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

By Paul Semendinger

***

Johnny Lucadello was the first player to ever wear #52 as a member of the New York Yankees. Johnny was one of those players whose career got cut short, and radically changed, by World War II. As a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1941, he played in 107 games (at second base primarily) and batted .279. By the time he returned from his military service, he didn’t have much left in the tank. In 1946, he hit .248 in 87 games for the Browns. In 1947, he was a Yankee. He lasted only 12 games in pinstripes batting .083.

Jim Delsing, an outfielder who would play big league ball for ten years, mostly with the Tigers, wore #52 for nine games as a Yankee in 1949.

In his first big league season, Tom Morgan, pitched to a 9-3, 3.68 record in 27 games for the Yankees in 1951 while wearing #52. He changed to uniform #28 in 1952.

Lots of players wore uniform 52:

Fritz Peterson, 1966

Joe Verbanic, 1967-70

Larry Murray, 1975

Dave Rajsich, 1978

Roger Slagle (a Least Among Them Yankee), 1979…

The number has been used and used again.

Mike Griffin

Doyle Alexander

Otis Nixon

The list goes on and on…

For decades, the Yankees never had a standout who wore #52:

Juan Espino, Bob Geren, Dave Eiland, Mark Hutton, Dave Weathers, Danny Rios…

Pete Incaviliga, Joe Borowski, Mike Buddie, Ed Yarnall, Jose Contrares, Luis Vizcaino…

But then the list ends with one name.

I suspect, that’ll be the last, Yankee to wear #52. He is certainly the greatest.

C.C. Sabathia.

Sabathia wore #52 for eleven seasons – from 2009 through 2019.

Wearing #52, he won 134 games as a Yankee (against 88 loses) with a 3.81 ERA.

Wearing #52, Sabathia was a three-time All-Star.

Wearing #52, C.C. Sabathia helped pitch the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009.

Sabathia’s 134 wins ranks him tenth all-time on the Yankees’ list.

It’s all but a certainty that Sabathia will receive induction into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame and the Yankees’ Monument Park. It’s clear that C.C. Sabathia was the greatest Yankee to ever wear #52.

I suspect his number will be retired.

In this case, the last was the best of the bunch.

By far.

***

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

***

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