- Lincoln Mitchell
Yankees v. Giants Part 1
Updated: Mar 20
by Lincoln Mitchell
March 19, 2023
Part I-The Hall of Famers
The Yankees will open the season in the Bronx against the San Francisco Giants. This is the latest chapter in the history of two teams whose stories are deeply intertwined, but who have played very few meaningful games against each other in the last half century. Since interleague play began in 1997 the two teams have played each other a few times, most recently in 2019. Before that, other than exhibition games, the Yankees and Giants only saw each other in the World Series. The Giants won the first two meetings in 1921 and 1922, but the Yankees won in 1923, 1936, 1937, 1951 and in 1962.
Before we go into all that, let’s start with a trivia question. Most Yankees fans know that from 1949-1953, the Yankees won five consecutive World Series, but who were the three Hall of Famers to play for the Yankees in all five of those seasons? The first two players are easy to think of. Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto were the star catcher and shortstop respectively on all five of those teams. The third Hall of Famer is a little more difficult to identify. Whitey Ford did not pitch for the Yankees until 1950 and missed all of 1951 and 1952 due to military service. Mickey Mantle did not begin his big league career until 1951 which also happened to be Joe DiMaggio’s last year.
The third Hall of Famer to play on all those teams was Johnny Mize. As a pinch-hitter and part-time first baseman, the slugging Mize had an OPS+ of 117 while hitting 44 home runs for the Yankees between 1949 and 1953. He was never the biggest star on those teams, but a very solid, and frequently, clutch contributor. Before joining the Yankees, Mize, who had begun his career with the Cardinals, spent five years with the Giants where he was one of the most feared sluggers in the National League.
Mize is one of seven Hall of Famers to play for both the Giants and the Yankees. Curiously, five of them were pitchers. The best player to play for both teams was Randy Johnson. Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers ever and the best left-handed pitcher in at least the last fifty years. Unfortunately for fans of both the Giants and the Yankees, Johnson had his best years, and won all five of his Cy Young Awards with the Mariners and the Diamondbacks. Johnson gave the Yankees two solid, but unspectacular seasons winning a combined 34 games with a league average ERA+ of 100 in 2005-6 when he was in his early 40s. Johnson, a Bay Area native, played his final season, and won his 300th game as a member of the Giants in 2009.
The only other 300 game winner to play for both teams was Gaylord Perry. Perry, who was most famous for the spitball he either did or did not throw, than for his accomplishments on the mound, was a great pitcher who played 22 years in the big leagues and like Johnson won Cy Young Awards in both leagues. Perry’s best years were with the Giants where he won 134 games and struck out 1,500 batters before they foolishly traded him to Cleveland following the 1970 season. Perry was a late season acquisition by the Yankees in 1980. He did not pitch well but went 4-4 with a 4.44 ERA which, if nothing else, was a lot of fours.
Goose Gossage is a name familiar to any Yankees fan whose memory goes back 40 or more years. The Goose was the dominant reliever of his era who starred for the Yankees from 1978-1983, saving 151 games and winning 42. Gossage was on the mound to get the final out of the one game playoff in 1978 and got Ron Cey to foul out to Thurman Munson for the last out of the World Series a few weeks later. Towards the end of his career, the Goose was a pretty good reliever for a pennant winning Giants team in 1989, but was waived midway through the season and ended up back with the Yankees.
The other Hall of Fame pitchers on who played for both teams are not quite as well known. Waite Hoyt and Burleigh Grimes are two of only three Hall of Famers to play for the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn. Grimes spent most of his career, in which he won 270 games while accumulating 52.8 WAR, with the Dodgers, but had one very good year with the Giants in 1927 when he went 19-8 with a 3.54 ERA, and part of his last season when he did not have much left with the Yankees in 1934.
During Grimes one year with the Giants, Hoyt was the best pitcher on one of the greatest Yankees teams ever. Hoyt won a league leading 22 games and had a 2.63 ERA for the 1927 Yankees. During the 1920s, Hoyt was a star pitcher on Yankees teams that won six pennants, but he began his career in 1918 where he pitched one scoreless inning striking out two of the three batters he faced for the Giants.
One of the most famous and enduring baseball aphorisms was Willie Keeler’s “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Keeler was one of the great hitters of the 19th century where, during the 1890s, he was part of some great Baltimore teams. However, he began his career in 1892 hitting .321 in 14 games for the Giants. He would end his career back with the Giants in 1910. In between stints with the Giants, after going to Baltimore and then to Brooklyn, he got to the Yankees in 1903 where he was a solid .300 hitter through 1906 before slowing down a bit in 1907.
From Keeler to Johnson there have been a lot of great players who wore Yankees pinstripes and some combination of Giants orange and black, including some who never made it to the Hall of Fame like Dave Righetti, Bobbby Bonds, Bobby Murcer and two of the Alou brothers, Felipe and Matty. The guy playing right field for the Yankees may end up on Cooperstown one day and a lot of people in San Francisco thought he was going to be a Giants, but happily for Yankees fans it didn’t quite work out that way.
For more of Lincoln’s writing, check out his Substack: Kibitzing with Lincoln.