Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the New York Yankees have had star players throughout their storied history. The Yanks have had some of the most legendary players in baseball history don pinstripes for most or all of their careers. It seems like there are legendary Bronx Bombers for every generation. There was Babe Ruth in the 1920s, Lou Gehrig in the 1930s, Joe DiMaggio in the 1940s, Mickey Mantle in the 1950s, and so on.
Even during the 21st century, the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have kept the tradition of all-time greats playing at Yankee Stadium alive. For some fans, there are almost too many great players to name, much less decide which one should be labeled the best of all-time. However, we’ve taken on that challenge and have ranked the 10 best Yankees in franchise history.
Even Alex Rodriguez made the list. In fact, let's start with the controversial Yankee player.
10. Alex Rodriguez
Not to split hairs, but if it was greatest Yankees of all-time, we’d probably put someone like Bernie Williams or Don Mattingly at No. 10. They were great Yankees in every sense of the word. But since we’re going best Yankees players, we have to give the nod to A-Rod.
Yes, he’s a controversial figure who spent a significant chunk of his career juicing. But the guy also went to seven All-Star Games and won two MVP Awards while in pinstripes. He was also named postseason MVP when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series. As a figure in Yankees history, nobody wants A-Rod mentioned in the same breath as the all-time greats, but as a player, we have no choice but to include him.
9. Bill Dickey
Dickey played alongside the greats such as Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, who always seemed to overshadow him just a little. But he was a massive part of the team’s success during that time as both a reliable catcher and a great hitter. During his 19 seasons, Dickey's career batting average was .313, which helped him make the all-star team 11 times. Dickey also helped the Yankees win eight World Series titles and is one of the best two-way catchers in baseball history.
8. Whitey Ford
Among starting pitchers, Ford is the best who spent his entire career with the Yankees. When the Yankees were dominating the American League throughout the late 1950s and early 60s, Ford was the guy getting the ball in Game 1 of the World Series. He tops the all-time list with 22 starts in the World Series along with 10 wins. He was a part of the Yankees winning the World Series six times and also took home Cy Young and World Series MVP honors in 1961. Ford retired with 236 career wins, just under 2,000 strikeouts and a career ERA of 2.75, which is the second-lowest among starting pitchers during the live-ball era.
7. Mariano Rivera
There’s no doubt that Rivera is the greatest closer ever and little doubt that he’s one of the greatest Yankees to ever play. Given how fickle relief pitching could be, it’s hard to imagine where the Yankees would be without having Rivera’s services for nearly two decades.
The Yankees won 13 division titles and five World Series titles during Rivera’s career, including the 1999 title when Rivera was named World Series MVP. His career ERA of 2.21 over 17 seasons is something few relievers could ever dream of matching. Rivera also holds the record in saves and the first player to be voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously, which says everything you need to know about his accomplishments and his vital role in Yankees history.
6. Yogi Berra
The fact that Berra played 19 seasons in the majors as a catcher, all but one with the Yankees, is an astonishing accomplishment in itself. On top of that longevity, Berra was an outstanding defensive catcher and a great power hitter. That combination earned him MVP honors three times and made him an 18-time all-star. But more than anything else, Berra was a winner. He was widely regarded as the best clutch hitter of his generation.
5. Mickey Mantle
Sorry, Mike Trout, but the Mick is undoubtedly the greatest center fielder in baseball history. He was a true five-tool player, hitting .298 over his 18 seasons with the Yankees while also smashing 536 home runs, including some that measured well over 500 feet. He was also a strong defensive player, a superb bunter and arguably the best switch-hitter of all time. Among Mantle’s accomplishments are a Gold Glove, a Triple Crown and three MVP awards. He did all of that despite his career being plagued by injuries from start to finish. Mantle was a part of seven championship teams in the Bronx, including New York’s three-peat from 1951 to 1953 in his first three seasons with the Yankees.
4. Joe DiMaggio
The Yankees experienced a brief championship slump right before DiMaggio joined the club, but the Bronx Bombers won four World Series in a row right after DiMaggio came aboard in 1936. He made an immediate impact during his rookie season and only got better from there.
DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 still stands today and is a record that may never be broken. The amazing thing about DiMaggio’s career is that he missed three seasons in his prime after enlisting in the Air Force during World War II. Despite those missed years, DiMaggio won two batting titles and three MVP awards. He played a role in the Yankees winning the World Series nine times and could have tied or surpassed Yogi Berra for the club record of 10 titles if he hadn’t missed those years during the war.
3. Derek Jeter
In the modern era, few players have received more praise than Jeter. For two decades, he played the game the right way and did everything he could to help the Yankees win games. He was a model of consistency and class and had a knack for coming through in the clutch.
Jeter embraced everything about playing for the Yankees, good and bad, and rarely looked fazed by the pressure on his shoulders. In his career, Jeter made 14 All-Star teams and won five Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers over his 20 seasons. More importantly, he spent the last 12 seasons of his career serving as team captain and was a part of five World Series championships, including New York’s three-peat from 1998 to 2000.
2. Lou Gehrig
While he’s best known for his durability and consecutive games streak, Gehrig was so much more than the "Iron Horse.” He’s one of the best pure hitters in baseball history, hitting .340 over his career, amassing 2,721 hits and 493 home runs. If his illness had not forced him into early retirement, Gehrig surely would have surpassed 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
During his 17 seasons with the Yankees, Gehrig won two MVPs, a Triple Crown and was a member of six teams that won the World Series. Gehrig was such a great and highly respected player that he became the first major leaguer to ever have his number retired by a team. Two years after Gehrig passed away, a monument in his honor was built outside Yankee Stadium.
1. Babe Ruth
There is no greater Yankees player and perhaps no better player in baseball history than Ruth. When he was sold from Boston to New York, his home run total jumped from 29 to 54. He went on to top the 40 home run mark 10 more times while in pinstripes, including his 60 homer season in 1927, almost single-handedly ending the dead-ball era.
Ruth was the key figure in four World Series titles and the centerpiece of New York’s “Murderers' Row” lineup. In short, Ruth was the biggest catalyst in jumpstarting a dynasty that would last for decades and remains one of the most iconic players in baseball history.
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