The 9 greatest players in New York Yankees history
Roger Maris, Bill Dickey, Thurman Munson, Phil Rizzuto, Jorge Posada, Don Mattingly, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte all have their respective numbers retired by the New York Yankees.
None of those names cracked this list.
Graig Nettles, Mike Mussina, Roy White, Willie Randolph, Robinson Canó, Red Ruffing, CC Sabathia, Mel Stottlemyre and Roger Clemens did enough as Yankees that for many teams, they would have been among the top nine.
Not the Yankees.
Heck, Aaron Judge is coming off of a season in which he hit an American League record 62 home runs, en route to winning AL MVP. That season alone -- and the same can be said for the aforementioned Maris' 1961 campaign -- would make you an inner circle player for most franchises.
But these are the Yankees.
Exclusive doesn't do justice to how difficult it was to crack our countdown of the nine greatest players in Yankees history:
9. Alex Rodriguez (2004-2013; 2015-2016)
Best Season as a Yankee: 2007 - .314/.422/.645 with 54 home runs, 156 RBIs, 95 walks, 1.067 OPS, 176 OPS+ and a 9.6 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .283/.378/.523 with 351 home runs, 1,096 RBIs, 779 walks, .900 OPS, 136 OPS+ and 51.7 WAR
Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season, years after he apologized for performance-enhancing drug use that he said was limited to 2001-2003, his time with the Texas Rangers. So we can understand why some might balk at his inclusion on this list. But from a pure numbers perspective, "A-Rod" is sixth in franchise history with 351 home runs, and eighth among position players with a 51.7 WAR, per FanGraphs. As a Yankee, Rodriguez won the AL MVP in 2005 and 2007, and the World Series in 2009. While donning pinstripes, Rodriguez hit the 400th, 500th and 600th home runs of his career, also recording his 3,000th hit in 2015. Love him or hate him, Rodriguez had to be on this list.
8. Whitey Ford (1950; 1953-1967)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1961 - 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA, 115 ERA+, 3.14 FIP, 1.180 WHIP, 209 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 5.8 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA, 133 ERA+, 3.26 FIP, 1.215 WHIP, 1,956 strikeouts, 156 complete games and 54.9 WAR
After debuting at age 21 for the Yankees in 1950, Ford missed the next two seasons as he served in the Korean War. But he returned in 1953, spending the next 15 years with the Yankees. Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961, when only one was given out for the entirety of the sport. He was part of six World Series Championship teams in his illustrious career, including winning series MVP in 1961 as well. Ford was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974, and had his No. 16 retired by the Yankees that same season.
7. Mariano Rivera (1995-2013)
Best Season as a Yankee: 2001 - 4-6 with a 2.34 ERA, 192 ERA+, 2.28 FIP, 0.905 WHIP, 83 strikeouts, 50 saves in 57 attempts and a 3.2 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: 82-60 with a 2.21 ERA, 205 ERA+, 2.76 FIP, 1.000 WHIP, 1,173 strikeouts, 652 saves and 39.1 WAR
If you took the career numbers of any other closer in baseball history, they wouldn't even draw serious consideration for this list. For Rivera to be at No. 7 is a testament to how sizable the gap is between him and any other reliever you can think of. Rivera was a 13-time All-Star, who owns the MLB record with 652 career saves, a mark unlikely to ever be matched. He was the World Series MVP in 1999, one of five titles in his career. For good measure, his trophy case also includes five Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Awards, an ALCS MVP and an All-Star Game MVP. Rivera was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019, becoming the first player to ever receive votes on 100% of ballots.
6. Yogi Berra (1946-1963)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1950 - .322/.383/.533 with 28 home runs, 124 RBIs, .915 OPS, 135 OPS+ and a 6.0 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .285/.348/.483 with 358 home runs, 1,430 RBIs, .831 OPS, 125 OPS+ and 63.8 WAR
They don't name cartoon bears after nobodies. Across 18 seasons with the Yankees, Berra won three AL MVP Awards, and an incredible 10 World Series titles. Berra's 63.7 WAR is tied with Mike Piazza for the fifth best mark among all catchers in MLB history, according to FanGraphs. Berra was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, and his No. 8 was retired by the Yankees that same year.
