Pride of the Yankees
The Yankees are in town this week, so here's a look back at the greatest franchise in the history of sports. They've won 26 championships, and their all-time roster is loaded with a who's who of baseball superstars. Here are the best moments in Yankees history and my picks for the top 10 players to ever wear the pinstripes and an all-time Yankees 25-man roster.
10 GREATEST MOMENTS IN YANKEES HISTORY
luck of the Bambino
The Yankees had never won a world title when they purchased Babe Ruth, the best player in baseball at the time, from the Red Sox before the 1920 season. That all changed with Ruth. During Ruth's 15 seasons with the Yankees, he led the league in homers 10 times and the Yankees won seven pennants and four world titles.
King George buys the Yankees
In early 1973, ship-builder George Steinbrenner led a group of investors that bought the struggling Yankees from CBS for a mere $10-million. With free agency on the horizon, not only did Steinbrenner change the Yankees, he changed Major League Baseball by spending whatever it took to field a winner. Love him or hate him, the Yankees continued to be a premier sports team under his ownership.
56 straight games
On May 15, 1941, Joe DiMaggio went 1-for-4 against the White Sox and thus began, perhaps, the greatest record in the history of baseball. Not until 56 games later, on July 17, did DiMaggio play in a game and not get a hit -- and it took two stellar defensive plays to snap the streak. How impressive is DiMaggio's streak? Only 23 players have had a streak of at least 30 games since then and the closes anyone has got is Pete Rose with 44 games -- still a dozen games shy -- in 1978.
Reggie, Reggie, Reggie
Facing three different pitchers. Taking three swings. Crushing three home runs. The controversial Reggie "Straw That Stir The Drink'' Jackson capped the zany 1977 Bronx Zoo season and helped deliver the Yankees' first world title since 1962 with three homers in the deciding sixth game of the World Series against the Dodgers.
Deep to left
The Yankees trailed the rival Red Sox by 14 games in July of 1978. They they caught the Sox, went ahead and then had to duke it out in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent, who would hit only 40 homers in 12 seasons, lifted a three-run homer over the Green Monster to spark the Yankees to the victory and, ultimately, their second straight world title.
The perfect game
Don Larsen was a mediocre pitcher. He was 81-91 with seven teams over 14 seasons. But on Oct. 8, 1956, he delivered what must be considered the greatest pitching performance of all-time. He is on of 17 pitchers to ever throw a perfect game, But Larsen is the only one to do it on baseball's biggest stage -- the World Series. Seeing catcher Yogi Berra jump into Larsen's arms after the final out is one of baseball's lasting images.
It could be .. it is ... gone
The great Yankees had gone 12 years without reaching a World Series -- their longest drought since before they acquired Babe Ruth -- when they played the Royals in the fifth and deciding game of the 1976 American League Championship Series. In the bottom of the ninth, Chris Chamliss laced a Mark Littell pitch into the rightfield stands and sent the Yankees to the World Series for the first time since 1964.
I n 1961, the American League expanded from eight teams to 10 and from 154 games per team to 162. All season, teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth's record of 60 homers in a season. Mantle eventually faded, hitting 54, but Maris continued his assault. After 154 games, Maris had 59 homers. Finally, in the final game of the season, Maris hit No. 61. Commissioner Ford Frick announced that an asterisk would be placed next to Maris' record because he didn't break it in 154 games.
Today, I consider myself the luckies man on the face of the earth
Those 13 words are not only the most famous ever spoken in baseball history, but showed the courage of one of baseball's true greats. Lou Gehrig spoke those words on July 4, 1939 not only as he was ending his baseball career but dying from the disease that would claim his life and bear his name less than two years later.
Okay, so it's not really one moment, but how can you put together a list of the best Yankees moments and not talk about winning five consecutive World Series titles from 1949-53? Think of the names -- Mickey, Yogi, Whitey. And remember this: no other team has ever won five consecutive World Series.
10 GREATEST PLAYERS, IN ORDER, IN YANKEES HISTORY
1. Babe Ruth: Founding father of greatest team in sports history.
2. Joe DiMaggio: They wrote songs about the guy.
3. Lou Gehrig: A lifetime .340 batting average. Ridiculous.
4. Mickey Mantle: Three MVPs and 16 all-star appearances.
5. Derek Jeter: Heart and soul of current dynasty. Has never missed the postseason!
6. Yogi Berra: Three MVP awards and 10 World Series titles.
7. Bill Dickey: Won seven World Series and caught record 38 World Series games.
8. Whitey Ford: Best starting pitcher in franchise history.
9. Mariano Rivera: Most dominant closer in baseball history.
10. Reggie Jackson: Only five seasons but earned Mr. October nickname with postseason heroics.
THE YANKEES ULTIMATE LINEUP AND 25-MAN ROSTER
Catcher: Yogi Berra
First base: Lou Gehrig
Second base: Tony Lazzeri
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Third base: Graig Nettles
Rightfield: Babe Ruth
Leftfield: Mickey Mantle
Catcher: Bill Dickey
Infielders: Don Mattingly, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, Alex Rodriguez
Outfielders: Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Bernie Williams