COVID-19 quarantines have sports fans going crazy. So, it’s time to decide what players make up the New York Yankees all-time acrostic team.
There are plenty of all-time greatest New York Yankees lists out there. Honestly, though, they can become predictable and boring.
Why not make it interesting with some restrictions, say, the greatest possible list of Bombers whose first initials line up to spell out the team’s name in acrostic form? That should force a few unlikely pinstriped sportsmen into the spotlight and create a new topic to debate within the COVID-19 confines of social media platforms.
With that said, here goes nothing.
“N” is for Nick Etten, who played for the Yankees from 1943-46. The lefty-swinging first baseman slashed .275/.370/.429 with 63 homers and 358 RBIs during that time.
He led the American League in homers in 1944 with 22, and he topped the league in RBIs the following season with 111. Such performances helped Etten receive MVP votes each year from 1943-45.
This list requires an “E” three different times, and the best of these is southpaw starter Eddie Lopat. The Junk Man won 113 games in eight years with the Yankees, posting a 3.19 ERA (121 ERA+) in the process.
Lopat stepped up his game in the postseason, going 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA in seven starts. He helped the Yankees win five-straight championships from 1949-53.
The only “W” on this board had to go to Hall of Fame lefty Whitey Ford.
Whitey played his entire career with the Yankees, posting a .690 winning percentage (236-106) and a sensational career ERA of 2.75.
In the postseason, his ERA improved slightly to 2.71, thanks in part to an incredible run of 33.2 consecutive scoreless innings across four World Series starts in 1960 and 1961.
Ford ended up winning six out of 11 World Series appearances. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1974.
The first “Y” has to be the great Yogi Berra. Sure, the great catcher’s legal first name was Lawrence, but the fact that everyone knows him by his nickname and a true shortage of “Y” names on the organization’s all-time roster necessitate this choice.
(See more players below, and Edward “Whitey” Ford above, whose given names would surprise most fans.)
Berra blasted 358 dingers and drove in 1,430 runs as a Bomber, winning three MVP awards in the 1950s. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez
El Duque was a major part of the latest (and sorely missed) Yankees dynasty, playing a major role in the team’s three straight titles from 1998-2000 with his funky, knee-to-shoulder leg kick.
He combined for a regular-season record of 61-40 with a 3.96 ERA as a Yankee. When October baseball rolled around, he elevated his game, going 9-3 while posting a sub-three ERA in 102 innings.
Hernandez was even named ALCS MVP in 1999 when he held the Boston Red Sox to just four runs (three earned) in two starts (15 innings).
Red Ruffing takes the “R” in this acrostic list because he did significant internecine damage while with the Boston Red Sox, and then he was great on the Yankees.
Having played for Boston from 1924-30, Ruffing was an abysmal 39-96. The Yankees acquired him from the Sox as an 0-3 pitcher in 1930, and he immediately turned around and went 15-5 the rest of the way.
Ruffing ended up going 231-124 with a 3.47 ERA in pinstripes. He won six rings as a Yankee, putting up a 7-2 record and 2.63 ERA in 10 World Series starts.
Kid Elberfeld, a shortstop by trade, played with the Bombers from 1903-09. He put up decent middle-infielder numbers, slashing .268/.340/.333.
Despite only playing on the team for less than seven full seasons and averaging less than 100 games per year, he places on the Yankees’ top-50 WAR list. He’s tied for 47th with none other than Aaron Judge.
For what it’s worth, Elberfeld is also fifth on the Yankees’ all-time hit-by-pitch list, with 81 beanballs taken.
Also, in 1907, he struck out a mere seven times in 501 plate appearances. In total, he only whiffed in 94 of his 2,750 plate appearances with the Yanks.
Obviously, strikeouts weren’t quite as prevalent back then as they are now, but Elberfeld’s contact ability is impressive nonetheless.
So, there really aren’t many Yankees whose first initial is “Y.” In fact, there are only three: Yogi, Yats Wuestling, and Yangervis Solarte.
