COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#61)
By Paul Semendinger
When I think of uniform #61 with the Yankees, I think, immediately, of Roger Maris and the “novelty” uniform he held up after he hit his 61st home run in his magical 1961 season:Embed from Getty Images
But, of course, Roger Maris actually never wore #61.
Who, among the players who did, was the best?
As we continue this exercise, we quickly see that #61 has been a number that has been used extensively by the Yankees.
28 players have worn uniform #61. That’s a lot of players.
(The uniform number worn by the most Yankees all-time is #26. 74 different players have appeared as Yankees in that number.)
But, on to #61.
From Baseball-Reference, here is the full list of Yankees who have worn this number:
Ben Heller (2016-2020)
Jake Barrett (2019)
Giovanny Gallegos (2018)
David Hale (2018)
Justus Sheffield (2018)
Shane Greene (2014)
Dellin Betances (2013)
Luis Cruz (2013)
David Huff (2013)
Corban Joseph (2013)
Adam Warren (2012)
Steve Garrison (2011)
Raúl Valdés (2011)
Royce Ring (2010)
Chan Ho Park (2010)
Billy Traber (2008)
Matt DeSalvo (2007)
Darrell Rasner (2007)
Jorge De Paula (2005)
Brad Halsey (2004)
Juan Padilla (2004)
Ted Lilly (2001)
Jim Bruske (1998)
John Habyan (1990)
Orestes Destrade (1987)
Phil Lombardi (1987)
Jim Lewis (1982)
Marshall Brant (1980)
The first thing that strikes me when I see that list is that no player wore the number for a very long period of time.
The Yankees seem to issue this number to a quick call-up, one they don’t think is going to stick with the team. Many of the players on this list, including David Hale, Shane Greene, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Brad Halsey, Ted Lilly (and others), also wore others numbers as Yankees.
But one player, just one, was assigned #61 and kept that number wearing it in more than one season.
This has to make that person the best Yankees #61 ever.
That player is Ben Heller who wore #61 in four different seasons: 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020.
As a Yankee, Ben Heller appeared in 31 games.
He was never a losing pitcher as his lifetime record is 2-0, 2.59.
In a grand total of 31.1 innings, he struck out almost a batter an inning, totally 30 strikeouts.
Those are pretty good numbers.
Good enough to make him the best #61 ever for the Yankees.
(In 2017, he also wore uniform numbers 41 and 50, that’s just what happens when you wear #61, so I’m going to let that small fact pass.)
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com.
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