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The Numbers Game: Who’s my Favorite Yankee At Every Uniform Number?

Inspired by a post I saw on Reddit yesterday, I figured this would be an interest thought experiment to test my love, knowledge, and remembrance of the game and the players of many generations of Yankees players.

For this experiment, I used the following list from Baseball Reference, which lists by number every player who has worn the number, even if only for a single game.

Check it out here and see what your own list may look like!

Keep in mind:

-As a Yankees fan since I was born in 1998 there are going to be many players from my generation of fans that made the favorite list, as I would expect to see different results from people born in 1968 as with 1938.

-Also, some of my picks I don’t have a great rationale for. Sometimes I just had to pick somebody I could remember more than the rest. I’d recommend reading this alongside the Baseball Reference link above so we can compare lists.

That being said, let’s get into it!

 

Players #0-9:

#0 – Adam Ottavino

#1 – Earle Combs

#2 – Derek Jeter

#3 – Babe Ruth

#4 – Lou Gehrig

#5 – Joe DiMaggio

#6 – Joe Gordon

#7 – Mickey Mantle

#8 – Yogi Berra

#9 – Graig Nettles

Rationale #0-9:

A lot of these first 10 picks are pretty easy to make given how they were the only one to ever wear the number (see: Adam Ottavino) or they were the one that got to be enshrined in Yankees history forever with a retired number. However, a few exceptions were made:

I didn’t want to include managers, so while Joe Torre was a great part of my early Yankee fandom, I wanted this to be about the players. This helped to enshrine Earle Combs (#1) and Joe Gordon (#6) on my list. Both of whom I’ve enjoyed from reading and learning about those early Yankees days.

Additionally, as a lot of my fandom has come from my dad, I have obviously grown up to be a fan of his favorite players as well. This boosted Graig Nettles- my dad’s favorite player- above Roger Maris.



 

Players #10-19:

#10 – Phil Rizzuto

#11 – Brett Gardner

#12 – Waite Hoyt

#13 – Alex Rodriguez

#14 – Curtis Granderson

#15 – Thurman Munson

#16 – Whitey Ford

#17 – Mickey Rivers

#18 – Didi Gregorius

#19 – Masahiro Tanaka

Rationale #10-19:

A lot of these 10 picks show off a part of the game that I’ve always found exciting: speed and/or quickness. Players like Phil Rizzuto “The Scooter”, Brett Gardner, and Mickey Rivers highlight that crowd.

For others, a big thing has always come down to having a fun name. This will be echoed a lot later, but players like Waite Hoyt, Didi Gregorius (on top of his exciting style of play), and Masahiro Tanaka get a boost here.

I also think it goes without saying about both Alex Rodriguez and Thurman Munson. The history of each number isn’t grand or filled with many players who would’ve been as important to an era of Yankees baseball.


 

Players #20-29:

#20 – Jorge Posada

#21 – Deion Sanders

#22 – Red Ruffing

#23 – Don Mattingly

#24 – Rickey Henderson

#25 – Gleyber Torres

#26 – Orlando Hernandez

#27 – Giancarlo Stanton

#28 – Sparky Lyle

#29 – Catfish Hunter

Rationale #20-29:

Out of spite with Paul O’Neill’s number not being issued since 2001 (except for 2008), I won’t issue it either. So, I went with the man who accomplished the dream in two different sports instead.

Some players definitely missed out on this part of the list, but I do have good reason.

I was calling for the Yankees to get DJ LeMahieu since 2014 when he won the Gold Glove, but El Duque was one of my first favorite Yankees with his leg kick, which gave him #26. Also, it’s been joked that my dad wanted me to be named Duke because of his great performance the day before I was born.

For #24, it also came down to history, and Rickey Handerson was an all-time great, which bumped Robinson Cano and Gary Sanchez.

 

Players #30-39:

#30 – David Robertson

#31 – Ichiro Suzuki

#32 – Elston Howard

#33 – Nick Swisher

#34 – Brian McCann

#35 – Mike Mussina

#36 – David Cone

#37 – Gus Niarhos

#38 – Rob Refsnyder

#39 – Dion James

Rationale #30-39:

This group of numbers is definitely favored towards the younger generations for me, which makes sense. Lots of players wore wore numbers in the 30’s were likely journeyman and other small-time players who I didn’t have the experience to watch play. Yet, some definitely stick out. I’ll highlight a few:

For Ichiro, he was my first favorite baseball player ever and debatably my favorite of all time. I emulated his batting when I grew up and he is why I’ve always been a fan of Asian MLB players. I just wish he became a Yankee earlier and longer.

For David Robertson, there was something about his high socks look that looks particularly nice on the pinstripes.

For Refsnyder, I was so confident he was going to be a solid MLB player, especially after his Fenway Park home run in his first MLB stint.

