The New York Yankees have a long and storied history; in fact the longest and most storied of any team in the history of professional sports. From dozens of legendary and Hall of Fame players, there have also been a boatload of fantastic managers in the team’s history as well. While we all know of the historic rate at which late owner George Steinbrenner fired (and often rehired) his skippers, I will now choose ten from the illustrious group of men, that have been and were so privileged to wear the pinstripes and were able to call themselves “Manager of the New York Yankees.” Here are the top ten managers in the history of the team:
10. Yogi Berra: While his tenure as Yankees manager lasted a very short time (1964, 1984-1985), Yogi Berra did a good enough job during that span to just make the list at number 10. Yogi was hired as manager as soon as his playing career as a Yankee was over. Although most only recall the infamous “harmonica” incident during that year, in which Yogi came close to assaulting Phil Linz, an infielder on the team at the time, for playing his harmonica too loudly on the team bus, the Yankees actually had a very successful season under Berra in 1964. The Yankees finished that year with a record of 104-57, winning the pennant, but eventually losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in in Game 7 of the World Series, after which Berra was subsequently let go. It would be another 20 years before Yogi would manage the Yankees again in 1984. After leading the team to a decent record of 87-75 that year, Yogi returned the following year in 1985, under assurances from George Steinbrenner that he would last the whole year. However, a man notorious for going back on his word, George did just that, firing Yogi 16 games into the ’85 season, after the team had compiled a record of 6-10 to start the year. Yogi was perturbed by this, not because George had fired him after promising not to, but because George had neglected to deliver the news of his dismissal personally, instead dispatching GM Clyde King to do so. It was after this, that Yogi declared he would never set foot back in The House That Ruth Built, so long as George remained owner of the team. It would be a long 14 years before George finally agreed to meet with Yogi to apologize and end the nearly decade and a half long rift between the two. On July 18, 1999, Berra was honored with “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium. It was the first time Yogi had entered the Stadium since his firing. Just as if there was some Yankee magic in the air on that warm summer day, Yankees pitcher David Cone threw a perfect game that day, and it was only fitting. So although he may not have been as successful a manager as he was a player, Yogi Berra will always have a place in the hearts of Yankees fans everywhere, and earns the tenth spot on our list.
9. Lou Piniella: Another guy who didn’t last long as manager, but was still good enough to crack the top ten, is “Sweet Lou” Piniella. Known best for his epic tirades whenever he didn’t like an umpire’s call, Lou Piniella is without a doubt, a Yankee great. While the Yankees never did appear in a postseason during the three years Piniella was at the helm, he did still manage to compile a win-loss record of 242-193, and there was no one who was more respected, or thought more of than Lou Piniella. Piniella finds himself number nine on our list.
8. Buck Showalter: Now manager of the rival Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter was once a beloved manager of the New York Yankees. Taking over just as owner George Steinbrenner was suspended from MLB, Showalter was free to manage without the constant distractions and stress Steinbrenner brought upon. After a rough first couple of years, things started to look up for the Yankees in 1994, when by August the Yankees were sitting in first place in the American League East. However, a strike canceled the rest of the regular season that year, along with the postseason. Any chance the Yankees had of bringing a World Series back to New York was gone. The Yankees were heartbroken, but returned in 1995 hungrier than ever to win. With Steinbrenner (reinstated in MLB the previous year) and his constant presence felt around the team back as owner, Showalter did the impossible-helped return the Yankees to the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The Yankees entered the postseason that year as the first ever American League Wild Card, facing off in the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners. However, after taking a 2-0 series lead, Seattle stormed back, winning the next three games in a row, including the decisive Game 5 in walk-off fashion, to stun the Yankees and the baseball world. Irate, Steinbrenner fired Showalter. Although his tenure as manager may have ended bitterly, Showalter did one of the best managing jobs in Yankees history during his four years as skipper, and finds himself number eight on the list.
7. Bob Lemon: After manager Billy Martin resigned in July of 1978, Bob Lemon was called upon to take over a club 14 games out of first, and what looked like a lost cause. However, a dramatic turn of events unfolded, which at the end of the regular season, saw the Yankees end up tied with their arch rival Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East. A one-game tiebreaker would decide the division champion. In one of the most dramatic games in baseball history, which saw the Yankees trailing 2-0 in the seventh, shortstop Bucky Dent hit one of the biggest home runs in Yankees history, launching a go-ahead three run shot over the Green Monster, to put the Yankees ahead for good in what would be a thrilling 5-4 victory for the Bombers. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series that year, in one of the best comeback stories in baseball history. It would also be their last Championship for almost two decades. Although he was fired early the next season, the fact that Bob Lemon was able to take over a team so late in the season, in such a chaotic state, and that was so far out of first, and was able to right the ship and lead the Yankees to a World Series victory under such circumstances, is beyond worthy of the number seven spot on this list.
