The Tuesday Discussion: My Favorite Yankees Center Fielder
Continuing our fun (and popular) series…
This week the SSTN writers share who their favorite Yankees center fielder of all-time is.
Paul Semendinger – BERNIE WILLIAMS!
One of my favorite sites in baseball was watching Bernie Williams run the bases. Bernie was great. I loved rooting for him. He was soft-spoken, classy… a true gentleman.
And he was an outstanding player. OUTSTANDING.
I think he should have had more support for the Hall-of-Fame. He was a terrific player who played a key position on the Yankees championship teams. He also had a ton of clutch hits in the post season.
Bernie was awesome.
The first Yankees jersey I ever owned (and I still have) is #51, for Bernie, my favorite Yankees center fielder of all-time.
Lincoln Mitchell – To describe somebody as the third greatest centerfielder in franchise history would, in most cases, be a back-handed compliment. but with regards to the Yankees things are a little different. It is no insult at all to call Bernie Williams the third best centerfielder in Yankees history because Mickey Manlte and Joe DiMaggio are among the greatest ballplayers in history. I never saw them play, but I saw all of Williams career and was a fan from the beginning. Bernie could do it all. His arm wasn’t great, but he could hit, had good power, good speed, covered a lot of ground in centerfield and seemed to frequently come up with the big hit when the Yankees needed it. He also was a very cool, decent and likable guy who was also an excellent guitar player. One of the most amazing things about Bernie Williams was that he played centerfield and batted cleanup for the New York Yankees during a period when they were the best team in baseball and yet he was never recognized for being the true star that he was. Every time I hear the phrase “core four” I get upset because I know Bernie should be included in that group. Core five doesn’t rhyme but it more accurate and respectful of the legacy of this great Yankees centerfielder.
Tamar Chalker – My favorite Yankees Center Fielder is Bernie Williams. He wasn’t the best player the Yankees have had at that position or even the most colorful personality, but I loved watching the way he played.
Chris O’Connor – The Yankees have such a great history of excellence at the center field position favorite that it makes choosing just one here difficult. I will say my favorite Yankees center fielder of all time is Bernie Williams. I am far too young to have seen legends like Mantle and DiMaggio, but I briefly caught the end of Bernie’s career. I just think his career is so underrated in both the Yankees community (having been overshadowed by the Core 4) and the national baseball community (with his not being inducted to the Hall of Fame). In his 16 years with the Yankees, he was a consistent .300 hitter who could be counted on for 20 homers and 100 RBI’s most years. His low-maintenance personality fit in perfectly with the 1990’s dynasty teams and he actually holds the career postseason record for RBI’s with 80. A great, underrated Yankee lifer, the only thing I wish is that I could have seen more of prime Bernie.
Patrick Gunn – It’s hard not to talk about Yankees’ center fielders without mentioning the legends. DiMaggio and Mantle shaped generations of Yankees’ fans and their names alone elicit an emotional response because of their stories.
With that said, I’m going to say that, right now, Curtis Granderson is my favorite Yankees’ center fielder. He’s a fantastic ambassador for the game and his power to right field was certainly “Grandish.” His tenure in the Bronx was brief but impactful.
Thomas Russo – My favorite Yankee Center Fielder of all time has to be Joe DiMaggio. Growing up as an Italian baseball fan there are two names revered above all others: Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper had the glove, the bat, and the most unbreakable record in all of sports. Especially in today’s game where all that matters is hitting home runs and batting average is shunned as a “terrible stat”, we will never again see anyone come remotely close to hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. That is true greatness.
Ed Botti – I was born long after he was finished playing, but the legend lived on in my house, and by most adults I knew.
It was said he never had to dive for a ball because he always got the right read, took the right routes, and glided smoothly for the ball.
He was the guy all wanted at the plate when it mattered most.
He was so great he earned 2 nicknames.
His 56 game hit streak in 1941 still stands.
A lifetime .325 hitter, who spent 3 prime years defending his country in WWII.
