No team in professional sports boasts the glorious history of the Yankees, winners of 27 World Series championships over the past century.
Some might argue that having 21 retired numbers honoring 22 players and managers to don the pinstripes is excessive, but doesn’t it make sense that the organization with the most titles would have more uniform numbers out of circulation than any other?
From Lou Gehrig, the first player in baseball history to earn that designation in 1940, to fellow captain Derek Jeter, the most recent star to be so honored in 2017, here are those who have helped shape the Bronx Bombers into the most successful franchise in the annals of North American sports:
No. 1 – Billy Martin
An instant favorite of manager Casey Stengel from his arrival in 1950 and a running buddy of star teammate Mickey Mantle, Martin played seven seasons for the Yankees as a scrappy second baseman, winning World Series MVP honors in 1953. But Billy the Kid earned his place in Monument Park in five separate and tumultuous stints as Yankees manager under George Steinbrenner, including a championship in 1977.
Number retired: Aug. 10, 1986
No. 2 – Derek Jeter
The Yankees’ longtime shortstop and most recent captain defined the franchise’s latest dynasty, making 14 All-Star appearances and earning five World Series rings over 20 seasons in the Bronx from 1995-2014. The current part-owner of the Miami Marlins rapped the sixth highest hit total in baseball history (3,465) and the most by a Yankee. His 200 postseason hits also easily are top the MLB list.
Number retired: May 14, 2017.
No. 3 – Babe Ruth
The Yankees’ brand as we know it today unofficially began when they bought Ruth’s contract from the Boston Red Sox in 1920. One century later, The Great Bambino remains the most fabled figure in the history of the game. The converted right fielder (and former pitcher) led the Yankees to seven World Series appearances, four titles and belted 659 of his 714 career home runs with the Bombers, including a then-record 60 in 1927. The Babe’s career slugging percentage (.690) and OPS (1.164) remain the highest of all-time.
Number retired: June 13, 1948
No. 4 – Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was among the game’s most durable and productive first basemen, playing in a longstanding MLB record 2,130 consecutive games (later broken by Cal Ripken Jr.) from 1925-39. The Columbia product ripped 493 home runs and earned two American League MVP awards, mostly batting behind Ruth in the team’s famed Murderers’ Row lineup. Gehrig’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal disease that came to bear his name, resulted in one of the most poignant moments in baseball history, his “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech on the July 4, 1939.
Number retired: Jan. 6, 1940
No. 5 – Joe DiMaggio
The man who famously said “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee” inspired countless fans to reciprocate those feelings. The Yankee Clipper was among the most graceful and dominant center fielders to ever don a uniform, winning three MVP awards and fronting the Yankees to nine World Series titles despite missing three years in his prime due to service in World War II. Joltin’ Joe posted a lifetime batting average of .325 and amassed a 56-game hitting streak in 1941, considered one of baseball’s unbreakable records.
Number retired: April 18, 1952
No. 6 – Joe Torre
The perfect manager for the Yankees’ latest dynasty due to his calm demeanor and communication skills, Torre’s teams qualified for postseason play in each of his dozen seasons in the dugout from 1996-2007, reaching six Fall Classics and winning four rings. His 1,173 regular-season wins are second only to Joe McCarthy (1,460 from 1931-46) in Yankees history.
Number retired: Aug. 23, 2014
No. 7 – Mickey Mantle
DiMaggio’s successor in center, The Mick quickly established himself as one of the most prodigious sluggers ever, winning the Triple Crown in 1956 with a .353 batting average, 52 home runs and 130 RBI. The three-time AL MVP also ripped the most home runs in World Series play (18) over a dozen October appearances (with seven championships) over a 14-year span from 1951-64. The Oklahoma native’s 536 career home runs remain the most ever by a switch-hitter.
Number retired: June 8, 1969
No. 8 – Bill Dickey
Bridging the eras from Ruth and Gehrig to DiMaggio, Dickey is considered one of baseball’s top all-around catchers, batting .300 or better in all but one of his first 11 seasons and finishing with a career mark of .313. The 11-time All-Star also caught more than 100 games in 13 straight seasons and backstopped the Yanks to seven World Series titles.
Number retired: July 22, 1972
No. 8 – Yogi Berra
A national treasure due to his superlative play and offbeat personality and observations, Berra was a beloved mainstay behind the plate with the Yankees for nearly two decades after serving in World War II. He appeared in the most World Series (14) and won the most championships (10) in baseball history from 1947-63. Yogi, who caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, also finished first or second in AL MVP voting five times in a six-year span from 1951-56, copping the award three times.
Number retired: July 22, 1972
No. 9 – Roger Maris
In one of the most memorable seasons in MLB history, Maris emerged out of a two-Yankee race with Mantle to eclipse Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs on the final day of the expanded 162-game season in 1961. Maris’ mark stood until Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both surpassed it during the heart of baseball’s steroids era in 1998. Maris won his second consecutive AL MVP award in 1961 after earning the honor the previous year in his first season with the Yanks following a trade from the Kansas City A’s.
Number retired: July 21, 1984
No. 10 – Phil Rizzuto
Known lovingly as the Scooter, the Brooklyn-born Rizzuto was a mainstay with the Yankees as a player and a broadcaster for more than five decades, with his signature phrase “Holy Cow” a significant part of baseball’s pop-culture lexicon. Rizzuto was an excellent bunter and defensive shortstop and won the AL MVP in 1950 with a .324 batting average of 125 runs scored. He was a key member of seven World Series winners in 13 seasons in the Bronx, including five in a row from 1949-53.
