There are far more professional athletes who enjoy one good season (or one good game) instead of a prolonged Hall of Fame career.
Every Phil Simms has a Jeff Hostetler. What Derek Jeter doesn’t need his Luis Sojo? Every sport has its one-hit wonders, be they flashes in the pan or players who parlayed one game or moment into immortality.
The Yankees have had plenty of these players throughout their storied history. We’ve already built a team of the Bronx’s best cult heroes, so let’s have a look at some who were great for the Yankees quickly before their 15 minutes of fame were up.
C Gary Sanchez. Sanchez was with the Yankees from 2015-21 and looked like a good player for maybe two-and-a-half of those years. He slugged 20 home runs in 56 games as a rookie and 33 the following year. All signs pointed to him being Jorge Posada’s proper successor. That is, until he wasn’t. Sanchez never lost his power but hasn’t hit higher than .232 in the last five seasons. He was traded to the Twins for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa last year and is currently a free agent.
1B Mike Ford. The idea of Ford growing up to be a Yankees star was a story that wrote itself. The local kid from Princeton had a beautiful lefty swing built for Yankee Stadium and the team needed a first baseman. His launching balls in the minors led to debuting in 2019, and Ford hit .259 with 12 homers in 50 games. Sadly for Ford and the Yankees, his career since has been defined by an allegedly 680-foot home run hit during summer camp of the shortened 2020 season. The Yankees traded him to the Rays in 2021 and he has continued to bounce around the minors for various teams.
2B Jose Vizcaino. Of his 1,820 games in his 18 seasons, Vizcaino spent 73 with the Yankees in 2000. However, the veteran utility infielder was more than just that in the Bronx. Vizcaino’s single to left won the Yankees Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the rival Mets. Not only that, it was his fourth hit of the evening.
SS Bucky Dent. Five-and-a-half years and two All-Star selections with the Yankees, and fans only remember Dent for one game. 1978, one-game playoff against the Red Sox at Fenway to determine who wins the AL East. The light-hitting Dent steps up to the plate with New York trailing 2-0 with two runners on. And cue the big swing. Furthermore, the Red Sox have won four World Series since 1978. And yet, the Boston faithful still hold nothing but contempt for the man, the myth, the legend, Bucky Effing Dent.
3B Miguel Andujar. Who knows what could have been if Andujar didn’t shred his shoulder in 2019? The year before, he turned every head in baseball with 76 total extra base hits, including 47 doubles. Only Shohei Ohtani debuting the same year kept Andujar from being the runaway AL Rookie of the Year. Nothing has gone right for Andujar since. His injury allowed Gio Urshela’s far superior glove to star at third base, so the Yankees moved him to the outfield. Even then, he shuttled back and forth to the minors enough times that he finally demanded a trade last year. The Pirates acquired him off waivers in September, but have since designated him for assignment.
LF Marcus Thames. It was only a seven-game cup of coffee in 2002, but Thames made the most of his opportunity with the Yankees, and on the first pitch! The young righty power bat turned on a fastball from the feared Randy Johnson and launched it into Monument Park at the old Yankee Stadium. Thames was traded to Texas the following year and ultimately spent ten years in the majors, and now works as a hitting coach. Yet, when it comes to defining career moments, Thames’ debut is definitely among the most exciting.
CF Bubba Crosby. Think of Crosby as a poor man’s Brett Gardner. The bat wasn’t much, but he could fly like the wind. Crosby’s speed was such that it practically ended careers. In 2005, he laid down a bunt in a game against the Orioles and ran right into Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts’ arm. Crosby was running so fast that Roberts’ elbow was dislocated, and the veteran infielder’s swing was never the same.
RF Clint Frazier. A former top-5 draft pick, the Yankees expected five-tool stardom from Frazier when they acquired him from Cleveland in 2016. The bat speed meant hitting for average and power and his speed made for spectacular catches in the outfield. Unfortunately for Frazier, he suffered a concussion in spring training in 2018 and could never quite shake the symptoms. Even amid flashes of his old potential, the Yankees released him after the 2021 season. He is currently in the Cubs organization, now goes by Jackson Frazier and has had choice words about how the Yankees treated him.
DH Bobby Bonds. Oh, what could have been if the Yankees kept Bonds for more than just the 1975 season. He was an All-Star that year and hit .270 with 32 home runs and 85 RBI. Yankees stardom seemed inevitable after Bonds spent his first seven years with the Giants. Unfortunately for Bonds, New York needed more long-term pitching than they did his bat. He was traded to the Angels for Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers, who were integral members of two World Series teams. Bonds wound up playing six more years for six more teams.
UT Luis Sojo. For someone who played for five teams in 13 years, Sojo always found his way back to the Yankees. The veteran utility infielder had three separate stints in the Bronx, including coming out of retirement at age 38 in 2003. But of course, Sojo’s defining career moment is one we know well. In the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2000 World Series, his two-out single broke a tie and proved the game-winner as the Yankees won their third straight title.
PH Glenallen Hill. For someone who only spent two months in the Bronx, Hill knew how to make his presence known. He was acquired from the Cubs that summer and hit .333 and slugged 16 steroid-fueled home runs in just 40 games, including one with a broken bat. Hill then proved a complete non-factor in the playoffs before the Yankees traded him to Anaheim. The steroids wore off, he hit .136 in 16 games, and that was the end of his career.
SP Aaron Small. When he came to the Yankees in 2005, Small was a 33-year-old journeyman with 146 appearances scattered over a decade. The Yankees called him up in July after injuries decimated the starting rotation. What nobody expected was Small pitching like, well, an ace. In just 15 games (nine starts), Small went 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA and even pitched a shutout against Oakland. The Yankees got healthy in time, made the playoffs, and he made one appearance out of the bullpen. Small then regressed hard to an 8.46 ERA in 11 games in 2006 and finished the year in the minors.
CL Rafael Soriano. After Mariano Rivera tore his ACL early in the 2012 season, Soriano stepped right up to fill the star closer’s shoes. Two years removed from an AL-best 45 saves with the Rays, the veteran righty notched 42 with the Yankees filling in for Rivera. It proved a lucrative year for Soriano too. That offseason, he opted out of his contract and signed a two-year deal to be Washington’s closer.
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