The New York Yankees have had some key and important third basemen aside from Alex Rodriguez, but who are they?
The New York Yankees have a literal parade of elite third basemen throughout their history.
Alex Rodriguez, despite being a superior shortstop to Derek Jeter, slugged his way to two MVP trophies and a World Series ring. Clete Boyer would have won several Gold Gloves were he not competing with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. Graig Nettles’ hard-nosed toughness made him a fan favorite and two-time champion.
And underneath these big-name guards of the hot corner are some cult heroes, namely 1998 World Series MVP Scott Brosius. He was never a great player, but showed up when it mattered. The same goes for Andy Carey, who parlayed scrappy hitting and fielding into a pair of rings.
But underneath these men, however, lies an entire subgroup of New York Yankees third basemen lost in time. So many of them made such an impact on the team in their own small way, yet their accomplishments are buried deep in our collective memory.
Now, as we further await a deal between MLB and the players’ union, let’s look at five of these third basemen some might have forgotten.
No. 5: Charlie Hayes (Yankees tenure: 1992, 1996-1997)
Every New York Yankees fan remembers Charlie Hayes for one key moment: catching the last out of the 1996 World Series. Mark Lemke pops the ball into foul territory, Hayes overcomes a small stumble, celebration. Given Hayes was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates as right-handed depth that August, this moment in the sun was a great end to his season.
And even though Hayes remained with the Yankees in 1997, he was still very much a right-handed platoon with Wade Boggs. However, many forget he was actually New York’s starting third baseman in 1992.
The Yankees first landed Hayes in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of spring training the same year. The 27-year-old Hayes went on to set then-career highs with 18 home runs and 66 RBI while batting a respectable .257. New York finished fourth in the AL East that season, and Hayes was picked by the Colorado Rockies in the expansion draft. Two weeks later, the Yankees signed Boggs in free agency.
Hayes also turned in solid defense for the Yankees in 1992, though he was a fairly average fielder for his career. He played for three more teams after 1997 and retired in 2001. Though his career ended quietly, he’ll always be remembered for making the final out in 1996.
For New York Yankees fans, that should count for a lot.
No. 4: Robin Ventura (Yankees tenure: 2002-2003)
Most New Yorkers probably remember Ventura better for his three years with the New York Mets, namely the infamous Grand Slam Single. Shortly after the New York Yankees lost the 2001 World Series, they traded David Justice to the Mets for Ventura.
Fast forward to June 14, and Ventura’s two-run home run in the tenth inning gave the Yankees a victory over his former team at Shea Stadium. Ventura also turned in a solid year as New York’s third baseman, posting a line of .247/.368/.458 with 27 homers and 93 RBI.
On the whole, Ventura’s time in the Bronx was short-lived. His power took a dip in 2003 and he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 deadline. On the same day, the Yankees acquired Aaron Boone from the Cincinnati Reds.
Ventura spent one more year with the Dodgers before retiring and later spent five years managing the Chicago White Sox. He wasn’t a Yankee for long, but made the most of his time in pinstripes.
No. 3: Mike Pagliarulo (Yankees tenure: 1984-1989)
Mike Pagliarulo was supposed to be the second coming of his predecessor, Graig Nettles. In many ways, he was. Playfully dubbed “Pags,” Pagliarulo had a smooth left-handed swing and was a streaky hitter. Unlike Nettles, he wasn’t a particularly strong fielder nor a patient hitter.
And even though Pagliarulo only posted a meager line of .229/.300/.427 as a Yankee, 105 of his 137 career homers came with the New York Yankees. In 1989, with his price rising, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Walt Terrell.
Pagliarulo never had the power he had in Yankee Stadium ever again, but still played through the 1995 season. In 1991, he hit a career-high .279 for the Minnesota Twins and won a World Series ring.
Had Pagliarulo stayed a Yankee, who knows what could have been?
No. 2: Frank “Home Run” Baker (1916-1919, 1921-22)
In the early 20th century, Frank “Home Run” Baker was a star for the Philadelphia Athletics. Over a four-year stretch, he hit .334 and led the league in home runs. Baker also won three World Series titles with Philadelphia.
Except, the term “Home Run” was something of a misnomer. Baker only hit 42 home runs over those four years. Imagine plugging a boxer nicknamed “Killer,” but it turns out it’s Barney the Dinosaur. That’s how much Baker’s power was hyped. He sat out the 1915 season over a contract dispute with A’s owner and manager Connie Mack, and his contract was sold to the Yankees in 1916.
Baker never won a championship with the New York Yankees, but still played well. He was no longer in his prime, but still hit .288 with 48 homers in New York. Oddly enough, those accounted for half of his career home runs. In 1955, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He helped lead the Yankees to the World Series in 1921 and 1922, but lost both times. Still, thanks to his strong bat and generally good defense, Baker was instrumental in making the New York Yankees a relevant team.
No. 1: Gil McDougald (Yankees tenure: 1951-1960)
Gil McDougald is certainly interesting compared to his other New York Yankees contemporaries. He debuted in 1951 and hit .306 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI en route to winning the World Series. McDougald was also named AL Rookie of the Year. McDougald also made six All-Star teams and took home five rings before abruptly retiring in 1960.
But for someone who shared a lineup with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, McDougald was remarkably effective. He was a .276 career hitter and hit .321 in the 1958 World Series. McDougald was also a decent defensive third baseman.
But there’s the rub. For his entire Yankees career, McDougald was only the full-time third baseman in his first three seasons. From then on, he rotated between third, shortstop, and second base and played above-average defense across the board.
Not many know his name, but McDougald played during a golden era of Yankees baseball and should be recognized accordingly.