COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#45)
By Paul Semendinger
I remember when the Yankees acquired Danny Tartabull, #45. “Oh man, we got a good one.” I thought. D.T. Danny Tartabull.
Now, before you think that I was crazy, this was 1992. The Yankees were terrible. In 1991, Danny Tartabull had hit .316/31/100 for the Royals. He had led the league in Slugging Percentage (even though I probably didn’t know that at the time). He was a BIG bat. A slugger. I couldn’t wait for him to lead the Yankees up the standings.
Tartabull was okay as a Yankee that first year batting .266/25/85 but it wasn’t what I had hoped.It then went downhill from there.
Danny Tartabull was one of 49 different players to wear #45 as a Yankee. With a list that long, it would be difficult to run down all the players, but here are some highlights:
The first Yankee to wear #45 was Clint Courtney in 1951. Courtney was a Yankee for all of one game.
Stan Bahnsen wore #45 when he won the Rookie of the Year in 1968.
Jim Beattie wore #45 in 1978 when he was insulted by George Steinbrenner.
Rudy May wore #45 in 1980 when he led the A.L. in ERA..
Dennis Rasmussen wore #45 when he became a Yankee after he was acquired in a trade with the Padres for Graig Nettles.
Lots of sluggers beside Danny Taratabull wore #45 at one time or another as Yankees. These include Steve Balboni, Cecil Fielder, Chili Davis, Felix Jose, and Henry Rodriguez.
Zolio Almonte and Zelous Wheeler both wore #45.
When he did pitch, Carl Pavano was #45.
Lots of middle relievers wore the number. Trust me, lots.
Luke Voit wore the number in 2018 and 2019.
Currently, #45 belongs to staff ace Gerrit Cole.
Who is the best among these players?
You might be surprised. Let’s count up from fifth to first…
5th Place – 5.6 WAR: Dennis Rasmussen and Rudy May
3rd Place – 7.8 WAR: Gerrit Cole
2nd Place – 7.9 WAR: Danny Tartabull
1st Place – 11.5 WAR: Stan Bahnsen
Stan Bahnsen went 55-52, 3.10 as a Yankee over five seasons. He threw 985.2 innings. He was a good pitcher. He’s often forgotten about, but he was a solid pitcher in a time when the Yankees were mostly a second division club.
The greatest Yankee to wear #45 is Stan Bahnsen.
Over time, it is suspected, and expected, that Gerrit Cole will surpass him. Cole’s WAR totals as a Yankee have been 2.1 and 5.7. If he gives the Yankees just a 3.8 WAR season in 2022, which would be a disappointment, he would take the all-time WAR total away from Stan Bahnsen.
It is expected that by this time, Gerrit Cole will reign supreme as the greatest Yankee who wore #45, but for now Stan Bahnsen claims that honor.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com.
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