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COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#47)

By Paul Semendinger

***

One day I might write a post listing the Yankees I first think about or associate with a uniform number. There is no rhyme or reason for the players I choose, it’s just who they are.

For example, when I first started following the Yankees, #17 was Mickey Rivers, but when I think of #17, the first Yankee I think of is Oscar Gamble.

When I think of #47, I think, first, of Ray Fontenot.

Yes, Ray Fontenot. I don’t know why.

***

Forty Four different Yankees have worn #47.

It would take me a week to write them all and list them, so for today, I’ll pick out the highlights:


Currently, Jordan Montgomery wears #47


Ivan Nova wore the number from 2010-2016


Shane Spencer was #47 from 2008-2002


Hall-of-Famer Lee Smith wore #47 for his brief Yankees career of 8 games


Ray Fontenot wore the number in 1983 and 1984


Luis Arroyo wore #47 from 1960 to 1963

Those players would be the contenders for the greatest Yankee (well, not Fontenot or Smith) to wear #47.

There were a host of stars and minor stars who passed through Yankees history who wore this number. These include:


Bobby Shantz


Andy Messersmith


Jim Kaat


Rick Honeycutt and


Ron Villone

But, let’s get to it and see which of the above players was the best ever as a Yankee:

Jordan Montgomery – 77 games pitched, 19-17, 4.01: 6.8 WAR

Ivan Nova – 131 games pitched, 53-39, 4.41: 7.4 WAR

Shane Spencer – 345 games played: .263/43/167: 3.9 WAR

Luis Arroyo – 127 games pitched, 22-10, 3.12 plus 43 saves: 2.6 WAR

Hummmmm…

***

If we go by WAR, it become a race between Ivan Nova and Jordan Montgomery.

But, if we go by impact, maybe with extra points for championships and the like, Luis Arroyo has to get consideration. Arroyo, as many know, was the fireman, the “closer”, on the legendary 1961 Yankees. But is that enough?

Arroyo was an All-Star (once). The others never were.

Arroyo pitched in the 1960 and 1961 World Series (he did not pitch in the 1962 post season). The Yankees won the World Series in 1961 and 1962.

***

If I had to pick between Ivan Nova, who was pretty good, but never very good, and Jordan Montgomery, I’d pick Montgomery. I think he is the better pitcher and he has a good future. He should exceed Nova’s WAR in 2022. Even if we give the award to Ivan Nova, he won’t have it for long.

So, for now it comes down to Jordan Montgomery or Luis Arroyo.

I’m going to go with the smaller sample size and the lower WAR and award this honor to Luis Arroyo. He led the American League in Games, Games Finished, and Saves in 1961. He finished 6th in the MVP voting. All of that has to count for something.

Jordan Montgomery is knocking at the door, but, for now at least, the greatest Yankee in uniform #47 was Luis Arroyo.

***

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

***

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