The New York Yankees. So much tradition built into the organization. The pinstripes on their jerseys, the intertwined “NY” on their caps, not to mention the specific amount of World Series championships they hold that Yankee fans as a whole are banned from talking about. You love the Yankees. You love to hate the Yankees. They really are America’s team. So it is only fitting that the next installment of diamond-digest.com’s Mount Rushmore series talks about the most beloved, hated, and historic franchise in sports.
The Yankees are the hardest team to narrow down a Mount Rushmore for. Outside of our present one, the team has made an appearance in the World Series every decade since 1920. You need to have some pretty good players to achieve that feat, and boy have they. The Yankees could probably put together a 25-man roster as good or better than about half of the league’s teams. After cutting fourteen (!!!) hall of famers, here are the members of the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore.
Babe Ruth – RF – (1920-34)
Am I really going to write a whole paragraph about how good Babe Ruth was? Yes, yes I am. The Great Bambino is, without a doubt, the most timeless and noteworthy name in the history of baseball. Everyone has heard of Babe Ruth, well, besides Smalls. There was a minute long scene in the movie just naming Ruth’s famous nicknames. So, why is Ruth so memorable? From a purely “winning” standpoint, he was a four-time World Champion, but stats are more fun. In his fourteen years with the Yankees, Ruth hit to a ridiculous .349/.484/.711 split and knocked 649 balls a long way. Ruth had nine seasons where his bWAR ended in double-digits, including his 1923 season when it stopped at 14.1. How many players have finished with a WAR better than 14.1? None. He had the greatest season in baseball history, literally. His fWAR of 168.4 is the most ever as well. Oh, you’re a traditionalist and don’t believe WAR? Well, I should mention that, in that ‘23 season, Ruth hit .393 (which somehow didn’t lead the league), with a .545 OBP and a .764 SLG. He also drove in 130 runners while hitting 41 home runs, en route to winning his somehow only MVP award and the Yankees first of tw… nevermind. Ruth is the Yankees’ franchise leader in WAR, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, runs scored, total bases, walks, OPS+, and at-bats per HR. One more stat? Sure. Ruth’s career wRC+ of 197 is the most in the history of baseball. Yes, Ruth played before minorities were allowed to be in the Majors and his opponents were all part-time plumbers, but The Babe was drunk half of the time, so it really evened everything out.
Mickey Mantle – CF – (1951-69)“The Mick” was signed by the Yankees at 17 years old, meaning his parents had to sign his contract for him. Two years later, he made his debut and, for the majority of 18 years, was one of the most dominant players in the game. After earning his first All-Star nod in his sophomore season of 1952, Mantle went on to play in 19 more over the duration of his 18-year career (was named an All-Star twice from 1959-63). Mantle was named Most Valuable Player three times, including his ridiculous 1956 year where he hit to a .353/.464/.705 clip with 52 homers and 130 RBIs, leading the majors in four of the five categories. Mantle also took home the award in 1957 and 1962, and he finished in the top-five in voting six other times. His career WAR of 110.3 ranks 20th all time, his WPA of 93.5 finished fifth, while his 15.1 AB per HR ended up 16th. Mantle has the highest win probability added in Bombers history, with an insane 93.5 WPA. Mantle played an integral role in bringing the Bombers seven championships and carved his face into the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore for life.
Lou Gehrig – 1B – (1923-39)
In 1925, Yankees’ first baseman Wally Pipp went down with an injury. Replacing him, was a 22-year-old kid from Columbia University who had been stewing on the Yankee bench for the past two seasons named Lou Gehrig. After Gehrig was named the starter on June 2nd, Pipp never got the spot back. Lou Gehrig invented “getting Wally Pipp’d,” by Wally Pipping Wally Pipp. So, why did Pipp never get his spot back? That’s because, in Gehrig’s fourteen years as a starter, he hit to a .340/.448/.634 clip with 492 homers and 1981 RBIs. His career on-base percentage of .447 is the fifth most in baseball history, his OPS of 1.080 ranks third all-time, and his 1,995 RBIs are sixth all-time. Now, like Ruth, Gehrig did play against much worse competition compared to today, but he still ranks third all-time with 173 wRC+ and third with a wOBA of .477. Sadly, Gehrig’s career came to a tragic end at just 36, when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or what is now often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He passed away from the illness in June of 1941, almost two years after his famous speech at Yankee Stadium in which he labeled himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” When Gehrig passed, he left the world after earning six World Series championships, a Hall of Fame plaque, and a place on the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore.