Number retired: Aug. 4, 1985
No. 15 – Thurman Munson
The Yankees’ first captain since Gehrig, Munson also died tragically, in a crash while piloting his private plane in Ohio on an off-day on Aug. 2, 1979. The seven-time All-Star catcher was the heart of the Yankee squads that captured three straight AL pennants from 1976-78 and World Series titles in the latter two seasons. Munson, who was 32 when he died, also earned three Gold Glove awards behind the plate, was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and was named AL MVP in 1976, when he batted .302 with 17 home runs and 105 RBI.
Number retired: Aug. 3, 1979
No. 16 – Whitey Ford
The Chairman of the Board was the unquestioned ace of the Yankees dynasty teams of the 1950s and 60s, posting a lifetime winning percentage of .690 (236-106). Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961 with career-bests of 25 wins and 283 innings. The lefty still holds World Series records for wins (10), starts (22) and strikeouts (94).
Number retired: Aug. 3, 1974
No. 20 – Jorge Posada
Posada spent parts of 17 seasons with the Yankees from 1995-2011, playing on four World Series winners and making five All-Star appearances. The switch-hitting catcher and Core Four member finished second in AL MVP voting in 2003, with 30 home runs, 101 RBI and a .922 OPS. Posada totaled 275 home runs — second only to Berra in Yankees history among catchers — and 1,065 RBIs.
Number retired: Aug. 22, 2015
No. 23 – Don Mattingly
Donnie Baseball was the top two-way first baseman in the game in the 1980s, before back issues zapped much of his power for the final few seasons of his career. Mattingly won nine Gold Gloves in 14 years with the Yanks from 1982-95, won the 1984 AL batting crown (.343) and copped MVP honors the following season when he batted .324 with 35 homers and a league-high 145 RBIs. He also was the team’s revered captain from 1991-95, retiring one year before the start of the Yanks’ run of four World Series titles in five seasons.
Number retired: Aug. 31, 1997
No. 32 – Elston Howard
The overdue first African-American player in Yankees history in 1955 – eight years after Jackie Robinson’s debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers – Howard was a member of nine AL pennant winners and four World Series champions in his first decade in pinstripes. Howard was named to nine straight All-Star teams from 1957-65, won two Gold Gloves behind the plate and was named the 1963 AL MVP. He later became a respected member of the team’s coaching staff in the late 1960s and ‘70s.
Number retired: July 21, 1984
No. 37 – Casey Stengel
“The Old Perfessor” was one of the most colorful and successful managers in baseball history, guiding the Yanks to 10 World Series appearances and seven championships over 12 seasons from 1949-60. Casey later became the first manager of the crosstown Mets; he had his No. 37 retired by them first in 1965.
Number retired: Aug. 8, 1970
No. 42 – Mariano Rivera
The only player ever to be elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame in 2019, Mariano set the standard for closers with a record 652 saves and a minuscule 2.21 ERA over 19 seasons in The Bronx from 1995-2013. Entering home games to the strains of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” the five-time World Series champion also owns MLB marks of 42 saves (fittingly) and a 0.70 ERA in postseason play for pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings.
Number retired: Sept. 22, 2013
(Note: All MLB teams had previously retired No. 42 on April 15, 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson, but the grandfathered Rivera was permitted to wear the number until retirement).
No. 44 – Reggie Jackson
The marquee free-agent signing forever earned the moniker Mr. October with three first-pitch home runs against three Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, cementing the Yanks’ first title since 1962. Jackson blasted 144 of his 563 regular-season homers over five seasons with the Yanks from 1977-81, making the All-Star squad in each of those years and finishing as runner-up for AL MVP in 1980.
Number retired: Aug. 14, 1993
No. 46 – Andy Pettitte
The only member of the Core Four to also play for another team, Pettitte returned to the Yanks in 2007 after three seasons in Houston and helped Jeter, Posada and Rivera earn the final World Series rings of their careers in 2009. Pettitte posted 219 of his 256 career wins with the Yanks, and he recorded the highest strikeout total in franchise annals with 2,020. Pettitte’s 19 postseason wins also remain the most in baseball history.
Number retired: Aug. 23, 2015
No. 49 – Ron Guidry
Louisiana Lightning’s 1978 season was one of the best ever by a starting pitcher, posting a 25-3 record with a 1.74 ERA, 248 strikeouts and nine shutouts to unanimously win AL Cy Young honors. The lefty set a franchise record that season with 18 Ks in one game on June 17 against the California Angels. The four-time All-Star also was the Cy Young runner-up in 1985 (22-6, 3.27) in 1985 and served as a team co-captain with Willie Randolph from 1986-89.
Number retired: Aug. 23, 2003
No. 51 – Bernie Williams
The switch-hitting center fielder was another homegrown lynchpin of the Yankees’ 1990s dynasty, playing 16 seasons in the Bronx from 1991-2006. Williams was a .297 lifetime hitter, won four Gold Gloves, made five All-Star teams and won the 1998 AL batting title. He also is the team’s all-time leader in postseason home runs (22) and RBI (80).
Number retired: May 24, 2015