Wuestling played a grand total of 25 games with the Bombers in 1930 and posted supremely unimpressive numbers (.190/.242/.224). Thus, Solarte places by default.
New York signed Solarte as a minor-league free agent in 2014. The infielder made the club out of spring training, playing his first 75 MLB games before the Yankees traded him to the San Diego Padres for Chase Headley.
Solarte played well with the Yanks, posting a passable 104 OPS+ and a positive WAR (0.9). He went on to log consistently decent numbers in San Diego before spending time in the Blue Jays system.
He signed a minors contract with the Atlanta Braves for the 2020 season.
Removing Alex Rodriguez from the equation due to his steroid lies makes this lone spot for an “A” name a battle between Allie Reynolds and Andy Pettitte. Reynolds wins the competition for a number of reasons.
First, even though Pettitte won more games in pinstripes (219 to Reynolds’ 131), Reynolds’ winning percentage was significantly higher (.686 to Pettitte’s .633).
Second, Reynolds performed better in the postseason.
Now, that sounds crazy, considering that Pettitte pitched a ridiculous 251.1 playoff innings as a Yankee, going 18-10. But break it down into World Series innings, which is all Reynolds pitched (there were no league playoff series in his day), and a clear winner emerges.
Pettitte in the WS: 71.2 innings, 4.17 ERA, 5-4 record (Note: his numbers with the Houston Astros in 2005 are subtracted).
Reynolds in the WS: 77.1 innings, 2.79 ERA, 7-2 record.
Plus, Reynolds helped bring home six Yankees championships to Pettitte’s five.
A Yankee from 2009-12, Nick Swisher was a productive fan favorite. He averaged about 26 homers and 87 RBIs while he pulled on the pinstripes.
An argument could be made for putting Swisher at the top of this list instead of Etten, considering that the latter played during World War II when players like Joe DiMaggio were off fighting in Europe.
But an interesting perspective from Renwick W. Speer at SABR makes a strong case for the strong quality of baseball during that time. That means Etten’s almost-MVP impact is real enough to give him the nod over Swish.
Ken Griffey Sr.
Ken Griffey Sr., who’s best known for helping give the world MLB legend Ken Griffey Jr., was a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champ. But those accolades came when he was on the Cincinnati Reds.
The lefty outfielder and first baseman slashed .285/.336/.419 with 49 homers in five seasons as a Yankee.
Fun fact: Griffey’s .296 career average is 12 points higher than his Hall of Fame son’s. Also, both men’s legal first name is George.
A career Yankee (1924-35), Earle Combs posted a sensational slash line of .325/.397/.462. He didn’t have a ton of pop, never reaching double-digit homers in a season. Nonetheless, he made up for that in the triples category.
He sits at second on the Yankees’ all-time triples list with 154, just nine fewer than Lou Gehrig. Combs hit 10 or more triples in nine-straight seasons, and in three of those years, he mashed more than 20.
The centerfielder, who was known as The Kentucky Colonel before Kentucky Fried Chicken was a thing, was also clutch. He hit .350/.451/.450 in 16 postseason games. Ironically, he never hit a postseason triple, although he did bring home a trio of rings.
A 13-year Bomber, Elston Howard left his mark on Yankees history as a standout catcher in the 1950s and 1960s. His career included 12 All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP Award.
That resume makes it seem like Howard should be the second “E” instead of Combs, but there are reasons.
Howard loses out to Combs thanks to lower WAR and OPS metrics. Combs accumulated a career WAR of 43.9 and an impressive .859 OPS. Howard, on the other hand, posted a 27.8 WAR and .760 OPS in a Bombers uniform.
The only Yankees pitcher to win an MVP award, Spud Chandler, went 109-43 through 11 seasons in the Bronx. Two of those campaigns — 1944 and 1945 — were largely lost to service in World War II.
Chandler won 20 games twice, once during the war (1943) and once after (1946). In the right-handed starter’s final season at 39 years old (1947), he posted an American League-best 2.46 ERA in 17 games (16 starts).
And there you have it. The best possible Bombers whose names can be aligned to spell out “New York Yankees” in an acrostic.
Take that, social distancing.