The Tuesday Discussion: My Favorite Yankees Left Fielder
You all know the drill by now. Here the SSTN writers share who their favorite Yankees left fielder of all-time is.
Lincoln Mitchell – I am limiting this to people who I saw play, so while Bob Meusel always intrigued me, I am going to go with a more recent choice. I have been watching baseball closely for about 45 years. During that time the single most exciting player I ever saw was Rickey Henderson. In his first years with the A’s, there was no player like him. His speed, ability to get on base seemingly all the time, excellent defense and surprising power made him not only extremely valuable, but a pleasure to watch. Henderson was traded to the Yankees before the 1985 season. He played more center than left for the Yankees, but he was primarily a left fielder throughout his career. While with the Yankees, he had an OBP of .395, led the league in stolen bases four times, hit more than 20 home runs twice and played great defense. He was traded from the Yankees back to the A’s midway through the 1989 season. I was at Candlestick Park when the trade was announced on the scoreboard. I was upset because the Yankees were losing a great player and also because it meant that the Giants-my favorite NL team-were now likely to lose to the A’s in the Bay Bridge series we were anticipating.
Michael Saffer – My favorite Yankee left fielder of all time is Gene Woodling. He had a respectable career batting average of .284 according to baseball reference. I also admire the fact that he served in the military taking time away from baseball to defend our country. He also grew up in my home town in Fair Lawn, NJ. It always gave me hope as a little boy that someone from my town made it big with the Yankees. There is still a field named after him behind one of the schools.
Ed Botti – Left field, the position I always wanted to play, but I was born an infielder!
Left field is an interesting position for the Yankees. Because of the dimensions (especially at the old park) you essentially needed a center fielder to patrol the large area of the field.
The Yankees have had some great left fielders over the years. Babe Ruth played 891 career games in left field as a Yankee, Dave Winfield’s first 3 seasons in the Bronx were in left field, and he was fantastic. Rickey Henderson played the entire 1985 season and parts of 1986 in left field, let’s not forget Brett Gardner.
Before our time Charlie “King Kong” Keller played 874 games in left field, and Bob Meusel starred at the position during the 1920’s.
The 1996-2000 dynasty team had a revolving door in left field, it was the 1 position that was never really set.
In contrast, growing up it was always Roy White’s position, he played left field in 1,521 games from 1966 to 1979. Most fans from that era loved Roy White, including me.
However, if you read my piece last week where I spent 2,070 words talking about the fire inside Hideki Matsui, you will know my choice.
Others we may have forgotten played left field for portions of their careers include: DiMaggio, Mantle, Earle Combs, Yogi, Enos Slaughter, Elston Howard, Tom Tresh, Dan Pasqua, Dion James, Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Johnny Damon, Lou Piniella, Gene Woodling, David Justice, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee, Mel Hall, and even Jose Canseco.
But mine is Godzilla!
Paul Semendinger – As a child, at the dawn of my interest in baseball, the neighbors growing up across the street, probably about eight years older than me, and very cool, and probably a big reason why I became a Yankees fan, loved Roy White. My sister, copying them, became a Roy White fan. Sibling rivalries being what they were, Roy White couldn’t also be my favorite player.
I always liked Charlie Keller. He was awesome. I loved that he was called “King Kong” Keller. I learned later that he hated that nickname.
Bob Meusel was on the Murderer’s Row Yankees. I always liked him too. I think he was a moody and sometimes indifferent player.
I never loved Dave Winfield, who most remember as a left fielder, but in his first year in New York played left.
Rickey Henderson was awesome. I loved Rickey. But he wasn’t a Yankee for a long time and after he was traded back to the A’s, he was so good that I had to root against him.
Part of baseball is sharing the love as a father and a son. We love the players our fathers loved and then the players our children love as well. For this reason, I have to give a shoutout to Ted Williams (who, of course) was never a Yankee, but was (and is) my dad’s all-time favorite player.
Later I saw what it was like to watch baseball through a child’s eyes and no one loved Hideki Matsui more than my son Ethan. I still have the NY Post front page from when the Yankees signed him. We LOVED rooting for Matsui.
Because of Ethan’s move for Godzilla, I too, will always consider him one of my favorites. He’s my left fielder.
Chris O’Connor – My favorite Yankees left fielder is Brett Gardner. I am too young to know anybody other than Gardy manning left field (or center field at times) and he has been a steadying presence on the team since the World Series win in 2009. More than any stats, Gardy always embodied a guy who played great defense, always played incredibly hard, and made the most of his talent. He frequently puts together good at bats in the playoffs and in recent years has become a key veteran leader for the team. I hope he stays a Yankee for life!
Ethan Semendinger – My favorite Yankees left fielder is Hideki Matsui. For as long as I can remember he has been my favorite player. When I first learned how to play baseball, as a left-handed hitter I would often try to run at the ball while making contact and using my speed to get on base. This reminded my Dad of Ichiro and thus he became an early favorite player of mine. From here it was only natural for Matsui to also become a favorite as I developed an affinity (that I hold to this day) for Japanese-born baseball players. I remember my dad used to have the NY Post hanging on his door at work from when the Yankees signed Matsui, the highs and lows of trying to pull a Matsui baseball card (which were always the rarest because it seemed to never happen), seeing his walk-off home run against the Orioles on July 20th 2009 in person (my first walk-off game), the 2009 World Series, the 2010 Yankees home opener ring ceremony against the Angels, going to Hideki Matsui Day in 2013…the list can go on forever. There will never be a player to me like Hideki Matsui. He will always be my left fielder.