The New York Yankees are the most popular franchise in Major League Baseball. Millions of people love them. Millions more hate them. Putting on the pinstripes is a fairly big deal and baseball fans, regardless of their allegiance to the Yankees will most likely know who you are. However, sometimes there are players that don the pinstripes but do so for a fleeting moment or are forgotten because of a hundred different reasons. These are the players you forgot were Yankees.
Dave Kingman – The ornery outfielder played 1941 games across 16 seasons. He could amaze fans and media with his mammoth home runs and his insane attitude. Kingman would play for seven teams and clobber 442 home runs. He would appear in just eight games with the Yankees in 1977. He did hit four home runs across those eight games which is a pretty nice ratio. He would only have six hits as a Yankee but it only cost the Yankees Randy Stein and cash to get Kingman from the then California Angels on September 15, 1977. He was granted free agency in November and went on to sign with the Chicago Cubs. It would have been really interesting to see Reggie Jackson and Kingman paired up in the lineup every day.
Robin Roberts – The Hall of Fame pitcher is known for his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies with whom he won 234 games across 14 seasons. However, on October 16, 1961 the Yankees purchased Roberts from the Phillies. He would go to Spring Training with the Yankees the next season but would get released on May 21, 1962 without ever having appeared in a regular season game. Roberts would catch on with the Baltimore Orioles and would actually fair pretty well with them, posting a 42-36 record with 3.09 ERA and 1.145 WHIP. Roberts would last in the Major Leagues until 1966 when he retired from the game after and 11 game stint with the Cubs.
Mike Lowell – The third baseman is known for his time with the Boston Red Sox and prior to that the Florida Marlins. However, the four-time All-Star was once the Yankees’ third baseman of the future and might be Brian Cashman’s all-time worst trade. The year was 1998, a magical year in the Bronx. Lowell seemed poised to take over the hot corner from Scott Brosius who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Kenny Rogers as a stopgap solution. The 24-year-old Lowell did appear in eight games with the 1998 Yankees, had 15 at-bats and collected four singles while posting the amazing slash line of .267/.267/.267. Still, Lowell had superstar potential. Then Brosius had a monster year in 1998 and won the World Series MVP. Cashman signed Brosius and shipped Lowell off to the Marlins for pitchers Ed Yarnall, Todd Noel, and Mark Johnson. Noel would never make it out of Single-A. Johnson appeared in nine games, three starts, with the 2000 Detroit Tigers. Yarnall, the big fish Cashman thought he caught, was a top prospect. He was once considered the top lefty pitching prospect in baseball. Yarnall appeared in seven games, three starts, with the Yankees and posted a 5.40 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, walked 13 in 20 innings and struck out 14. Pretty sure Cashman wishes he could do this one over again.
Gaylord Perry – Perry is best known for his doctoring of pitches, winning a ton of games, 314 to be exact, and his Hall of Fame career that was born from his stints with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, and a little with the San Diego Padres. However, on August 14, 1980 the Yankees acquired Perry from the Texas Rangers for Ken Clay and Marv Thompson. Perry was 41 and not exactly a stud anymore. Still, the Yankees hoped for some veteran presence down the stretch. Perry went 4-4 with a 4.44 ERA, and 1.63 WHIP in 10 games, eight of which were starts. Amazingly, Perry would bounce around a few more years before finally retiring from the game in 1983.
Mark Wohlers – Wohlers holds a special place in Yankees’ history but as the closer who gave up the game—tying home run to Jim Leyritz in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series when Wohlers was a member of the Atlanta Braves. However, Wohlers would join the Yankees on July 1, 2001 from the Cincinnati Reds as Cashman searched for a pitcher to bridge the gap to Mariano Rivera. It didn’t work. Wohlers would post a 4.54 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and just wasn’t consistent. He appeared in one playoff game that year, against the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS and gave up a home run and three runs (one earned) in just two-thirds of an inning. See, Cashman’s love affair with obtaining closers and using them as set-up men goes back a long time. Wohlers would play one more season, with the Cleveland Indians, before hanging them up at age 33.
