43, twenty-one players have worn the number in just one season. None of these were superstars or even stars. Most were just passing through.

The first player to actually wear #43 in more than one season was Roger Repoz who wore this number from 1964 to 1966, the entirety of his Yankees career. He played in 127 games in #43. He hit .240 with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in. As a Yankee, he accumulated 0.2 WAR.

Rob Gardner wore #43 from 1970 to 1972, but in 1971, he also wore #39. In 23 games as a Yankee pitcher, he went 9-5. His WAR was 0.0.

Jim Ray Hart wore #43 in 1973 and 1974. He played in 124 games as a Yankee. He hit .243/13/52 but his WAR was -0.2.

Rudy May, in his first stint as a Yankee, wore #43 from 1974 through 1976. In that period, he went 26-19. His WAR was 5.3. This makes a compelling case…

Ken Clay wore #43 in 1978 and 1979. He went 4-11.

Doug Bird wore the number in 1980 and 1981… he went 8-1, 2.68 in his Yankee career. He pitched to a 2.1 WAR.

George Frazier wore #43 from 1981 through 1983. He went 8-9, 3.25. His WAR was 4.4.

Tim Stoddard wore #43 from 1986 to 1988. He went 10-6, but his WAR was only 1.0.

Jeff Johnson pitched to an ERA of 6.52 as a Yankee. He also wore #49.

Another Jeff, the set-up man, Jeff Nelson, wore #43 from 1996 to 2003. His WAR was 6.5 over those years. He won 22 games, lost 19, and saved 8 games. He was an integral cog on those championship teams appearing in 307 games.

Then there was Raul Mondesi in 2002-03. He blasted 27 homers in that time.

Scott Proctor seemingly pitched every single game in #43 between 2005 and 2007. He pitched in 164 games.

Damaso Marte wore #43 in 2009 and 2010.

Adam Warren wore #43 for a very long time, from 2012 to 2018. He pitched in 246 games as a Yankee. He accumulated a 7.4 WAR, but added to no championships unfortunately.

Today #43 is Jonathan Loaisiga. He might, one day, be the best at this uniform number, but that would take years…

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WAR is not the “be-all-and-end-all stat, but it gives a good frame of reference when comparing players. The #43 with the best WAR was Adam Warren, but the best Yankee to wear #43 was Jeff Nelson. Nelson appeared in more games and played a more significant role in Yankees’ history, that makes him the best.

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

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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 (#53)

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#52)

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

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#50)

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#49)

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#48)

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

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