Monday, February 10, 2014

Introducing the first-ever Top 15 all-time coolest Yankees (counting down, numbers 15 through 11)

Friday, the National Portrait Gallery opened a unique exhibit, "American Cool," with 100 photographs of men and women who defined the essence of coolness. We're talking about James Dean and Debbie Harry, Elvis and Muhammad Al, Mustang and Alphonso, et al.

But it got me to a-thinkin. Who are the top 15 coolest Yankees of all-time? They had to be hip, fashionable, calm, collected - the type who embodied coolness.

Sorry, Yogi.  Nice try, Thurman. I apologize, Donnie Baseball. But coolness has an icy, above-it-all subversiveness. The truly cool Yankee isn't necessarily in the Hall of Fame. He might not even be that good. But everything he does is - well - cool.

So here is my list, starting at 15. Later in the week, we'll put it to a poll.

15. Fritz Peterson: Had lowest ERA of any Yankee pitcher in old Yankee Stadium; took part in ultimate 1960s hipster move - swapped wives. (Won the swap.) Was favorably portrayed in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four." Became blackjack dealer in casino. Would be played by Matt Damon or Ben Affleck in projected movie. Cool, eh?

 14. Jim Bouton: Wrote “Ball Four,” starred in own TV show, was TV sports anchor in NYC, did college lecture circuit, made hugely hyped (brief) comeback as knuckleballer, (but how many guys get a third act?) smoked grass, was delegate to 1972 Democratic National Convention in support of George McGovern.  Had to be getting laid by young liberal groupies well into his 40s.

13. Doc Ellis: Hail Mary pick. Once tried to hit every batter in Cincinnati's fabled Big Red Machine; came to the Yankees with Willie Randolph and won 17 games. Partied like hell. After retirement, got himself sober and counseled drug addicts in prison, until his death in 2008, at age 63. Oh, and one other thing: He threw a no-hitter on acid. Anybody else you know ever do that?

12. Oscar Gamble: Was called "The Big O" by Phil Rizzuto; owner of greatest Afro in baseball history; (the picture below, in his Yankee years, doesn't do justice to what he had in other cities). He once hit .358 with 19 HRs but didn't have enough ABs to qualify for the batting title; despite his 'fro, became a favorite of the white-bread NYC Yankee sportswriters; a flawless career with never one glitch.

11. Sparky Lyle: The first Yankee star closer to have his own signature entering theme song; the one played for high school graduations; he was famous for sitting naked in birthday cakes; co-wrote best-seller “The Bronx Zoo,” one of the lasting legacies of that Yankee team. Wore a signature mustache (in later years, not shown below); and stopped sitting in cakes because - get this - he feared somebody would put an upraised spike in one. (That, my friends, is the thinking man's cool).

Coming tomorrow, the Top 10. Feel free to lobby.


Anonymous said...


You might be tempted put Reggie Jackson at #1, but I gotta lobby -- hard -- for Joltin' Joe. How many other Yankees were married to Marilyn Monroe?

Oh, and A-Rod diddling Madonna when she was 50 doesn't count.

I'm Bill White said...

Alvaro Espinosa
Dale Berra
Ron Kittle
Rickey Henderson

KD said...

The quotes. the cartoon character. all those rings. Nobody cooler than Yogi Berra.

John M said...

Pepitone, man. The first guy to bring a hair dryer into the locker room. Mick thought it was hysterical. Pepi was as close as the 60s Yankees got to Namath.

We'll let the gun arrest at the airport slide.

And here's a quiet cool guy who didn't do anything noticeably cool like Pepi or Fritz--Roy White. Roy just couldn't help being cool. He didn't display it like a badge, he just was.

Does Bucky's rumored heavy use of a certain white powder in the 77 post season count? Actually, the rumor was that half the team was Peruvian that year...

el duque said...

Dooley noted.

(Brother to Dooley Womack.)

KD said...

Sorry to nominate Yogi as he was explicitly disqualified. I never listen to instructions.

Let me buttress John M's Pepitone nomination. Pepitone was not circumcised, as the story goes. Joe once inserted a popcorn kernel under his foreskin, and then ran around the locker room claiming a mysterious venereal disease had attacked the end of his dick. Anyone else recall that story?

Anonymous said...

Swisher... Giambi...

Tom said...

Mickey Rivers was cool.Joe D was so uptight he was not cool. Reggie Jackson was and is a poseur -- uncool. By and large, the Yankees that I know of never really embodied cool, except for Thurman. Why is ineligible?

el duque said...

I think Thurman is out because he screwed up and got himself killed. Not cool. Also, he was too hard-working, too loyal, too obviously caring... to be cool. He and Mattingly are my favorite all-time Yankees, but neither makes the list.

Anonymous said...

Mel Hall. Coolest Yankee ever. Now, not so much.

No Dance For Coney said...

Any guy who risks his life on a raft to get here then pitches several years of lights-out baseball in the postseason while somehow remaining distant despite everyday press coverage is pretty damned cool.

Orlando Hernandez was pretty damned cool.

Anonymous said...

Number one is easy--The Babe.

Also, Whitey Ford embodied a kind of tough urban cool, especially under pressure on the mound--grace-under-pressure cool.

Another dark-horse candidate: Don Larsen, one of the many imperturbable Yankee lounge lizards of the era. When he wrapped his car around a light pole at about 3:00 a.m. during spring training during the 1950s, Casey, diplomatically commented, "Well, he was either out very late or very early."

And what about ole' Case? If you've read Steve Goldman's biography, you know that this was maybe the coolest guy ever to don pinstripes.

John M said...

KD, I think I've heard that Pepitone story before. Can't remember where, though.

joe de pastry said...

Maybe my definition of cool is different than everybody else's, but I gotta put the Scooter in there, just below Whitey and the Babe.

Alphonso said...

Don't forget Mike Kekich and that pitcher from San Diego whose driveway we set afire.