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They Were Yankees, Too!

SPECIAL GUEST POST - By Richard Cuicchi


Several weeks ago I contributed a piece to SSTN about young prospects the Yankees allowed to “get away” and who went on to have substantial careers with other teams.

This article takes an opposite view of former Yankee players, by identifying major leaguers who had significant careers with other teams and then played briefly with the Yankees toward the end of their careers. We don’t usually associate these players with having worn the Yankee pinstripes.

Some of them were Hall of Famers, but not because of their time with the Yankees. Some were one-year “rentals” by the Yankees to fill a hole in their roster and weren’t expected to be around for more than a season. Still, others were “hangers-on,” usually older players wanting to play another year or two before retiring.

Below is a brief bio of some of the players I have identified. If you are a regular “Immaculate Grid” participant, it might be beneficial to remember the names of these players who ended up appearing for multiple teams, including the Yankees.

Paul Waner is the poster child for this group of former Yankee players. He had a Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1926 to 1940. He slashed .340/.407/.490 and was a three-time batting champion. In his best season in 1927, he hit .380 and drove in 131 runs, both career highs. He was voted the league’s MVP. During World War II, when the majors needed to replace most of the regulars who had left for military service, Waner (38 years old in 1941) hung around to play for the Braves, Dodgers and Yankees. He ended his career with the Yankees, playing nine games in 1944 and one in 1945.

Ralph Branca is best remembered as the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher that gave up the legendary game-winning home run to Bobby Thomson in the 1951 one-game playoff between the Dodgers and Giants. As a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he is primarily thought of as an opponent of the Yankees, not as a teammate on their championship teams. He pitched for the Dodgers from 1944 to 1953, facing the Yankees in the 1947 and 1949 World Series. After being released by the Detroit Tigers in July 1954, the 28-year-old asked Yankees manager Casey Stengel if he could pitch batting practice late in the 1954 season. The Yankees eventually signed him, and he pitched in five games in August and September. He was out of baseball after only one major-league game in 1956.

Bobo Newsom was the classic journeyman pitcher, playing for nine different teams between 1929 and 1953. He is one of only a handful of players to pitch in four decades. He is most associated with the Washington Senators, with whom he had five different stints. In July 1947 when he was 39 years old, the Yankees purchased him from Washington to replace Spud Chandler in the starting rotation, after Chandler developed arm trouble. He posted a 7-5 record and 2.80 ERA in 115 2/3 innings and started Game Three in the World Series. It was his only season with the Yankees. He pitched until he was 45 years old, finishing with a 211-222 record and 3.98 ERA.

Bert Campaneris was the shortstop on the Oakland A’s teams that won three consecutive World Series (1971-1973). Altogether he played 13 seasons for the A’s (including the predecessor Kansas City franchise) from 1964 to 1976. He was a five-time All-Star, including one with the Texas Rangers. After spending the 1982 season in the Mexican League, “Campy” signed with the Yankees. He started the next season with Triple-A Toledo, but then was quickly called up to the Yankees, where the 41-year-old became a valuable backup to second baseman Willie Randolph and third baseman Graig Nettles. He batted a career-high .322 in 60 games. When he retired after the 1983 season, he had collected 2,249 hits and 649 stolen bases.

Gaylord Perry was a Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 22 years in the big leagues, primarily with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers. He was acquired by the Yankees in a trade with Texas in August 1980, and the 41-year-old helped them capture the AL East Division championship with eight starts down the stretch. It was his only year with the Yankees. Perry finally retired after the 1983 season with 314 career wins. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was known for using the “greaseball” earlier in his career.

Andy Messersmith is remembered for his role in forcing Major League Baseball to end the reserve clause in 1975, allowing players to have a say in what teams they played for. He had been a top-flight pitcher for the California Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, finishing in the Top 5 for the Cy Young Award in three seasons. After missing half of the 1977 season with Atlanta due to elbow surgery, the Yankees gambled that he could be rehabbed and thus purchased him for the 1978 season. Messersmith was on the road to a full recovery, but then separated his shoulder during spring training. He ended up only making five starts for the Yankees before he was released. He finished with a career record of 130-99 and 2.86 ERA.