6. Joe Girardi: Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi, has done an unbelievable job. In six seasons as skipper, Girardi has accumulated 642 regular season wins, which is good for the fifth most wins of any manager in Yankees history. He has also led the Yankees to three division titles, four playoff appearances, and one World Series title. This past season, Girardi proved a lot of doubters wrong, leading the Yankees to a winning record, despite the fact that the majority of their starting position players missed significant amounts of the season due to injuries. Girardi also has a cool and collective manner about him. He handles the media well, the players and fans respect him, and he is quite simply the perfect man for the job, and the team recognized that by rewarding Girardi with a new four-year deal this offseason. Who knows how much more he will accomplish during these next four years? Hopefully much, much more. Girardi finds himself (currently) number six on the list.
5. Miller Huggins: There is no doubt, Miller Huggins absolutely deserves to be on this list. In 12 seasons as Yankees manager, spanning from 1918-1929, Huggins compiled 1,067 wins, which is fourth on the Yankees’ all-time list. He led the Yankees to three World Series victories during that time. He was also manager during the 1927 season, which was the year the team consisted of hitters Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri, and was known as “Murderer’s Row.” He has a plaque in Monument Park that was erected in 1932. Overall, Miller Huggins was a class act, and a very successful manager of the Yankees. He finds himself fifth on our list.
4. Billy Martin: One of the most successful managers in Yankees history, Billy Martin was adored by fans everywhere. The love-hate relationship between Martin and George Steinbrenner is well documented. He was fired (and subsequently rehired) five different times! One of the most dramatic moments in Yankees history, was on Old-Timer’s Day, 1978, just days after he had resigned as manager of the Yankees, when PA announcer Bob Sheppard, announced to a packed Yankee Stadium crowd that Billy Martin would be returning to manage the team for the 1980 season. Fans were shocked at first, and then proceeded to give Martin a long standing ovation. While he did only win one World Series during his five different tenures as manager, Billy Martin will always be in the hearts and minds of Yankees fans. There was even talk of a Billy VI, but before that could become a reality, Martin was tragically killed on Christmas Day 1989, in a car accident. Although Billy has been gone for over 20 years now, his long-lasting presence will always be felt, and was truly one of the greatest Yankees managers of all time. Here is a famous quote from Billy Martin himself: “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I am the proudest.”
3. Joe Torre: Originally dubbed “Clueless Joe” by the New York media, Joe Torre proved he was anything but clueless during the twelve years in which he managed the Yankees. Despite having been fired by three different teams in the past, and coming to the Yankees having never been to a World Series as a player or manager, Joe Torre led the Yankees to a World Series victory in his first season. It was the Yankees’ first World Series win in eighteen years, and Torre’s first ever. The Yankees then proceeded to win three of the next four World Series, and appear in four of the next five. In twelve seasons under Torre (second longest managerial tenure in Yankees history), the Yankees won ten division titles, and never missed the postseason. Torre finished his Yankee career with 1,173 wins, third most all-time. Torre was unanimously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in December, and will be inducted in July of this year. Torre will always be remembered as the manager during one of the greatest dynasties in Yankees history, and as one of the greatest managers to ever put on the pinstripes. No wonder he finds himself number 3 on the list.
2. Casey Stengel: In eleven years managing the Yankees, Casey Stengel was able to win 1,149 regular season games, and was able to help lead the team to seven World Series titles. Talk about dominance! The Yankees were so dominant in fact, they won five straight World Series, from 1949-1953. Stengel was known for his wit and humor, as well as his craftiness on a baseball field. He has many outrageously funny quotes, that were his own “language” dubbed “Stengelese.” Stengel had his number retired by the Yankees in 1970, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
1. Joe McCarthy: The winningest manager in Yankees history with 1,460 wins, and the eight winningest manager in MLB history with a total of 2,126 career victories, coupled with seven World Series wins, it’s not hard to see why Joe McCarthy is number one on our list. The first manager to win pennants with both National and American League teams, he won nine league titles overall and seven World Series championships – a record tied only by Casey Stengel. McCarthy was the manager of some very good Yankees teams. He was the manager of such good teams in fact, that his Yankees won seven pennants in eight seasons! McCarthy was known as a teacher, and developer of talent, and was given the nickname “Master Joe” by the media. His plaque in Monument Park was erected by the Yankees in 1976, and McCarthy was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1957.
These are the top ten managers in Yankees history, ranked from worst to first. Feel free to comment with your opinions and/or feedback!