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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#8)

By Paul Semendinger

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All of five players wore #8 as a Yankee. Four of those players were catchers: Johnny Grabowski, Bill Dickey, Aaron Robinson, and Yogi Berra.


The only non-catcher to wear uniform #8 as a Yankee was Johnny Lindell. People forget about Johnny Lindell, but he was a player who was both a pitcher and an outfielder for the Yankees.


Today, uniform #8 is retired for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra, two of the greatest catchers in Yankees history.


This article will determine who was the better player of the two, and it's closer than one might think.


Yogi Berra is, of course, the more famous of the two. Yogi was one of the most legendary and iconic baseball players of all-time. Yogi is quoted in Bartlett's Famous Quotations. Yogi was one of baseball's biggest personalities for decades. And there is lots of film of Yogi that comes from some of baseball's most legendary moments including Jackie Robinson stealing home, Sandy Amoros' catch, Bill Mazeroski's homer, and Don Larsen's Perfect Game.


A quick pause, it is interesting that many of the famous clips of Yogi Berra involve some of the Yankees' worst moments: Robinson was safe, the Yankees lost the game and the World Series in 1955 (Amoros) and again 1960 (Mazeroski).


On the list of catchers all-time, Yogi Berra ranks sixth in WAR. But, right behind him, in seventh place, is Bill Dickey. Imagine that, of all the players in the history of the game, these two Yankees rank one after the next.


Looking at traditional stats, Berra dominates:


BERRA: 2,116 games 285/358/1,430

DICKEY: 1,789 games .313/202/1,209


But, and this is where the surprise comes, when we look at the "Triple Slash" (OPB/SLG/OPS) stats, it is Dickey who has the better numbers:


BERRA: .348/.483/.830

DICKEY: .382/.486/.868


If one were to look to OPS+, the edge again goes to Bill Dickey (127 to 125).


Yogi Berra, of course won three MVP awards and was on ten World Championship teams. Yogi was an All-Star in 15 seasons*. These numbers are all superior to Bill Dickey who never won an MVP, was an All-Star 11 times, and was on eight World Series teams.


(*Yogi Berra was an All-Star 18 times, but there were years when there were two All-Star games.)


And, yes, Yogi won those three Most Valuable Player Awards, but, what many don't know is that Bill Dickey received MVP votes in nine different seasons. He was the runner-up in 1938 and finished in the top five three times. Dickey was no slouch. (Yogi earned MVP votes in 15 seasons and he was a runner-up two times (1953 and 1956). Imagine if he had won five MVP's!)


Both players, of course, are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


It would be difficult to give the edge to Bill Dickey in this comparison. But, one statistic should be noted to further demonstrate just how good Bill Dickey was.


.351


In 1943, as a part-time player, Bill Dickey batted .351 in 85 games. Dickey didn't play in 1944 or 1945 as he was serving in the military. One has to wonder if he could have maintained that level of performance for a few more years. When he came back, for the 1946 season, Dickey batted .261 in 54 games and retired.


It was also in that period that Bill Dickey taught the position to Yogi Berra.


The greatest Yankee at #8 was Yogi Berra, but it is a lot closer than one might think.


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Here is an added bonus. The following, as measured by WAR, were the greatest catchers in Yankees history:

  1. Yogi Berra 59.4

  2. Bill Dickey 56.4

  3. Thurman Munson 46.1

  4. Jorge Posada 42.7

  5. Elston Howard 27.2

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

***

PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES: (All the links should work. If not, please let us know.)


4 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Mar 19, 2023

Aaron Robinson, sandwiched in between Dickey and Berra, had a couple of good seasons for the Yankees, including getting some MVP votes in 1946 (4.1 WAR) and making the All-Star Team in 1947. He was a lefty-hitting catcher (like Dickey and Berra), with a 136 OPS+ in his 232 games with the Yankees from 1945-1947. In the '47 World Series, Berra started out platooning with righty-hitting Sherm Lollar, but Berra batted only .158 with a home run and was benched in favor Robinson for games 5 through 7, who hit .200 in 12 PAs, both hits being singles. In the winter, Robinson was sent to the White Sox as part of a package for Eddie Lopat.


One bit of Berra…

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Mar 19, 2023
Replying to

I had a Strat league and wanted Aron Robinson in it so I had to make a cared for him. He did well!

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yankeesblog
Mar 18, 2023

As Yogi would have said, "Robinson was called safe"

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Mar 18, 2023
Replying to

I know. But there was another angle that shows he was safe.

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