The Tuesday Discussion: My Favorite Yankees First Baseman
This week we asked our writers to name their favorite Yankees first baseman of all-time.
Here are the responses:
Paul Semendinger – On the short list of my favorite players anywhere is Don Mattingly. The great Don Mattingly who, for much of the 1980s, was the New York Yankees. Donnie Baseball.
Mattingly was great. The best.
But, as much as I loved Mattingly and root for him still, I can answer this question any other way than with Lou Gehrig. I am inspired by Lou Gehrig so often. His drive, work ethic, grace, class… The Iron Horse.
“The luckiest man on the face of the Earth speech…”
The Pride of the Yankees.
Mattingly and Gehrig.
Gehrig and Mattingly.
Two of my all-time favorites. But if I had to pick just one, it would be Henry Louis Gehrig.
Ed Botti – The Yankees have had some excellent First Basemen in their illustrious history. It all starts with Lou Gehrig and goes from there. Obviously, none of us actually saw the great Gehrig play.
When you look up his stats, you would think they were from a local softball league, not MLB. He was dominant, to say the least.
Limiting my selection based solely on players I actually saw play is not very hard to do, if you were a fan during the 1980’s, it’s a simple answer.
Don Mattingly was the complete package. Incredible left handed hitter, very good power who hit to all fields, a doubles machine! Defensively, he was a wizard at first base with great hands, strong arm, and fearless. He was always in the right place at the right time on the field.
During his tenure, Mattingly and Keith Hernandez owned the nightly news highlight reels here in NYC. It was something to see. They redefined the position! If you get a chance look either of them up fielding a bunt and making the play. You don’t see that level of precision and intensity today.
In the locker room, there was not a more respected player in all of MLB, earning him the title of Team Captain.
Hands down Don “The Hitman” Mattingly (that was his nickname before “Donnie Baseball”— does anyone remember that famous poster?) was and still is the most impactful Yankee First Baseman since Gehrig.
Honestly, to this date besides Hernandez, he has no peers at First Base.
If you weren’t around back then to watch him play, and hear how excited Phil Rizzuto would get on the old WPIX telecasts when he would make one insane play after another, you missed out.
Great memories of an all-time great Yankee!!
If he didn’t hurt his back in 1987 he would already be in the Hall of Fame, and should be anyway.
Take my word for it, no one has replaced him yet!
Tamar Chalker – Lou Gehrig. I think that of all the Yankees of that era, he’s the one I wish I could have seen play live the most.
Mike Whiteman – Don Mattingly is my favorite Yankee first baseman of all-time. The end of his career, marred by injury, sometimes causes us to forget how historically good he was at one time for the Yanks.
His 1984-1987 seasons were just ridiculous – slashing .337/.381/.560. and averaging 30 home runs (when 30 home runs wasn’t routine) . He did this while striking out on average 37 times per year. While playing Gold-Glove defense. He was certainly in the conversation of All-Time Yankee greats until the injuries significantly reduced his power.
I just loved watching him hit, and used to imitate his stance and swing (albeit from the right side). Sadly, it didn’t help me reach the curveball, and when I did make contact, I could be counted on for a nice 200-foot fly out.
James Vlietstra – Lou Gehrig. He was the heart and soul of the early Yankees dynasties. You knew he would be in the lineup every day and produce at an incredibly high rate.
ALS cut his career short at age 35. Probably at the point he would have compiled unmatchable stats. Like if he averaged only 22 HR over the next 5 years, he would have hit 600 in his career. But his runs and rbi totals would be by far the best.
He had 135+ runs 9 times. 150+ rbi 8 times. OPS of 1.0+ 11 straight years. Over 100 extra base hits twice. Over 400 total bases 5 times.
However his legend will live forever because he never got the chance to become a compiler. Cut down in his prime by an incurable disease. Celebrated by his Murderers Row teammates at the first Old Timers Day. Elected to the Hall Of Fame by a special secret vote.
His speech on July 4th , 1939 is THE Iconic moment. The grace and humility he showed while looking death in the eye.
I used to think how great it would have been to see Lou Gehrig at OTD when I was a kid. However, if he was still alive in the mid-80s, it’s possible that there wouldn’t even be an Old Timers Day.
Patrick Gunn – My favorite Yankees’ first baseman is Mark Teixeira. He was the Yankees’ rock at the position when I was growing up as a baseball fan and he did (almost) everything well. He played great defense, he hit for power from both sides of the plate, and he led in the locker room. Hard to ask for more.