Lance Berkman was a member (along with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell) of the potent “Killer Bs” of the Houston Astros before being acquired by the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2010. The Yankees needed a designated hitter/pinch-hitter, as they fought for the division title against Tampa Bay. Although the 34-year-old had been a .296/.410/.537 hitter with 375 home runs in 12 seasons with the Astros, he was marginally effective with the Yankees, producing only one home run and nine RBIs and batting .255 in 37 games. It was Berkman’s only season with the Yankees. The six-time All-Star, who finished in the Top 7 for MVP voting in six seasons, retired after the 2013 season.

Matt Holliday was a multi-year All-Star with both the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. He posted one of his best seasons when the Rockies won their first-ever National League pennant in 2007. He led the NL in two of the three categories to qualify for the Triple Crown, with a .340 batting average and 137 RBIs. He was runner-up to Jimmy Rollins for NL MVP. The Yankees signed the 37-year-old outfielder as a free agent after the 2016 season. He was used primarily as the designated hitter in 2017 and produced 19 home runs and 64 RBIs, while slashing .231/.317/.432. The Yankees made the playoffs, but 37-year-old Holliday was not a factor since he played in only one game in the ALCS loss to Houston. The Yankees released Holliday, and he retired with the Rockies after the 2018 season. During his 15-year career, Holliday slashed .299/.379/.510 with 316 home runs and 1,220 RBIs.

Kevin Youkilis played for the Boston Red Sox, the arch-enemy of the Yankees, for nine seasons during 2004 and 2012. In seven of those seasons as the primary first baseman and part-time third baseman, he was selected for three All-Star Games and won a Gold Glove. He was a key member of the Red Sox resurgence as a World Series contender. Nicknamed “the Greek God of Walks,” he slashed .287/.388/.478. for the Red Sox while posting a 124 OPS+. After playing for the Chicago White Sox in 2012, the Yankees signed the 33-year-old as a free agent for 2013. Herniated disk surgery in June prevented him from finishing the season. He wasn’t a factor in the Yankees’ season, since he played in only 28 games. He spent part of a season in Japan in 2014 before retiring.

Ivan Rodriguez became a Hall of Fame catcher on the strength of his first 12 seasons with Texas followed by 4 ½ seasons with Detroit. He was a perennial All-Star with the Rangers and won the AL MVP with them in 1999. He posted four more All-Star seasons with the Tigers. Altogether he collected seven Silver Slugger awards and 13 Gold Glove awards. The Yankees picked up 36-year-old Rodriguez at the trade deadline in 2008, to help them remain close in the AL East Division race. However, he didn’t help them offensively, and they finished a distant third by the end of the season. He completed his career with Houston, Texas, and Washington during 2009-2011. During his 21-year career, Rodriguez slashed .296/.334/.464 with 311 home runs and1,332 RBIs.

There Were Others

Here is a partial list of other noteworthy players we don’t usually think of as Yankees. The years in parenthesis are when they appeared with the Yankees: Frank Chance (1913-14), Burleigh Grimes (1934), Wes Ferrell (1938-39), Sal Maglie (1957-58), Bob Friend (1966), Rocky Colavito (1968), Matty Alou (1973), Jim Kaat (1979-80), Luis Tiant (1979-80), John Mayberry (1982), Jack Clark (1988), Jose Cruz Sr. (1988), Frank Tanana (1993), Jack McDowell (1995), Pete Incaviglia (1997), Jose Canseco (2000), Kenny Lofton (2004), John Olerud (2004), Chan Ho Park (2010), and Troy Tulowitzski (2019),  


Richard Cuicchi has been a SABR member since 1983 and has contributed to numerous SABR BioProject and Games Project books. He also writes about New Orleans baseball history for He can be reached at



Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jun 13

Thank you Richard! It's always special and appreciated when you offer your articles to us!


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jun 12

Paul Waner is my go-to guy for IG's Yankee/some all-time stat intersection. I use Bobo for Minnesota Twins questions (and Muddy Ruel), as the Twins are the successors to the original Senators. Joe Cronin is a good option for them, too.


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jun 12

The ones who come to my mind are Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile, Jay Bruce, Ivan DeJesus, Omar Moreno, Tim Foli, and Rick Reuschel.

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