All-time Yankees’ World Series team

1 11 2009

Here’s my all-time Yankees World Series team (based solely on World Series performance for the Yankees):

Catcher: Yogi Berra, all-time World Series leader in at-bats (259), hits (71) and doubles (10, tied with Frankie Frisch), third in homers with 12, second in RBI with 39. Won nine World Series, played in 14, managed in terrific seven-game series lost to Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and a great Cardinals team. His great numbers weren’t just from longevity. He had great Series performances, most notably three homers and 10 RBI and catching Don Larson’s perfect game in 1956. I have two balls with Berra’s signature, one as Yogi and one, when he was younger, as “Larry Berra.”berra

I’m picking a 25-man roster here, so we’ll carry three catchers. The first backup will be Thurman Munson, with a .373 batting average and 12 RBI, 11 runs scored and 25 hits in 16 games. He never hit less than .320 in a World Series. Bill Dickey played in more World Series, twice hitting .400 or better. He had five homers and 24 RBI. I have his autograph, too.

First base. Lou Gehrig was .361 with 10 homers and 35 RBI in seven World Series. And he was Lou Gehrig. So we don’t need a backup here (with apologies to Tino Martinez, Moose Skowron and Chris Chambliss). Don Mattingly, sadly, can’t be considered here, since he never played in a World Series.bobby

Second base. Bobby Richardson is the easy call here. He had three terrific World Series, setting records that still stand for RBI (12 in 1960) and hits (13 in 1964, nine in a five-game series in 1961) and runs (eight in 1960). He didn’t hit as well in 1962, but his memorable catch of Willie McCovey’s line drive, with Matty Alou and Willie Mays in scoring position with the tying and winning runs, ended the 1-0 deciding seventh game against the San Francisco Giants. He and Mickey Mantle were my favorite Yankees when I was a kid. When he came to a baseball camp in Stanton, Iowa, in the 1970s, I got him to autograph is autobiography.billy

Backup would be Billy Martin, who hit .333 in five World Series, with five homers and 19 RBI. His .500 batting average, 12 hits and two triples in 1953 are all still tied for records in six games. I also have a Billy Martin autograph.

Shortstop. Derek Jeter gets lots of attention for his post-season records for hits and homers, inflated when compared with earlier Yankees who couldn’t play up to 19 games in a single post-season. But he’s been great in the World Series alone, .302 with 39 hits, 27 runs, three homers and eight RBI. Not to mention four championships and a walk-off homer in extra innings one year when his Yankees didn’t win.

Backup is Bucky Dent, best known for his homer that won the 1978 one-game playoff with the Red Sox. But he also was the World Series MVP that year, with 10 hits and seven RBI. He had a .349 average in two World Series. Other shortstops, such as Tony Kubek and Phil Rizzuto, played in more series, but not as well as Dent. No Bucky Dent autograph, but I do have two Bucky Dent bobblehead dolls.

Third base. Scott Brosius, with a .314 average and four homers in four World Series, stands out among Yankee third basemen. Graig Nettles hit poorly in the World Series, but his stellar defense, particularly in 1978, wins him a backup slot.mick

Outfield. Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson are easy picks as the starting lineup. Mantle broke Ruth’s record of 15 homers, finishing with 18. Jackson his half of his 10 World Series homers for the A’s, but his five homers in the 1977 World Series, three of them in Game 6, seal his spot on the team. It’s kind of hard to say Joe DiMaggio wouldn’t start, but he wasn’t as great in the World Series, just hitting .271. But his eight homers and 30 RBI will get him a spot on the roster (and if we’re playing with the DH, Reggie would DH and joe dDiMaggio would play centerfield). I have two baseballs autographed by Mantle and a card autographed by DiMaggio. Roger Maris is the backup, with five homers, 10 RBI and 18 runs scored. Hank Bauer beat those numbers, but he played a dozen more games. And Roger Maris was Roger Maris.