He played 13 seasons, winning 9 world series.
The Yankee Clipper, “Joltin Joe” DiMaggio gets my pick.
Mike Whiteman – My favorite athletes have generally been those who keep their mouths shut and let their play do their talking. That is Bernie Williams in a nutshell.
His numbers sure talked a lot. He had an 8-year run from 1995-2002 in which he slashed .321/.406/.531, anchoring the lineup for eight straight playoff appearances, five AL championships and four World Series titles. He was reliable in the postseason as well, as his .275/.371/.480 backed up.
There was something else to Williams. If there was a big spot and Bernie was at the plate, you felt in good hands, at peace. You trusted Bernie. It’s hard to explain, but he’s one of the few Yanks of my fandom that I have truly trusted.
He did all of this seemingly “under the radar”. Others like Jeter and Rivera got the headlines, but Bernie just produced and produced. He’s a worthy member of the Yankee elite centerfield fraternity.
He’s a pretty darned good guitar player as well.
Michael Saffer – My favorite Yankee center fielder is Mickey Mantle. Known by many as the greatest switch hitter of all time Mantle was larger than life. Watching him swing is something magical. Young boys wanted to be him. Joe Torre once told how he used to put his cap in a coffee can to bend the brim to look like Mantle’s. Fans of all generations wear the number 7 on their jersey to this day. Mickey was a legend.
Andy Singer – Like many other children, I grew up with one or both of my parents either reading to me or telling stories every night when it was time to go to bed. On some of my favorite nights, my father would tell me stories about baseball and the Yankees. From the time I was a young boy, I had ingrained an image in my head of the man, the myth, the legend: Mickey Mantle. Those who know me best know that my ambivalence towards Joe DiMaggio is largely due to the fact that I believe he caused the injury that likely ruined Mantle’s knees too early…yes, this version of events was part of one of the stories my father told me as a boy, along with tales of mammoth home runs and youthful speed on the bases. It seems almost criminal to not name Mantle as my favorite Yankee center fielder…
But I have to go with my gut. Bernie Williams may be the most under-appreciated Yankee of the last 50 years (right up there with Mel Stottlemyer). Was Bernie a Hall Of Famer? Not quite, but without Bernie’s successful rise to the Majors in the early 90s, I don’t think that George would have kept the young core that formed the next Yankee dynasty together, given his impulsiveness and impatience with young players’ development. Throughout his career, Bernie showed power from both sides of the plate, worked at-bats, ran the bases with surprising speed (to this day, if I close my eyes, one of my favorite baseball images is of Bernie Williams going from 1st to 3rd on a single through a hole on the right side of the infield). He really didn’t have a great arm, but Bernie played a sold outfield for at least his early years, and it was always fun to watch him gain speed after his first couple of steps. Bernie was a steady cog in one of the most dominant machines in 20th century sports, and he did it with class, dignity, and humility.
While Bernie is under-appreciated by most people, I think that somehow suits his understated manner. I can tell you that I will forever hold dear the “Bern, Baby, Burn!” chants, and without question Bernie is one of my favorite Yankees of all time.
Ethan Semendinger – Thinking about my favorite Yankees center fielder is an interesting question. My go-to immediate answer would likely be Bernie Williams, but not because he was my favorite player. He was my oldest brother Ryan’s favorite, and being a favorite of a brother alone makes them more special to me. In trying to keep these players relative to my viewing history of the Yankees, I also enjoyed Johnny Damon in center field even though he spent just 4 years in pinstripes. And, forgetting about Curtis Granderson’s short Yankees tenure would also be wrong. He was great too! However, I’m going to break my tradition and go with an outside-of-the-box pick. Nobody ever talks about Earle Combs, and I think he’s one of those forgotten great Yankees in the teams history. I want to petition the Yankees to honor his #1 alongside Billy Martin in monument park, and he was a large reason for my “rethinking the retired numbers” posts back in July.