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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

It Is Time To Fix the Yankees' Monument Park

by Paul Semendinger

July 30, 2023

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NOTE - This article was featured in Here's The Pitch, the newsletter for the IBWAA on July 15, 2023.

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The Yankees have a section of Yankee Stadium, accessible to the fans before most games and mentioned on most broadcasts of the games where they honor some of the greatest and most important players in their rich history. This area, called Monument Park, houses plaques for these legendary Yankees. On the Yankees web site, Monument Park is described in this manner, "Monument Park, located in center field, recognizes legends who have appeared at Yankee Stadium over the years."


This brings up some simple questions. What legends are recognized? Why have they been chosen? And who makes these decisions? The answers to those questions are unclear. The Yankees do not have a voting process for former players to be included in this area. Some players are recognized, but others, players who were more worthy in many regards than the players honored there, have been left out. The Yankees have also never publicized their selection process or rationale for including certain players. For a place supposedly to honor their heroes, it is shrouded in mystery.


The Yankees have recognized five different managers in Monument Park. The four greatest managers in their history, Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, and Joe Torre are recognized there. But, along with them, so is Billy Martin, a manager who was fired by the Yankees five times, and often amid great controversy. As a manager, Martin won 556 games and won one World Series. Ralph Houk, who managed 944 games and won two World Series, has never been recognized by the Yankees for his contributions to the team and the success they had under his leadership including being the manager of the 1961 Yankees, one of the most legendary teams in the history of the sport.


The Yankees have recognized seven starting pitchers with plaques in Monument Park. These include Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry, Andy Pettitte, Allie Reynolds, Red Ruffing, and Mel Stottlemeyre. All are worthy of this honor and recognition, but there are some very notable, and noticeable, absences. Allie Reynolds was a great Yankees pitcher, but he was part of a trio of great Yankees starters in the era in which he pitched. Along with Reynolds were two other team legends, Ed Lopat and Vic Raschi. Neither Lopat or Raschi are honored there. They both belong in Monument Park, but have never been added. A host of Hall of Fame pitchers also spent much of their careers with the Yankees franchise including Jack Chesbro, Waite Hoyt, and Herb Pennock. A strong case for Catfish Hunter and Mike Mussina, also both Hall of Famers, can also be made.


While there are 27 different players in Monument Park, the Yankees have never included a third baseman in that hallowed ground. Graig Nettles is widely considered the team's greatest third baseman. He played on four World Series teams, two that were World Champions. He was also a Yankees captain, the first to gain this honor after Thurman Munson. By WAR as a Yankee, Graig Nettles ranks 15th all-time. Why has he never been granted the honor?


The Yankees also had other great third basemen, among them Home Run Baker and Wade Boggs (two Hall of Famers) along with Red Rolfe, Clete Boyer, and Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees need to begin to recognize those players.


The Yankees have seven outfielders enshrined in Monument Park, but none (save for Babe Ruth, who is remembered more as a right fielder) ever played any significant time in left field. The 11th greatest Yankee all-time by WAR, Roy White, also a multiple time World Champion, has never received his due from the Yankees. Roy White, widely considered one of the classiest and most dignified Yankees of all time, along with being their greatest left fielder, belongs in Monument Park. Other great Yankees outfielders such as Earle Combs and Dave Winfield (both Hall of Famers), along with Tommy Henrich, Bob Meusel, and Charlie Keller also deserve this honor.


The great Yankees' second baseman Willie Randolph is, appropriately, in Monument Park, but why are Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon, along with 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson not included there? Jerry Coleman, also a second baseman, and one of only two Major Leaguers to serve in both World War II and Korea, also deserves this honor.


Tino Martinez, who was an excellent Yankee first baseman, and a World Champion numerous times, is in Monument Park, but forgotten greats such as Wally Pipp and Moose Skowron, also champions, are absent.


Frank Crosetti was a World Champion shortstop and then a coach on the Yankees for decades. In the history of the franchise, no player has ever been part of more championship teams than Frank Crosetti. One cannot truly tell the story of the Yankees without Frank Crosetti being part of that story, but or whatever reasons, Frank Crosetti, has never been included among the Yankee legends recognized in their ballpark.


Inconsistencies like these make me question the purpose and legitimacy of Monument Park. Why are some greats included but others have been left out? This is something the Yankees have never explained.


In a very real sense, Monument Park serves as the Yankees' own Hall of Fame. It is, as they say, where they recognize their legends. But they don't recognize all, or even most of their legends, they include only just a select few and for reasons unknown that seem arbitrary and extremely unfair. I see this as a problem for the team and its history. Monument Park should be a place where the Yankees honor all of their greats. When a player is honored with inclusion there, he becomes someone who will be remembered forever. Conversely, when worthy players are left out, they, over time, become forgotten.


Fans will visit Monument Park and read about and remember Paul O'Neill, a great right fielder who accumulated 26.7 WAR as a Yankee and was on four Yankees World Series winners, while at the same time those visitors will never learn about Hank Bauer, also a right fielder, who earned 29.7 WAR, was on seven World Series winning teams. Bauer was also a hero in World War II. If Paul O'Neill deserves to be remembered through inclusion in this hallowed ground, then Hank Bauer, a superior player in many regards, and a World Champion more times, also deserves this honor.


It is time for the Yankees to make Monument Park more inclusive. It is time for them to create a panel of experts that can include baseball historians, writers, executives, former players, announcers, and maybe even fans, and have transparent yearly elections to open up Monument Park not just to those who the organization, for reasons unknown, unclear, and never explained have been recognized, but to all of the Yankees who by their play, dedication, and excellence also deserve this honor.


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Paul Semendinger runs the great Yankees site Start Spreading the News. He has written the highly acclaimed Scattering the Ashes, Impossible is an Illusion, The Least Among Them, and From Compton to the Bronx. Paul is currently beginning his research on a new book about some different Yankees, ones who never played professional baseball, and others, at the Battle of Gettysburg.

3 Comments


Alan B.
Alan B.
Jul 30, 2023

Hey, too many Yankees have gotten their number retired IMO. Pete Sheehey, who died in 1985, was in charge of giving the uni # out. He gave Reggie #44, since his #9 was being worn by Nettles. I would've loved to see what Pete would've done with #21 after The Warrior, or who would've been given #49 after Gator, just to point out 2. Sometimes numbers were not worn until 'the right person' came along. A plaque is just a plague, should there be more of them? Probably. But if you made 3 all time Yankees teams, like third team all NBA, there would be guys left off that would easily have been the best or 2nd best in any…

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 30, 2023
Replying to

All fair points, but if an organization is going to recognize its heroes, it needs to... recognize its heroes. And the process for doing so should be transparent.


I'd love for the Yankees to explain why Graig Nettles isn't there. Was he not good enough? Did he make someone mad? Is that a reason to exclude a former captain and Yankees great?


How about Roy White?


Why is O'Neill there ant not Hank Bauer? Bauer was the better player.


Why Reynolds and not Raschi or Lopat?


Why makes these decisions and why? What rationale do they use? Who assures that the Yankees who are unfairly forgotten get a chance to be remembered?


And, I'm not saying to retire their numbers.…


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jjw49
Jul 30, 2023

Hank Bauer and Graig Nettles egregious omissions imho along with others... so who is to be blamed? Look no further than Hal at the very least they could rotate some of these great Yankee into Monument Park! Maybe they don't have room? Only Hal can make this happen and he's too busy counting the money and talking to the bond holders!

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