Major League Baseball was started around 1869. The Civil War had just ended. Slavery had just been abolished. The country wasn’t as diverse as it is today. Major League Baseball was a white male dominated sport. In fact, baseball on the whole has been a widely non-diverse sport. It took until 1947 for baseball to essentially begin to be desegregated and even that was a slow process in itself. This is not to chastise MLB or the country by any means; it’s just a way to gain perspective on this piece. The Yankees have 17 retired numbers, 16 of which played for the Yankees, and two of which are players of color: Elston Howard and Reggie Jackson. “Players of color” is not meant as African-Americans solely but as those who are non-white. This is something that’s never really covered when there’s a list compiled of the greatest Yankees, so here’s a top 10 list of Yankees of color.
10. Willie Randolph (2B): Willie was an interesting case. He amassed 2210 hits over his career, 1731 of those with the Yankees. He was a five time All-Star with the Bombers and won one Silver Slugger Award in 1980. He didn’t do anything to say he was an all-time great at one thing, but he was solid and consistent and contributed all around.
9. C.C. Sabathia (LHP): C.C. comes in at 9 solely because it seems like he’s reached his peak with the Yankees. He started his career with the Indians and has played only four seasons in Pinstripes. Over the past four years he’s accomplished quite a lot. He was the most valuable pitcher in the 2009 World Series run. C.C has posted a 72-28 record with an ERA of 3.25, a WHIP of 1.191 and a K/9 of 8.1.
8. Robinson Cano (2B): His past seven seasons in Pinstripes have been tremendous (see: 33 WAR). He is currently posting a career year boasting a slash of .300/.368/.540. He’s hit 30 home runs, a career high, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. If he continues on for four more years at his current pace, he’ll be in talks as one of the best second basemen to ever play the game. He’s already the best the Yankees have ever had.
7. Jorge Posada (C): Jorge Posada, member of the Core Four, will go down as one of the better switch hitters of all time. He’s joined great ranks of hitting catchers and kept the great Yankee catching tradition alive. Posada owns four World Series rings, five Silver Slugger Awards, and a career 39 WAR.
6. Bernie Williams (CF): He’s a three time World Series champion, a five time All-Star, and a four time Gold Glove recipient. Williams is second in all time postseason total bases, hits, home runs, runs scored, doubles, walks, and tops the postseason all time runs batted in list. He hit 6 home runs in the 1996 postseason and is arguably the greatest postseason baseball player the game has seen. The only competitor is listed later. Quite simply, without Bernie Williams the Yankees postseasons would have turned out quite differently.
5. Dave Winfield (OF): He entered the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre but that doesn’t change the fact he was a Yankee for 9 years and only a Padre for 8. Winfield was an All-Star every year he wore Pinstripes. He was a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger for five years as well. As a Yankee his WAR sat at 25. Just wished he donned that Yankee cap in the Hall. Well not many people got along with George so it’s understandable.
4. Mariano Rivera (RHP): We may have seen the end of Mariano and it is truly bittersweet. What more can be said about the greatest reliever/pitcher the game has ever known? His career postseason ERA spanning 141 innings is a .70. His 608 career saves are the most compiled by a single pitcher. Over 1219.2 innings pitched, his career WHIP is .998 and career ERA is 2.28. While he didn’t start, I regard him as the best pitcher the Yankees have ever had.
3. Reggie Jackson: An MVP award winner and a 14 time All-Star, Reggie only played for the Yankees for five years. He did more than enough in those five years to warrant his number being retired though. Mr. October was immortalized in Yankee lore in the 1977 World Series. He hit three home runs in consecutive at bats in Yankee Stadium and hasn’t been done ever since.
2. Derek Jeter: When it’s all said and done and Jeter hangs up his cleats, he’ll be the greatest Yankee ever. He may even be the all-time hits leader. People thought he was on the decline this year at age 38 but he posted a slash of .324/.368/.449, has recorded 58 multi-hit games, which leads the majors, and will surpass 200 hits for the eighth time in his career. He’s the Yankee leader in just about every offensive category you can think of sans home runs. He is Mr. November; he rivals Bernie Williams as the greatest postseason baseball player to ever play the game. Jeter is a consummate professional and deserves every accolade given to him.
1. Elston Howard: Elston may have not had the career numbers that some of the other players on this list but he was the Yankees first player of color. That deserves a spot amongst greatness for the things he endured. He was an MVP, an eight time All-Star, and a two time Gold Glover recipient. He was also the first black player in AL history to win the MVP. His number has been retired by the Yankees and will live on in Yankee lore.
Honorable Mentions: Roy White (LF), Al Downing (P), Alfonso Soriano(2B).
If you can think of any other names feel free to add in the comments section.