Lee Smith – Smith once held the record for most saves in a career. That was, of course, before Mariano Rivera. However, for many years, Smith was closing games out for the Cubs, Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals. Then, on August 31, 1993, the Cardinals dealt Smith to the Bronx for Rich Batchelor. Smith would appear in eight games, save three, strike out 11 and walk five in eight innings. Smith, 35 at the time, would move on as a free agent to the Orioles, lead the league in saves with 33 in the strike-shortened 1994 season before saving another 37 games in 1995. Smith probably should be in the Hall of Fame but he played when the bias against relief pitchers was real. Still, he probably should get in one day.
Jeff Reardon – There was a time that Reardon was a premier closer, maybe THE closer in baseball when he was with the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins. He would accumulate 365 saves before joining the Yankees in 1994 prior to the 1994 season. Reardon was expected to give the Yankees a veteran presence at the back of the bullpen. That wasn’t to be. He posted an 8.38 ERA in 11 games with two saves, a 2.069 WHIP and gave up three home runs. He was released in May of 1994 and retired shortly after.
Bob Ojeda – Ojeda is known for his long stint with the New York Mets from 1986 through 1990 that saw him go 51-40 with a 3.12 ERA. He was instrumental in helping the Mets win in 1986. After leaving the Mets he was a serviceable backend starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers before moving on to the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Ojeda would be seriously injured in a boating accident that killed Tim Crews and Steve Olin in Spring Training. He would only appear in nine games for the Indians that year. George Steinbrenner was never afraid of adding a former Mets player with a past history of success and he signed Ojeda for the 1994 season. Ojeda would only appear in two games for the Yankees, both starts, and give up eight runs on 11 hits and six walks. That’s an ERA of 24.00 and a FIP of 11.46 and a WHIP of 5.667. He was released from the Yankees on May 5th and with the strike looming he became a forgotten Yankee in a forgotten season.
Raul Mondesi – Mondesi began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and won Rookie of the Year in 1994. He followed that up with an All-Star appearance and Gold Glove in 1995. The future was bright. Well, sometimes baseball can be a cruel mistress. Mondesi had a good career but he was far from the megastar many predicted of him. In November of 1999 Mondesi was dealt for Shawn Green. He had a couple of good years with Toronto but he was traded to the Yankees as part of a salary dump on July 1, 2002. The Yankees were looking for a replacement for Paul O’Neill and while Mondesi wasn’t exactly great he wasn’t bad either. In 169 games he hit 27 home runs, 41 doubles, three triples, scored 95 runs, and drove in 92 runs while slashing .250/.323/.453. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks on July 29, 2003 for David Dellucci, Bret Prinz, and Jon-Mark Sprowl. The Yankees might have gotten the last decent season from Mondesi as he would bounce around a bit before leaving baseball in 2005 at age 34.
Rocky Colavito – Colavito, a native of the Bronx who was a Yankees fan growing up, was a power hitting outfielder who played mostly for the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers between 1955 and 1968. He would club 374 home runs, including leading the league in homers in 1959. He would also finish in the Top 10 in MVP voting four times during his career, three of which were Top 5 finishes. In 1965 he became the first outfielder to complete the season with a 1.000 fielding percentage while playing in all 162 games. In 1968 Colavito was purchased from the Chicago White Sox by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was released by the Dodgers on July 11, 1968 and was signed by the Yankees four days later. He would last until September 30, 1968 with the Yankees before being released and calling it a career at just 34. With the Yankees he hit just .220/.330/.451 with five home runs in 91 at bats. In his first home game with the team he hit a three-run home run. In an August 25th game he pitched 2.2 innings. He allowed only one hit over that span and picked up the win. Colavito would go on to become a broadcaster and coach. His stint with the Yankees might have been short but it was a dream come true to the kid who grew up idolizing Joe DiMaggio.