The New York Yankees will take the field for the first time of the 2017 season in just eight days. It’s been hard to contain my excitement for the upcoming season, so to keep me busy I’ve decided to take a look at the greatest Yankees to ever wear the number eight. The number eight is a special number in Yankees history, as it’s the only number to be retired twice.
In 1972 the New York Yankees organization retired the numbers of two of the best catchers in baseball history. Both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra donned the number eight on the back of their jerseys throughout their careers. Like clockwork, when one Hall of Fame catcher’s career came to an end, another began, providing the Yanks with 37 straight seasons of greatness behind the plate.[Milkins]
First came William Malcolm “Bill” Dickey. After being waived by the Jackson Senators, a class C minor-league club in 1927, the Yankees claimed the then 20-year-old. He spent only a brief time in the minors before making his debut with the Yankees on August 15th, 1928. His first full season came in 1929, and after earning the starting catcher job, Dickey never looked back.
Dickey played on a team with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, some guys you may have heard of. When playing alongside some of baseball’s all-time greats, it’s easy to be overshadowed. However, Dickey managed to put together some of the best seasons as a catcher that the game had ever seen. He posted an average above .300 in 11 seasons and finished with a career .313 mark. The 11-time All-Star also collected 202 homers and 1209 RBI.
Dickey was as durable as they come, catching more than 100 games in 13 straight seasons, and American-League record. He was also a fantastic defensive catcher, setting the AL record for not allowing a single passed ball in 125 games behind the plate. As a player, the “Man Nobody Knows” earned eight World Series rings, and was an integral part of the best dynasty in baseball history. His final season came in 1946 where he played in just 54 games but spent the season tutoring a young catcher, who he took under his wing.
That young catcher was a 21-year-old Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra. No one expected someone to follow up Dickey’s career as quickly and successfully as Berra did. Berra’s resume is one of the best in baseball history. He was selected to 18 All-Star teams, was a three-time MVP, and earned a record 10 World Series rings. Berra collected 358 homers, 1430 RBI, and posted a career batting average of .285.
While his career stats are stunning, it was his playoff performances that put him above everyone else. Yogi set, and still holds the World Series records for games played, at-bats, hits, and doubles. He’s second in runs, RBI, and total bases, and is third in home runs. His records are going to be very difficult to reach in today’s game, as the chances of seeing a dynasty like the one we saw in Yogi’s time are slim.
Both catchers were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame following their careers. Dickey was inducted in 1954, while Berra was voted in in 1972. Dickey and Berra were leaders on two of the best Yankees dynasties of all-time, and are both considered two of the greatest catchers in baseball history. The New York Yankees have had their share of great catchers, but it was Dickey and Berra that set the stage.
We’ll never see the number eight in pinstripes again, but Yankee fans are reminded of the greatness that was Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra whenever they walk through Memorial Park. The New York Yankees open the 2017 season on April 2nd against the Tampa Bay Rays.