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Surprise Hall of Famers: New York Yankees

Rob Joyce
May 05, 2020 - 8:40 am
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This marks the start of a series in which we’ll run through the local teams and point out a number of Hall of Famers you may not associate with that certain franchise. We’ll start with the Yankees, the most decorated organization in baseball. Obviously everyone knows their long list of legendary players – from Ruth and Gehrig to DiMaggio, Berra and Mantle to Jackson to Jeter and Rivera, among the countless others. But did you know that these seven players also donned pinstripes at one point in their Hall of Fame careers?

Gaylord Perry: A 314-game winner and two-time Cy Young honoree, Perry is most remembered for his time with the Giants (109 wins over 10 years) and Cleveland (70 wins and a Cy Young in four years). What many don’t remember is his time with the Yankees. At age 41 he had a respectable 3.43 earned run average with the Rangers in 1980, when Texas traded him in August to New York. His time wasn’t notably special – in 10 appearances (including eight starts) he went 4-4 with a 4.44 ERA. That offseason he signed with Atlanta and wound up pitching until he was 44.

Branch Rickey: The man best known as helping Jackie Robinson get to the majors is in the Hall of Fame as an executive and manager. However he did have a brief playing career. In 1906 he appeared in 65 games for the St. Louis Browns. And in 1907 he played in 52 games for the New York Highlanders, where he hit just .182 with a .487 OPS, thus ending his major league career (minus a two-game stint in 1914 as a player-manager).

Six years later, the Highlanders would change their name to the Yankees.

 

Ivan Rodriguez: One of the best catchers of all-time, Pudge was 36 and still effective to start 2008. An All-Star from 2004-07 with Detroit, he was hitting .295 with a little pop when the Tigers dealt him at the trade deadline to the Yankees after Jorge Posada suffered a season-ending injury. He wound up struggling in the Bronx, splitting time behind the plate, playing in just 33 games and hitting .219 with six extra base hits and three RBIs. The next year he signed with the Astros and played three more seasons.

Enos Slaughter: Best known for his “Mad Dash” to help the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series, Slaughter was coming off eight consecutive All-Star seasons when he was traded before the 1954 season to the Yankees. In just 69 games he hit just .248 and drove in 19, leading the Yankees to trading him after just 10 games in 1955 to the Athletics.

But his time in the Bronx wasn’t yet over. In 1956 Kansas City placed him on waivers, and the Yankees claimed him. He finished the year with them and even started Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series. A part-time player in his early 40s, Slaughter spent all of 1957 and ’58 with the Yanks, before being placed on waivers midway through 1959.

 

Lee Smith: Retiring as the all-time saves leader with 478 – still third all-time – Smith is best known for his work with the Cubs (eight years, two All-Star games) and St. Louis (four years, three All-Star nods). But did you know he was (very briefly) a Yankee? In 1993 the Cardinals dealt the 35-year-old to the Bronx for Rich Batchelor. A game-and-a-half out of first place when they acquired the closer, Smith was very good in pinstripes, not allowing a run in eight appearances with three saves. New York, however, faded down the stretch and the free agent Smith signed with Baltimore that offseason.

 

Dazzy Vance: Not quite as popular as his brother and fellow Hall of Famer Dizzy, Dazzy was best known for his time with the Dodgers, in which he led the National League in strikeouts for seven straight seasons. Prior to his dominance in Brooklyn, though, he was toiling away in the Yankees’ system. As a 24-year-old in 1915 he appeared in eight games with New York, going 0-3 with nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (18). After discovering he had an arm injury, he spent the next few years in the minors before returning to the Yankees for two appearances in 1918. Out of the majors again, he finally signed with the Dodgers as a 31-year-old in 1922, and the rest is history.

Paul Waner: Waner did the bulk of his work with the Pirates, where he debuted in 1926 and stayed until 1940. But of his 3,152 career hits, exactly one came in pinstripes. After being released on September 1, 1944 by the Dodgers, he finished up the year with the Yankees, going 1-for-7 in nine games. In 1945 he appeared in one game, drawing a walk in a pinch-hitting capacity, before retiring.