COMMENTARY | Bracket, bracket on the wall: Who's the greatest New York Yankee of them all?
With appropriate apologies to "Snow White," it seems a fair question to ask. Just because college basketball rules March with an iron fist doesn't mean that baseball can't get in on some of the bracket fun.
From a field of eight all-time Yankee greats, this piece will count its way down to a champion - the greatest Yankee of all.
The players were selected by the committee of me, myself and I. The group was then seeded according to the percentage of Hall of Fame votes each received. For the three players in the field who were either not voted into the Hall of Fame or are not yet eligible, they were seeded sixth through eighth, respectively, based on the number of games they played with New York.
Only a player's time with the Yankees was considered for this bracket. And with that as a precursor, let's move on to the Elite Eight.
No. 8 Mariano Rivera vs. No. 1 Babe Ruth
This was a tough, tough draw for Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Rivera is baseball's all-time saves leader with 608 and his 1,051 appearances ranks eighth all time. Those totals are franchise highs for the Yankees, as well. But it's in the postseason where Rivera made his biggest mark. His 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings is the best in history. His 96 appearances are 41 more than any other pitcher has made. His 42 saves are more than the next two pitchers on the list-Brad Lidge and Dennis Eckersley-combined. But then there's Babe Ruth. As a Yankee, Ruth hit .349/.484/.711 over 15 seasons, with 659 home runs and 1,971 RBIs. He also walked 1,852 times and scored 1,959 runs. The batting average is the best in team history. Ditto for his on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, walks and, naturally, home runs. The RBI total is second in club history and his 2,084 games ranks fifth.
Winner: Ruth in a closer battle than the seedings would have indicated
No. 7 Lou Gehrig vs. No. 2 Joe DiMaggio
Lou Gehrig drew a low seed because he was not voted into the Hall of Fame; rather he was inducted as a special selection in 1939. DiMaggio, meanwhile, was another in a long line of legendary center fielders for the Yankees and remained the star of stars in the Big Apple long after his playing days were done in 1951. Gehrig played 17 seasons as a Yankee and hit .340/.447/.632 with 493 homers and a franchise-record 1,995 RBIs. He scored 1,888 runs, and then there was the iron-man streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. DiMaggio was great, too, hitting .325/.398/.579 with 361 homers and 1,537 RBIs in 13 seasons. He also lost three years in his prime (ages 28-30) to World War II.
Winner: Gehrig in an upset rout
No. 6 Derek Jeter vs. No. 3 Mickey Mantle
Jeter, the second of the two active Yankees in the field, got a tough break with this draw against Mantle, the face of the franchise for two decades. Jeter is the Yankees' all-time leader in games played (2,585) and hits (3,304 - the only player to record 3,000 hits in a Yankee uniform). He is a lifetime .313/.382/.448 hitter with 1,868 runs scored and 1,254 RBIs to go with 255 homers and 348 stolen bases. Mantle matches Jeter with 18 seasons in pinstripes, won three MVP awards a Triple Crown in 1956 and hit .298/.421/.557 with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBIs to go with 1,676 runs. Throw in the record 18 home runs in World Series play and what you have is...
Winner: Mantle ... big
No. 5 Bill Dickey vs. No. 4 Yogi Berra
The two greatest catchers in franchise history square off in the last quarterfinal. Berra, a Yankee for 18 seasons, hit .285/.348/.482 with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBIs. He also won three MVP awards and was a part of all 10 New York World Series winners during the golden era of 1947-62. Dickey, who preceded Berra behind the dish in the Bronx, played 17 seasons and hit .313/.382/.486 with 202 homers and 1,209 RBIs. But Dickey never won an MVP trophy (the closest he came was a distant second to Jimmie Foxx in 1938) and was a part of seven World Series champs.
Winner: Berra by a buzzer-beater
No. 4 Yogi Berra vs. No. 1 Babe Ruth
Berra had a nice moment getting past his mentor, Dickey, in the quarterfinals, but it ends there. Ruth dominates this matchup.
Winner: Ruth, with lots of garbage time for the walk-ons
No. 7 Lou Gehrig vs. No. 3 Mickey Mantle
Can Gehrig continue his run as the Cinderella story in this field? It was a tough, tough battle between these two icons, but Gehrig's streak tops Mantle's injury history and the 23 grand slams for Gehrig cancel out Mantle's World Series heroics.
Winner: Gehrig by making his free throws late in a tight one
No. 7 Lou Gehrig vs. No. 1 Babe Ruth
The iron man in the glass slipper seems like a strange mixing of metaphor, but it fits here. The longtime former teammates - the guys who hit No. 3 and No. 4 in the lineup for the legendary Murderers Row lineup in 1927 - facing off for the title of greatest Yankee ever. In the end, one thing separates the two.
They didn't call it the House that Gehrig built.
Winner: Ruth in a classic
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator currently based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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- Lou Gehrig
- Babe Ruth
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