Our next Pinch Hitter, Tyler Patterson, is a 25-year-old third-year law student at Penn State. He began following the Yankees in 1995 and wrote that he’s been “spoiled ever since.”
“The best two days of my life,” he said, “were when my family was given tickets to sit in a suite at the old stadium for a late-September game during the 1999 season. During this game we met a very wealthy gentleman who gave us seats for the final game of the series that were right next to the dugout. Before the game I was able to strike up a conversation, albeit a very short conversation, with Mariano Rivera (he did not have a ball to show me his cutter grip) and was also able to chase down batting practice home run balls slugged by Bernie Williams. Heaven.”
For his guest post, Tyler looked back at some of the occasionally overlooked Yankees who made a lasting impact.
Unheralded Yankees You Need To Know
Every Yankee fan, or baseball fan for that matter, is intimately aware of the Yankee greats. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Ford, Dickey, Gomez, etc. The list goes on and on. However, there is a myriad of other, lesser-known, and perhaps even underappreciated Yankees who contributed to the franchise’s past successes. The don’t carry the name recognition of the legends, but players such as Scott Brosius and Orlando Hernandez will qualify for the “unheralded Yankees” title; non-superstars but legitimate ballplayers who greatly contributed to title-winning Yankee clubs.
One such unheralded Yankee is Allie “The Indian” Reynolds. Reynolds was one of the best pitchers in baseball during his Yankee stint from 1947-1954. During his time in pinstripes, Reynolds compiled a record of 131-60 with an ERA of 3.30 and a FIP of 3.64. Casey Stengel would often match up Reynolds against the opponent’s top starter and he would rarely falter, ironic since he was traded to the Yankees with the reputation of being a “choker.” In 1951 Reynolds finished third in MVP voting (Yogi Berra won), and he won the Hickok Belt award given to the pro-athlete of the year. He had a 17-8 record, two no-hitters (wow), seven shutouts, and seven saves in 14 relief appe
arances. The following season he finished second in MVP voting, leading the AL in both ERA and strikeouts.
The way to make Yankee fans adore you is to perform in October, and Reynolds did just that. He won six titles with the Yankees (1947, 1949-1954) and was brilliant in World Series play. Reynolds won seven of his nine World Series starts with a 2.79 ERA. If that isn’t clutch enough, he had a slash line of .308/.357/.346 in 28 World Series plate appearances. A stalwart of the Yankees’ starting staff during the greatest sports dynasty ever, The Indian is definitely worth knowing if you’re a Yankees fan.
Another unheralded Yankee, Bill “Moose” Skowron, played nine seasons with the Yankees and was a five-time all-star as the everyday first basemen beginning in 1957. Skowron compiled a slash line of .294/.346/.496. He was a part of four Yankee world championship teams and, like Reynolds, he was at his best in October, hitting .293 while slugging .519 and playing excellent defense. In the 1958 World Series, Skowron knocked in the deciding run in Game 6 to force Game 7, in which he hit a three-run homerun to lead the Yankees the title (coming back from a three games to one deficit to defeat the heavily favored Milwaukee Braves). Like Reynolds, Skowron was no legend or Hall-of-Famer, but his consistent performances — especially in October — should not go unnoticed.
One last unheralded Yankee is Tony Lazzeri, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame by the veterans Committee in 1991, and for good reason. Lazzeri played 12 seasons with the Yankees (1926-1937) and hit .293/.379/.467. He was one of the best infielders, if not the very best infielder of his era, playing second, short, and third. Lazzeri won five titles with the Yankees, and as a second-basemen in 1929 he hit a ridiculous .354/.429./561 with 18 home runs and 106 RBI while scoring 101 runs. Even more insane was Lazzeri’s performance in the 1937 World Series in which he hit .400/.526/.733 with a 1.260 OPS. Reggie Jackson, eat your heart out.
There are a number of other former, unheralded Yankees who were equally important to the franchise, players such as Waite Hoyt, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Gil McDougald, and Billy Martin. It is easy to forget, or perhaps even be aware of these Yankee greats. But just think, where would the franchise be without them? Luckily no one has to find out.
Associated Press photo of Reynolds