Starting pitchers. Whitey Ford is the easiest pick here. As with Yogi, his all-time record of 10 wins wasn’t just because of longevity. Yes, he also lost eight games. But he had a 2.71 ERA in 22 World Series games. Whitey was the Yankees’ ace for a lot of championship years. And his stretch of cruising through the 1960 and ’61 World Series without giving up a run in four games was incredible (he also was 2-0 in 1955, giving up a whopping four earned runs that Series). I have three Whitey Ford autographs on baseballs, one of them as “Ed. Ford.”ed ford

Allie Reynolds is not only one of the best starting pitchers in World Series history, with a 7-2 record, 2.76 ERA and two shutouts, but he also has four World Series saves. He reynoldswon a game in each of the six World Series he pitched in. In 1952, he lost the opener, 4-2, but came back with a 2-0 shutout in game four. Then he came on in the 8th inning of game six to save a 3-2 win for Vic Raschi. And in the seventh game, Reynolds pitched three innings of one-run relief for the clinching victory. He struck out 18 Dodgers in that Series. Reynolds also hit .308 in World Series play, with eight hits and two RBI. I also have his autograph. No way this guy shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

Lefty Gomez was undefeated in World Series play, 6-0 with a 2.86 ERA in just seven games. He also had two hits and three RBI in the 1936 Series. He pitched complete games in 1937 for the opener and the game-five clincher.

Red Ruffing, like Reynolds, was 7-2 in World Series play. He finished eight of his 10 starts in the World Series, with a 2.63 ERA. He pitched complete games for the opener and the game-four clincher in 1938, giving up only four runs.

OK, those are four pitchers from well before the era of the five-man rotation, so we don’t need a fifth starter. But, for all that the Bronx Bombers are known for their offense, their dynasty is based on great pitching in October. It’s not that hard to find Yankee greats who had outstanding offensive careers but were mediocre or even bad (think Dave Winfield, but he’s not the only one) when they played in pinstripes in the World Series. But that four-man rotation leaves out three our four rotations of Yankees who pitched outstanding in the World Series.

It seems odd not to have any of the more recent Yankees in this rotation. You’d be glad to go to battle in the World Series with a rotation of Andy Pettitte, only 4-4 World Series play but the winningest post-season pitcher; Orlando Hernandez, 2-1 in World Series play; David Cone, 2-0; and Roger Clemens, 3-0.

Ron Guidry was 3-1 (the loss being a pitcher’s duel), with a 1.69 ERA. Vic Raschi was 5-3 with a 2.24 ERA and clinching wins in 1949 and ’51. Ed Lopat was 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA. Waite Hoyt was 6-3 for the Yankees and his 1.83 World Series ERA was actually inflated by a loss playing for the A’s in 1931. Herb Pennock was 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA. Bob Turley was 4-3. Ralph Terry won two games in 1962, including that 1-0 complete-game clincher (though he also was on the mound two years earlier for Bill Mazeroski’s homer). The Yankees’ pitching excellence clearly was as much, if not more, responsible for their decades of domination as the bombing from their batters.

But I’m not going to pick any of those pitchers for the fifth-starter slot (unnecessary, since the four pitchers all worked their whole careers on three days’ rest, or less). I have to go with Don Larsen. That’s not based just on his perfect game, though I’d be OK with that. I place great importance on the good players who rise to the occasion. He was 3-2 in World Series play for the Yankees. He also beat the Yankees in 1962, pitching for the Giants, for a fourth win. He pitched seven shutout innings in game three of the 1958 Series, turning around a series that started with two Milwaukee wins and ended with a Yankees’ celebration. And there was that perfect game.

Relief pitchers. The four top starters in this staff pitched 24 complete World Series games, so you don’t need a lot of relief help. But you still need a bullpen. Mariano Rivera is the no-doubt closer. He is the best relief pitcher in major-league history, post-season history and World Series history. His numbers: 2-1, with 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings. Johnny Murphy was a relief specialist before it was a specialty, with a Rivera-ish 1.10 ERA in six World Series, with a 2-0 record and four saves. Goose Gossage didn’t pitch as much as Rivera or Murphy in the World Series, but pitched 11 scoreless innings for the Yankees in 1978 and 1981, getting a win and two saves.  That’s a dominant bullpen, but you want a lefthanders, so I’ll add Sparky Lyle, who gave up only one run in 7.1 innings of relief in two World Series for the Yankees and won the first game of the 1977 World Series. (He actually won three games in a row that post-season, beating the Royals in relief two games in a row. I saw the first of those, when Billy Martin surprised the whole stadium by going to Sparky in the fourth inning. He gave up two hits and no walks the rest of the way and still had enough left for four outs and just one hit the next day.) My other lefthander, Herb Pennock, was a pretty good starter, going 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in World Series play, but he also saved three Series games. casey

Manager. I like Joe Torre a lot, but Casey Stengel’s five championships in a row and seven overall makes him the manager (I have his authograph, too). Torre would be a great bench coach. Joe McCarthy and Miller Huggins would coach the bases. Lou Piniella would be the hitting coach, Bob Lemon the pitching coach and Ralph Houk the bullpen coach.

I’d love to watch this group in the World Series. Well, except that so many of them are old or dead.

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