December 7, 2022

Zip Code Sports Reports

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State by State with the Yankees

15 min read
From sea to shining sea, this land belongs to the Bronx Bombers

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon starred on and off the field at Jefferson High School, lending his violin talents to Portland’s Symphony Orchestra as a teenager before producing two standout seasons at the University of Oregon, where his .358 career batting average is still top five in school history. But Gordon was just getting started. The nine-time All-Star and 1942 AL MVP won four World Series with the Yankees and one more with Cleveland during his Hall of Fame career.

Aaron Judge
Of the 12 Alaska-born players in Major League history, only Josh Phelps and Shawn Chacon played for the Yankees, and both moved to the lower 48 before they hit kindergarten. But several future Yanks have played summer ball in the Alaska Baseball League, including Aaron Judge, who wowed Alaskans (much as he does New Yorkers) with his batting-practice power shows while playing for the 2011 Anchorage Glacier Pilots prior to his sophomore year at Fresno State.

Mel Stottlemyre
Few pitchers in history have given more of themselves to the Yankees than Mel Stottlemyre, who grew up in Mabton and pitched at Yakima Valley Community College. A stalwart of the Yanks’ rotations from the mid ’60s through the mid ’70s, Stottlemyre went toe-to-toe with Bob Gibson as a rookie in the 1964 World Series and was the team’s pitching coach during its most recent dynasty in the late 1990s.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Is it too soon to crown Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the greatest Hawaiian player in Yankees history? The Yankees’ new shortstop need only surpass fellow Honolulu product Lenn Sakata, whose 11-year career wrapped up with a 19-game stint for the 1987 Yankees; Bronson Sardinha, who appeared in 10 games for the 2007 team; and reliever Kirby Yates, who pitched to a 5.23 ERA in 41 games for the 2016 Yanks.

Joe DiMaggio
Yankees rosters have long been stocked with California stars, none brighter than Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Hailing from San Francisco’s “Little Italy” in North Beach, DiMaggio was pressured to become a fisherman like his father, but Joe D instead carved out a legendary career in pinstripes that included a record 56-game hitting streak in 1941.

Ron Hassey
The son of a Yankees Minor Leaguer, Tucson’s Ron Hassey led the University of Arizona to its first NCAA championship in 1976 before spending 14 years catching in the bigs. His two-year stint in New York saw him get traded to the White Sox twice within an eight-month span — Chicago sent him back two months after the first deal — despite hitting .297 in 156 games as a Yank.

Chasen Shreve
An afterthought no longer, Nevada has become a baseball hotbed in recent years, producing stars such as Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and current Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo (as well as one of the team’s top prospects, Austin Wells). But we can’t forget about Harper’s teammate at the College of Southern Nevada, Chasen Shreve. The left-handed reliever went 14-6 in 180 relief appearances for New York from 2015 to 2018 before being traded to St. Louis.

Fred Sanford
After fighting in the Pacific during World War II and leading the Majors with 21 losses for the 1948 St. Louis Browns, things were finally looking up for Salt Lake City’s Fred Sanford when he was traded to the Yankees just as they were about to embark on a run of five straight world championships. Unfortunately, the right-hander was relegated to a swingman role by manager Casey Stengel and never made a World Series roster before getting traded to Washington for Bob Kuzava in 1951.

Kent Hadley
Perfect game author Don Larsen fittingly called the Gem State home during his retirement years, but other than Harmon Killebrew, Idaho hasn’t produced many of the game’s all-time greats. One name that might ring a bell for Yankees historians, though, is Kent Hadley. The Pocatello native played just 55 games for the Yanks, but he came to New York as part of the seven-player deal in December 1959 that brought Roger Maris to the Bronx.

Aaron Boone
If it’s natural beauty you’re after, few states compare to Montana. With its incredible national parks and limitless outdoor recreational opportunities, Big Sky Country attracts millions of visitors each year. That being said, the next Yankees player from Montana will be the first. Plenty of future Yanks played Minor League ball there, though, including manager Aaron Boone, whose first pro season was spent in the Pioneer League with the 1994 Billings Mustangs.