5. Derek Jeter (1995-2014)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1999 - .349/.438/.552 with 24 home runs, 102 RBIs, 91 walks, .989 OPS, 153 OPS+ and a 7.4 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .310/.377/.440 with 260 home runs, 1,311 RBIs, 1,082 walks, .817 OPS, 115 OPS+ and 73.0 WAR
One of the greatest shortstops in MLB history, Jeter racked up a staggering 3,465 hits during a 20-year career spent entirely with the Yankees. His fielding woes are well documented, but he hit .310 with a .377 on-base percentage over the course of a career that lasted two decades. He posted an .838 OPS in 158 career postseason games, helping lead the Yankees to five World Series titles. The Yankees retired Jeter's No. 2 in 2017, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
4. Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942; 1946-1951)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1937 - .346/.412/.673 with 46 home runs, 137 RBIs, 64 walks, 1.085 OPS, 166 OPS+ and a 9.1 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .325/.398/.579 with 361 home runs, 1,537 RBIs, 790 walks, .977 OPS, 155 OPS+ and 9.1 WAR
DiMaggio was, briefly, married to Marilyn Monroe, and that's still not the thing he's most famous for. The author of an MLB-record 56-game hitting streak, DiMaggio racked up 2,214 hits in 13 seasons. He lost three of his peak seasons -- serving in the Air Force during World War II, missing out on his age 28-30 campaigns -- or his numbers would be even more impressive. As is, DiMaggio is one of the most decorated center fielders in MLB history, having won three AL MVP Awards during his career. The Yankees retired DiMaggio's No. 5 in 1952, three years before he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
3. Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1956 - .353/.464/.705 with 52 home runs, 130 RBIs, 112 walks, 1.169 OPS, 210 OPS + and an 11.5 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .298/.421/.557 with 536 home runs, 1,509 RBIs, 1,733 walks, .977 OPS, 172 OPS+ and 112.3 WAR
Another one of the greatest center fielders that the sport has ever seen, Mantle's list of accomplishments is hard to fathom. In an 18-year career spent entirely in pinstripes, Mantle won a batting title, Gold Glove Award, Triple Crown, three AL MVP Awards and seven World Series titles. "The Mick" was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974, with the Yankees having already retired his No. 7 in 1969.
2. Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1927 - .373/.474/.765 with 47 home runs, 173 RBIs, 109 walks, 1.240 OPS, 220 OPS+ and a 12.5 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .340/.447/.632 with 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs, 1,508 walks, 1.080 OPS, 179 OPS+ and 116.3 WAR
The greatest first baseman in MLB history, Gehrig won two AL MVPs and seven World Series titles with the Yankees, the only team he played for during an incredible 17-year career. Gehrig finished his career with a 1.080 OPS, the third best mark in MLB history. The Yankees retired Gehrig's No. 4 in 1939, the same year he walked away from the sport as he battled ALS. Gehrig was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
1. Babe Ruth (1920-1934)
Best Season as a Yankee: 1921 - .378/.512/.846 with 59 home runs, 168 RBIs, 145 walks, 1.359 OPS, 239 OPS+ and a 13.9 WAR
Career Stats as a Yankee: .349/.484/.711 with 659 home runs, 1,978 RBIs, 1,852 walks, 1.195 OPS, 209 OPS+ and 149.9 WAR
A many of many nicknames, Ruth is arguably the greatest player in baseball history. Ruth is the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.690), OPS (1.164) and OPS+ (206). He's one of four players in MLB history to hit over 700 home runs, along with Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Albert Pujols. In 15 seasons with the Yankees, Ruth won seven World Series titles, while leading the sport in just about every offensive category multiple times. Ruth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, and the Yankees retired his No. 3 in 1948.