The Best #27? Already?
How often can someone arrive on the scene and instantly be the best of all time?
The moment Giancarlo Stanton steps on the field as a Yankee, he just might be the greatest Yankee player to ever wear #27. With a team with a history as rich as the Yankees, being the best player to wear any uniform number isn’t easy, yet uniform #27 hasn’t had the greatest career.
The Yankees have, of course, retired a host of numbers, but even among the non-retired numbers, there are many that have been worn by exceptional players. Taking a look at uniform #11, for example (the lowest number that isn’t retired), one finds the names of many great players who wore that number at one point in their Yankees career most notably Hall-of-Famer Lefty Gomez who wore #11 for eleven seasons (1932-42). Moving to number #12, one finds that Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs wore that number throughout his Yankees career from 1993-97. In addition to Boggs, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Charlie Keller, and Gil McDougald, all famous Yankees, wore #12. Now, I am not advocating for these, or any other numbers, to be retired. I share these facts just as quick examples to state that is isn’t easy to be the best player to wear almost any uniform number as a Yankee. This is especially true of the numbers under #30.
Yet, for whatever reason, #27 has not had a great of a history. When one reviews the history of #27 with the Yankees, he sees…mediocrity. 61 players have word that number as Yankees. Many of those players have been forgotten by all but Yankee historians and true die-hard fans.
From that list some of the better players to wear #27 as Yankees are highlighted below:
The first player to wear #27 as a Yankee was outfielder Sammy Byrd in 1929 (the first year the Yankees issued uniform numbers). In 62 games that year, Sammy Byrd hit .312. Byrd played with the Yankees for six seasons batting a respectable .281 in 565 games. But Byrd only wore #27 for one season.
Hall-of-Famer Joe Sewell wore #27 in 1931 when he batted .302 in 130 games. But Sewell also didn’t wear the number very long. The next season, he was wearing #21.
Pitcher Spud Chandler wore #27 in 1939, but he wasn’t great that year, appearing in only eleven games. Chandler won the MVP Award in 1943, but by that season he was wearing #21.
Early in his All-Star career, Jackie Jensen wore #27, but again just for one season (1951). Jensen was a great talent who won the American League MVP in 1958, but that (believe it or not) was when he was playing with the Boston Red Sox.
Bobby Murcer once wore #27, but it was at toward the end of his career in 1979 just after he was reacquired from the Chicago Cubs. He must not have worn that number very long because when he had his legendary game just after Thurman Munson’s death, in August of that year, he was wearing #2.
The most recent Yankee to wear #27 has been Austin Romine. He has worn that number each of the last two seasons.
If those were the most notable players to wear #27, it seems an easy conclusion to determine that Giancarlo Stanton will be the greatest Yankee to wear #27, almost immediately. And he is truly great during a long Yankees career, he just might be the last Yankee to ever wear that number.
(Now there has been talk that Stanton might wish to wear #77 so that he an Aaron Judge (#99) can be a modern Mickey Mantle (#7) and Roger Maris (#9). But we’ll look at that if it actually happens.)