South Dakota
Del Paddock
Debate all you want about the Mount Rushmore of Yankees. A visit to the actual Mount Rushmore — while well worth the trip — will not take you to baseball’s promised land. When the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader compiled its all-time team of South Dakota big leaguers in 1989, it had to reach all the way back to 1912 for a third baseman, Volga’s Del Paddock, who batted .288 in 46 games for a Highlanders team that still owns the lowest winning percentage (.329) in franchise history.

Joba Chamberlain
Aurora’s Les Nunamaker was a terrific pinch-hitter and backup catcher in the mid 1910’s. Nearly a century later, New York was introduced to Lincoln (and University of Nebraska) product Joba Chamberlain, the hard-throwing right-hander of Native American heritage whose tumultuous tenure included the infamous “bug game” as a 22-year-old rookie pitching in the 2007 ALDS.

Giancarlo Stanton
Major League Baseball’s recent efforts to grow the sport have seen the Yankees play regular-season games in such unique locales as Iowa and London. Here’s a thought for the next venture: Wyoming. Who wouldn’t want to see if Giancarlo Stanton could hit a ball out of Yellowstone National Park? Perhaps it would inspire some young cowboy or cowgirl to put down their lasso and pick up a glove.

Jimmy Williams
When the newly formed New York Highlanders popped up in 1903, fans at Hilltop Park quickly latched on to popular second baseman Jimmy Williams. Born the same year as the Centennial State, Williams led the team in doubles, triples and RBI during the franchise’s inaugural season. And despite his Wild West upbringing, the Pueblo legend was widely respected as a friendly and easygoing teammate.

New Mexico
Christian Parker
For a moment, it seemed as if Albuquerque native Christian Parker was destined for big things. With the Yankees coming off three straight World Series victories, the 25-year-old rookie right-hander — who had been acquired in 2000 to complete the deal that sent Hideki Irabu to Montreal — earned a spot in the team’s starting rotation out of camp in 2001. After watching Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina pitch the Yankees to a season-opening sweep of the Royals, Parker took his turn and gave up seven runs in three innings — the lone appearance of his once-promising big league career.

Andy Pettitte
Since the MLB Draft began in 1965, the Yankees have found plenty of hidden pitching gems, none greater than Andrew Eugene Pettitte. Selected 594th overall out of Deer Park High School in 1990, Pettitte played one year of junior college ball at San Jacinto before embarking on a pro career that ended in 2013 with the left-hander sitting atop the Yankees’ all-time strikeouts list.

Mike Torrez
In 1906, Clay Center’s Slow Joe Doyle emerged from the Sunflower State to become the first American League pitcher to toss shutouts in each of this first two career starts. But who can forget Topeka’s Mike Torrez, who beat the Dodgers twice in the ’77 World Series after twirling 5 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the ALCS clincher? He even inadvertently helped the Yankees again the following year — as a member of the Red Sox — when he served up Bucky Dent’s famous homer at Fenway Park.

North Dakota
Roger Maris
It remains one of the most legendary feats in sports — Roger Maris scoring four touchdowns on returns in a single game for Bishop Shanley High in 1951. A decade later, Maris made another kind of history, breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season record with 61 home runs en route to his second straight AL MVP in his first two seasons in New York. The Roger Maris Museum in his hometown of Fargo stands as a permanent shrine to No. 9.

Mickey Mantle
The zinc mines are mostly gone, but the old tin barn where Mutt Mantle taught his son, Mickey, to switch-hit still stands in Commerce. Hoping to avoid a life of mining (and, likely, an early death), The Mick brought his prodigious talents to New York, where he became an idol to millions throughout the 1950s and ’60s.

