More than one Hall of Famer headlines the list of the greatest center fielders in New York Yankees history.
Arguably no team has had greater players at one position in their history than the New York Yankees have had at center field. From 1924 to 1966, the team had a future Hall of Famer manning center field. That’s mind-blowing.
Three of the franchise’s five best ever are Hall of Famers, one should be in Cooperstown, and two are some of the greatest players of all time. Plus, only one player on this list didn’t spend his entire career with the Yankees. Let’s get into the rankings.
5. Bobby Murcer (Yankees tenure: 1965-66, 69-74, 79-83)
• 1,256 games, .278/.349/.453, .802 OPS, 129 OPS+, 175 home runs, 687 RBIs, 32.3 oWAR, -6.5 dWAR
Bobby Murcer was expected to be the “next Mantle.” Although he didn’t quite live up to that standard, he was still successful and became an all-time fan favorite.
As a Yankee, Murcer was a four-time All-Star, one-time Gold Glover, and finished top-10 in MVP voting three times. He finished fifth in MVP voting in 1972 when he led the AL in runs and total bases.
In 1971, Murcer led MLB in OBP and the AL in OPS and OPS+. Murcer is fourth among Yankees center fielders in home runs and RBIs. He’s fifth in OPS+, games, at-bats (4,428), runs (641), hits (1,231), doubles (192), triples (29), and walks (491).
4. Earle Combs (1924-35)
• 1,455 games, .325/.397/.462, .859 OPS, 125 OPS+, 58 home runs, 633 RBIs, 43.4 oWAR, -2.8 dWAR
It’s crazy that Earle Combs is a Hall of Famer but is just the fourth-best center fielder in Yankees history. Nicknamed “the Kentucky Colonel,” Combs was the leadoff hitter of the dangerous Murderer’s Row lineup of the late 1920s.
Combs was very fast and a great hitter who also boasted good World Series numbers: He had 21 hits and struck out just seven times in 16 games. Combs finished sixth in MVP voting in 1928 and was a three-time World Series champion.
In 1927, he led MLB in plate appearances, at-bats, and triples, and led the AL in hits. In 1928, he led MLB in triples and in 1930 led the AL in triples. Combs is first among Yankees center fielders in triples (154) and tied for first in batting average.
He’s third in OBP and OPS and fourth in fWAR (41.3), games, at-bats (5,746), runs (1,186), hits (1,866), doubles (309), and walks (670).
3. Bernie Williams (1991-2006)
• 2,076 games, .297/.381/.477, .858 OPS, 125 OPS+, 287 home runs, 1,257 RBIs, 63.2 oWAR, -9.5 dWAR
It’s absurd that Bernie Williams was better than the likes of Earle Combs but isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Williams was a model of consistency and one of the most beloved Yankees of all time.
Spending his entire career in the Bronx, Williams was a five-time All-Star, four-time World Series champion, the 1996 ALCS MVP, a four-time Gold Glover, one-time Silver Slugger, and the 1998 AL batting champion.
He finished top-10 in MVP voting twice and the Yankees retired his No. 51 and honored him in Monument Park.
The fact that George Steinbrenner sought to trade Williams multiple times is unimaginable, especially since the team’s dynasty of the late 1990s doesn’t exist without him.
Williams was a fantastic postseason player who holds multiple records. In 121 games, he slashed .275/.371/.480 while recording an OPS of.850, 22 home runs, and 80 RBIs.
No player has recorded more RBIs in the playoffs than Williams and he is second all-time in postseason runs, hits, home runs, doubles, and total bases.
Williams is first among Yankees center fielders in doubles (449) and second in games, at-bats (7,869), hits (2,336), and walks (1,069). He’s third in fWAR (43.9), runs (1,366), home runs, RBIs, and batting average.
2. Joe DiMaggio (1936-42, 46-51)
• 1,736 games, .325/.398/.579, .977 OPS, 155 OPS+, 361 home runs, 1,537 RBIs, 74.5 oWAR, 3.2 dWAR
We thought Earle Combs being a Hall of Famer and just coming in at four on this list was crazy. Joe DiMaggio’s placement on here is even wilder. DiMaggio was elite but still isn’t the best center fielder to don the pinstripes.
Widely regarded as one of the best baseball players of all time, DiMaggio spent his time in the majors earning awards and accolades in a career shortened by military service.
He may have given Babe Ruth a serious run for his money had he not lost those three years, which is absurd to think about.
Nicknamed “Joltin’ Joe” and “The Yankee Clipper,” DiMaggio was a 13-time All-Star, nine-time World Series champion, and three-time MVP (he finished top-10 in MVP voting seven other times, including top-three three of those times).
His 56-game hitting streak is still intact and will likely never be broken. His No. 5 is retired by the Yankees, he’s honored in Monument Park, and he’s a member of the Hall of Fame.
DiMaggio was also the league’s batting champion once and led the AL in batting average another time. He led MLB in triples, runs, home runs, and slugging percentage once each.
He led MLB in RBIs and total bases twice. He also led the AL in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases once.
1. Mickey Mantle (1951-68)
• 2,401 games, .298/.421/.557, .977 OPS, 172 OPS+, 536 home runs, 1,509 RBIs, 116.2 oWAR, -9.6 dWAR
Here we have not only one of the greatest center fielders of all time but also the greatest switch hitter in MLB history.
Mickey Mantle was a 20-time All-Star, seven-time World Series champion, three-time MVP (finishing top-five in voting six other times), Triple Crown winner, and a Gold Glover.
His No. 7 is retired by the Yankees, he’s honored in Monument Park, is a member of the Hall of Fame, and was named to the All-Century Team.
Mantle led MLB in runs and walks five times, in home runs, total bases, and RBIs once, in OBP and slugging percentage twice, in OPS three times, and in OPS+ six times.
He led the AL in triples and OBP once, in home runs and OPS three times, and in slugging percentage, OPS+, and total bases twice.
Mantle was nicknamed “The Commerce Comet” and “The Mick,” and the phrase “tape measure home runs” was coined in reference to one of his home runs. He’s tied for first in history with 13 walk-off homers.
Mantle also holds several World Series records including most career home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, runs, walks, and total bases.
What’s even crazier is that Mantle suffered many injuries throughout his career. He somehow could’ve been even better had he managed to stay healthy.
Mantle is first among Yankees center fielders in fWAR (112.3), games, at-bats (8,102), runs (1,676), hits (2,415), home runs, walks (1,733), OBP, and OPS+.
He’s second in RBIs, stolen bases (153), and slugging percentage, and third in doubles (344), triples (72), and batting average.
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