 

Players #40-49:

#40 – Chien-Ming Wang

#41 – Miguel Cairo

#42 – Mariano Rivera

#43 – Adam Warren

#44 – Reggie Jackson

#45 – Chasen Shreve

#46 – Andy Pettitte

#47 – Jordan Montgomery

#48 – Tommy Kahnle

#49 – Ron Guidry

Rationale #40-49:

Another group definitely favored to the new guys, but with some obvious stars of the Yankees historic legacy in Mariano Rivera, Reggie Jackson, Andy Pettitte and Ron Guidry.

I think this also shows my odd affinity towards relief pitchers who show signs of greatness at times. I was oddly upset when both Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve were traded away, and super excited when Warren came back. Maybe the same could happen with Shreve?

On top of this comes other players who fill other reasons I’ve expressed previously: Tommy Kahnle has the nice high-socks look. Chien-Ming Wang was a great Yankee from Asia for a few years. And, for Miguel Cairo, I collected his baseball cards growing up and he was known “Franchie” around my house. I don’t know why, but that helps a lot in something like this.

Also, Andy Pettitte was my middle brothers favorite player growing up.

 

Players #50-59:

#50 – Chris Chambliss

#51 – Bernie Williams

#52 – CC Sabathia

#53 – Melky Cabrera

#54 – Aroldis Chapman

#55 – Hideki Matsui

#56 – Jim Bouton

#57 – Chad Green

#58 – Alfonso Soriano

#59 – Hensley Meulens

Rationale #50-59:

Chambliss is a cop-out answer because he wore #50 for a game as a joke while also being a coach on the team. That’s pretty funny, so he got the nod.

Hideki Matsui is my favorite Yankee of all time. Bar none. And, that will never change. After loving Ichiro, when the Yankees acquired a Japanese player he was instantly my favorite and he immediately lived up to the hype. I’ll never forget 2009 as long as I live.

If you’ve never read Ball Four, go out and change that. It’s a fantastic book to read about the day-to-day of being a journeyman pitcher and the behind-the-scenes of the MLB. Maybe this is why I seem to like so many journeyman arms.

And, Bernie was my oldest brothers favorite player growing up.

 

Players #60-69:

#60 – J.T. Snow

#61 – Chan Ho Park

#62 – Joba Chamberlin

#63 – Zoilo Almonte

#64 – Francisco Cervelli

#65 – Phil Hughes

#66 – Kyle Higashioka

#67 – Miguel Andujar

#68 – Dellin Betances

#69 – Alan Mills

Rationale #60-69:

After passing Jim Bouton (#56), a lot of these players are going to be very random guys who I have some sort-of connection with. I’ll try to explain it, but some things are impossible to truly explain.

For guys like Joba and Phil Hughes it really came down to me watching them play. I enjoyed watching them both- as with almost every Yankee in the 2000s.

You’ll also see a new trend with picking recent back-up catchers (BUC). And, I’ll put myself on the line here when I say, if the Yankees end up in a situation with the World Series on the line and David Price on the mound for the Dodgers, I’d send up Higgy to bat against him.

Miguel Andujar also sweeps in with #67 which he wore in his rookie season. For Snow I used to collect his baseball cards, Zoilo Almonte has a fun name, and Alan Mills wins by default as the only Yankee to wear #69.

 

Players #70-99:

#70 – Breyvic Valera

#71 – Austin Romine

#72 – Chance Adams

#73 – Gary Sanchez

#74 – Mike Ford

#75 – David Hale

#77 – Clint Frazier

#85 – Luis Cessa

#88 – Ryan Thompson

#90 – Thairo Estrada

#91 – Alfredo Aceves

#99 – Aaron Judge

Rationale #70-99:

The numbers and players really become sparse at the top numbers. If you’re ever a Yankees prospect pick a high number nobody has ever worn before and you’ve set yourself up to be the best Yankee at that number at least temporarily. (See: Luis Cessa, Thairo Estrada, and Alfredo Acceves)

For the others, did you remember Gary wore #73? Me neither, but he did so this counts. The Kraken is a fun player to watch, although frustrating at times when slumping. But, this makes my Rickey Henderson pick earlier at #24 sting less.

Clint Frazier is gonna be an All-Star if he ever has a team let him stick around long-term in the MLB. Everyone knows it, and I’m eagerly awaiting that day.

You’ll find another BUC with Austin Romine, who will go down in history for his Detroit Tigers brawl. David Hale saved the Yankees twice big-time in 2018. I think Mike Ford is Joey Votto-lite with his plate discipline, and as much as I wanted to pick Dioner Navarro at #99, there is no player like Aaron Judge.

 

Try this out for yourself, it’s a fun way to pass some time as you look back and really try and pull out a good reason for some of these crazy picks.

Let me know where we differ! I’m sure there’s a lot of variation between fans of different generations.

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