The Yankees are the most successful team in Major League Baseball history. And with a historic roster full of Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Derek Jeter — who will be inducted in next year’s class — it’s hard to pick the best player in the team’s storied history. So let’s explore the question of who is the best Yankees player ever by discussing the merits of some of the all-time greats who have played for the team.
Yogi Berra, C/OF
Yogi Berra played for the Yankees from 1946-1963, during a time in which they won 14 American League pennants and 10 World Series. He certainly did his part to help the team have such success. Berra was a three-time MVP and made the All-Star Game 15 straight years, all while hitting 306 home runs, which remains the all-time record by a Yankee catcher. Berra made his mark on the field, but he is also well-known for his unusual quotes that make you think, such as perhaps his most famous quote, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” He also managed the Yankees to the World Series in 1964.
Joe DiMaggio, OF
“Joltin’ Joe,” also nicknamed “The Yankee Clipper,” is best known for his MLB-record 56-game hit streak in 1941 that is unlikely to ever be beaten. He played 13 seasons between 1936 and 1951, taking off 1943-1945 for military service. He made the all-star team in all 13 seasons and, like Berra, won three MVP awards. He was part of 10 pennant-winning Yankee teams, and his nine World Series titles are second only to Berra’s 10. DiMaggio did well off the diamond, too, having married Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in 1954. He also became well known as a celebrity spokesman for Mr. Coffee in his post-baseball life.
Lou Gehrig, 1B
Gehrig is best known for having played in 2,130 consecutive games between 1925 and 1939 — a record that would stand for more than half a century until Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed the streak in 1998. Gehrig was a seven-time all-star, two-time MVP, and six-time World Series champion. He hit for the Triple Crown in 1934 with a slash line of .363/49/166. In his 17-year career, Gehrig hit .340 with 493 home runs and 1,995 RBI. His career was cut short in 1939 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that would later become known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after it claimed his life in 1941.
Derek Jeter, SS
Known as “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November,” Jeter was the centerpiece of the Yankees’ dynasty that won five World Series titles between 1996 and 2009. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1996, a 14-time all-star, and he was named both All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP in 2000. The 20-year veteran retired after 2014 with a .310 career average, but he was also known for his defense. He earned five Gold Gloves at shortstop, and made some defensive plays in the postseason that are still remembered to this day.
Mickey Mantle, 1B/OF
Mantle played 18 seasons with the Yankees from 1951-1968. A three-time MVP who made the all-star team in all but two seasons in his career, Mantle hit for the Triple Crown in 1956, with a line of .353/52/130. He was a part of seven Yankee teams that won the World Series, and he ended his career with 536 home runs. Mantle still holds the record for most career World Series home runs with 18.
Babe Ruth, OF/P
George Herman “Babe” Ruth is probably the most iconic Yankee of all time. The team famously bought him from the Red Sox in 1919, and he subsequently became the sport’s first true superstar. Ruth earned nicknames like “The Bambino” and “The Sultan of Swat” for his hitting prowess. At one time, he held the single-season home run record with 60 and he held the career homer record at 714, a record that stood for nearly 40 years until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run in 1974. But Ruth also had success as a pitcher, with a career record of 94-46 and a 2.28 career ERA. Ruth was also a seven-time World Series champ.