The Final Spot:
Mariano Rivera – CP – (1995-2013)
Every position on the diamond has an argument over who’s the best. Yogi or Bench? A-Rod or Brett? Mantle or Mays? One, however, is inarguable. The closer. Mo is the best ever. I love debates and arguments, but if you disagree with this, you’re either wrong or are trying to give code that you’re in trouble by saying something outrageous. Mo is one of just two men in history to reach the 600-save threshold, finishing with 652 in his career. Mo’s career ERA+ of 205 is the best of all-time. Mo threw the final pitch of more games than anyone ever. In the playoffs, Mo was as automatic as they come. His career WAR of 56.2 is the highest out of all relievers in baseball history besides Dennis Eckersley, who made 361 starts. Rivera had a 0.70 ERA in 96 career playoff games. To put that in perspective, more men have walked on the moon (12), then scored off of him in the playoffs (11). He is arguably the biggest reason for the Yankees winning five championships this decade, and soon will be right where he belongs in Cooperstown.
Joe DiMaggio – CF – (1936-42, 1946-51)
The Yankee Clipper lost three years to the war, but still put together one of the most illustrious careers of all time. DiMaggio was named an All-Star in all 13 years of his career, hitting to a career .325/.398/.579 clip. Perhaps the most historic part of DiMaggio’s career was the incredible 56-game hitting streak he went on in 1941, a year he went on to win his second of three MVPs, stealing it from Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams (who hit .400). DiMaggio drove in over 1500 runs in his career, an average of an uncanny 134 per 162 games. DiMaggio finished with just 361 home runs, but if you were to add in the years he lost to the war, that number would have ended up at 456 dingers and 1946 RBIs. DiMaggio took the torch from the era of Ruth and Mantle, and he held it high until he could pass it on to the Mick.
Yogi Berra – C – (1946-63)
Probably most well-known for his infamous “Yogi-isms,” Berra is often overlooked by baseball fans. Perhaps it’s his five-foot seven-inch, 185-pound frame, but Berra doesn’t scream hall of famer. Well, he should. In his 17-years in pinstripes, Berra hit 385 homers, drove in 1,430, hit to a clip of .285/.348/.482, and was a part of an uncanny ten World Series champions. In seven years from 1950-56, Berra finished top-five in the AL MVP voting each year, taking home the hardware three times. Berra was a hallmark at every Yankees’ Old Timers Day up until his death in 2015, and has gone down as one of, if not the, most beloved Yankees of all-time. While his numbers don’t jump out at you, for Yogi’s spot on Mount Rushmore, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”
Derek Jeter – SS – (1995-2014)
The amount of disrespect for Derek Jeter is shocking. Okay, he never won an MVP. Okay, his career bWAR of 72.4 is only tenth all-time among shortstops. Okay, he was a below-average fielder. That’s all fine and dandy. But Jeter is one of the few players where to see how special he was, you had to watch him. You had to witness him put a ball into the right-field seats in baseball’s first November game. You had to witness him come out of nowhere to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate and keep the Yankees season alive. You had to witness him dive into the stands and come up with a face full of blood. Everything Jeter did in his career played out like a Hollywood movie. His 3000th hit being a home run off of David Price. His final at-bat in Yankee Stadium being a walk-off after David Robertson blew a three-run lead in the top of ninth. He just had a greatness to him that is indescribable…aaaaaalso, he was a career .310/.377/.440 hitter who tallied 3465 hits (over 200 per year), and ranks first in Yankees’ history in games played, at-bats, plate appearances, hits, doubles, and stolen bases. If you’re into that stuff.
How do you pick between four of the greatest players not just in Yankees history, but in MLB history? It’s a tough task. I decided to go with who was best at what he specifically did, and that is Mariano Rivera. Mo is the best closer ever. There is no one close. There aren’t two sides to this argument. Nowadays, at a time when it seems like even the best closers go through long cold stretches, Mo never did. When “Enter Sandman” began playing, you could just shut the TV off because, in most cases, it was over. Mo allowed the Yankees not to have to worry about the ninth inning for almost 20 years, and he did it with grace and class. Move over Teddy Roosevelt, Mariano Rivera is taking your spot.
Disagree? Who do you think should be on the Yankees Mount Rushmore? Let me know in the comments below!