The House That Ruth Built. Two different “Loveable Losers.” Some of the most well-known and beloved athletes in the history of the United States.
Baseball and New York have been intertwined since what seems like the day before forever. It’s hard to imagine one without the other. As much as some may not want to admit it, Major League Baseball is just better when both the New York Yankees and New York Mets are good.
New York has, for over a century, produced some of the greatest baseball teams ever put together. The Yankees, the US’ most-successful professional sports franchise, has been responsible for many. It’s a franchise that no longer resides in one of the five boroughs, though, that get things started here.
10. 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
“Wait ’til next year!” was the mantra that had been embraced by the Dodgers faithful due to the way that the club broke the hearts of Brooklyn fans season after season after season. The ’55 Dodgers will forever be remembered for winning the first World Series in franchise history, the only title won by the team until it moved out West to Los Angeles.
What’s shouldn’t be forgotten is that it was also one heckuva baseball team.
Roy Campanella. Gil Hodges. Pee Wee Reese. Jackie Robinson. Duke Snider. Carl Furillo. Don Newcombe. Even a 19-year-old Sandy Koufax got in a handful of appearances that season. They were a great story, yes, but they also had plenty of talent, and the Dodgers thoroughly deserved to win the World Series that season.
9. 1954 New York Giants
The ’54 (baseball) Giants weren’t supposed to have a chance against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Cleveland was far and away the best team in all of baseball. Winning the club’s second World Series in six years seemed to be the destiny of the Tribe.
Then, Willie Mays made his famous over-the-shoulder grab in center field in Game 1 of the Series.
One thing that gets lost whenever many reflect upon this Series is that the Giants did have quality on the roster. Hank Thompson had 26 homers and 86 RBIs. Mays was, of course, Mays. Five pitchers had double-digit wins. They’re largely on here because of Mays’ World Series grab, yes, but those Giants were far from lousy.
8. 1986 New York Mets
I believe that it would be impossible for anybody to read the book on the ’86 Mets titled The Bad Guys Won and not, depending on how you view the world, either love or hate that team. They gambled. They drank. They partied hard.
And they won it all.
That Mets team is one of my favorite sides in any sport, the reason I became a fan of the club. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were the childhood idles of a kid who didn’t know any better. I wanted to be Bob Ojeda. Fond memories aside, the Mets appeared on the cusp of a dynasty after that World Series win, but that group ended up being its own worst enemy in oh so many ways.
7. 2009 New York Yankees
Sure, the ’09 Yankees were a team bought built to win rather than one that was an organic creation. That doesn’t take away from all of the talent on the squad, or from the fact that, when it mattered most, there was just no way that New York wasn’t winning it all that fall.
Seven different lineup mainstays finished the season with 80+ RBIs. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go for 69 home runs and 222 RBIs. CC Sabathia won 19 games. Mariano Rivera was, well, Mariano Rivera. I can’t imagine that they’ll be viewed as anybody’s favorite New York baseball team, but they more than got the job done on the field.
6. 1969 New York Mets
The ’69 Mets, like the ’54 Giants, are more remembered for what they did than for their overall greatness. Known as the “Miracle Mets,” the Amazin’s went on what was an unexpected run that ended with 100 regular season wins and a postseason trip during which New York lost only one game.
They weren’t similar to those great Yankees teams that have lived on throughout the ages, but the Mets were a complete side. Tom Seaver went on a tear that season, leading the league in wins with 25 and winning the NL Cy Young Award. Jerry Koosman contributed a 17-9 record for the Mets.
5. 1932 New York Yankees
The ’32 Yankees were as high on name-value as was any other team mentioned in this piece. That roster had nine to-be Hall of Fame players. New York crushed the baseball that season, producing 1,002 team runs. They also had a great pitching staff, one responsible for a 16-game winner, a 17-game winner, an 18-game winner, and a 24-game winner.
Those of us who love to believe in mythology will fondly recall this team for what allegedly occurred during the World Series, when Babe Ruth so famously “called his shot.” Whether Ruth did or didn’t has no affect on how great these Yankees were. They swept the Chicago Cubs in the Series.
4. 1939 New York Yankees
Like runs? The ’39 Yankees just may be the team for you. Four different starters hit for over 100 RBIs. Joe Dimaggio batted .381. As a team, the Yanks scored 967 runs, and New York outscored opponents in total by 411 runs.
No, that last stat isn’t a typo.
The ’39 Yankees had a winning percentage of over .700, a feat matched only by the Yankees teams of ’27 and ’98. A season filled with one of the more somber moments in MLB history – the retirement of Lou Gehrig and the “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech – ended with New York sweeping the Cincinnati Reds right out of the World Series. It was a fitting end to a year dominated by the Yanks.
3. 1961 New York Yankees
The home run battle involving Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle was the talk of the baseball world in the summer of ’61. Maris famously won it in the end, and the two combined for 115 HRs and 269 RBIs. They weren’t alone in contributing offensive production. Three other starters had over 20 homers.
Whitey Ford was the leader of the rotation, going an impressive 25-4 and winning the Cy Young. Ralph Terry went 16-3. Luis Arroyo had 15 wins, 29 saves and a 2.19 ERA.
I consider the ’61 Yankees to be one of the more underrated teams in baseball history. Known largely for two players, New York had a deep lineup and solid pitching. They are a sleeper candidate for maybe the greatest baseball team ever.
2. 1927 New York Yankees
The ’27 Yankees are probably the most well-known baseball teams and one of the most referenced North American professional sports teams ever assembled. Their “Murderers’ Row” lineup included Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Babe Ruth. Gehrig hit 47 homers and he had 173 RBIs, while Ruth slammed 60 bombs that season.
New York also had pitching. Waite Hoyt went 22-7. Herb Pennock went 19-8. Urban Shocker had a record of 18-6. The staff as a whole had a league-low 3.20 ERA.
Many would, and have, called this and not my pick the best team in the history of Major League Baseball. While I wouldn’t agree, the ’27 Yankees set the standard for over seven decades.
1. 1998 New York Yankees
Baseball fans sometimes get so swept up in history that they don’t realize that the greatest Yankee team wasn’t one that played when games were shown in black and white. Not only that, but the ’98 Yankees are, for me, the greatest single-season MLB team ever assembled.
The ’98 Yankees finished with a franchise-best record of 114-48. They won the division by 22 games. There were no holes in the lineup. Six pitchers had double-digit victories. New York was solid in the field.
They literally had it all.
Anything other than a World Series victory would have been a massive failure, and the Yanks didn’t disappoint. No team, not the San Diego Padres or anybody else, would have been capable of stopping that runaway train. I’d put the ’98 Yankees against any team before or after it.