Stan Bahnsen
Of their 40 picks in the inaugural 1965 MLB Draft, the Yankees struck gold on just one: Stan Bahnsen. The multisport athlete out of Council Bluffs’ Abraham Lincoln High School pitched one season at the University of Nebraska before being selected in the fourth round, making his big league debut the following year. In 1968, the “Bahnsen Burner” went 17-12 with a 2.05 ERA, capturing AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Don Mattingly
The pride of Evansville, Don Mattingly parlayed an outstanding career at Reitz Memorial High School — he remains Indiana’s all-time leader with 25 career triples — into a 19th-round selection by the Yankees in 1979. The first baseman became a legend in New York and one of the best all-around players of the 1980s, and he had his No. 23 retired by the team in 1997.

Red Ruffing
Escaping the Coalton coal mines that claimed his cousin’s life, four of his own toes and literally broke his father’s back, Hall of Famer Charles Herbert “Red” Ruffing became a six-time world champion with the Yankees after being traded from the Red Sox in 1930. In 10 World Series starts, Ruffing twirled eight complete games and won seven.

Tony Kubek
The first World Series game ever held in Wisconsin saw a hometown hero put on an incredible performance — for the Yankees. In Game 3 of the 1957 Fall Classic, 21-year-old Milwaukee native Tony Kubek — who had hit just three homers all season — punctuated his AL Rookie of the Year campaign by going deep twice against the Braves. Kubek would win three World Series in his nine seasons and enjoy a long and successful post-playing career as a broadcaster.

Thurman Munson
The Yankees’ captain and All-Star catcher embodied New York’s grit and toughness during the 1970s, but Thurman Munson kept Ohio in his heart wherever he went. He became a pilot so that he could fly home and see his family whenever possible, an endeavor that ultimately led to Munson’s shocking death on Aug. 2, 1979, when he crashed while trying to land at the Akron-Canton airport.

Earle Combs
After a standout career at Eastern Kentucky, Earle Combs thought his playing days were over and was resigned to a future as a schoolteacher in the Bluegrass State. But he gave baseball the old college try and ended up becoming the American League’s top leadoff hitter during the 1920s, leading the Junior Circuit in hits and triples in 1927 while manning center field for the vaunted “Murderers’ Row” Yankees.

Derek Jeter
Dick Groch, the scout who insisted Derek Jeter was headed to Cooperstown rather than the University of Michigan, turned out to be right. After a 20-year career rife with clutch moments and memorable milestones, the Kalamazoo Kid received the highest percentage of votes (99.7%) of any Hall of Fame position player.

Dave Winfield
St. Paul native Dave Winfield was so good at sports that, coming out of the University of Minnesota in 1973, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the ABA’s Utah Stars and — even though he didn’t play college football — the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. He chose baseball, bypassing the Minors and skipping directly to the big leagues, where he became a 12-time All-Star — including eight straight selections with the Yankees — and a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner.

Yogi Berra
From The Hill section of St. Louis to American immortality, Yogi Berra was truly one of a kind — and one of the greatest catchers who ever lived. The utterly quotable, impossible-not-to-love son of Italian immigrants fought in World War II before winning 10 World Series and three AL MVP Awards with the Yankees.

George McQuinn
Growing up in Arlington, McQuinn starred at Washington-Lee High School before signing with the Yankees. The first baseman rose quickly through the Minors, nabbing 1933 New York–Penn League MVP honors with the Binghamton Triplets, but with Lou Gehrig firmly blocking McQuinn’s path to the bigs, the Yankees let the Browns claim him in the Rule 5 Draft following the 1937 season. He became a four-time All-Star with St. Louis before finally putting on the pinstripes, concluding his career with two All-Star seasons in New York at age 37 and 38.

Tino Martinez
While 2009 World Series champ Alex Rodriguez rose to stardom as a high schooler in Miami, he spent his formative years in New York City and the Dominican Republic. Likewise, ’96 champ Wade Boggs moved around as a kid before settling in Tampa at age 11. But four-time World Series winner Tino Martinez is a lifelong Floridian, leading two different Tampa high schools to state championships and becoming a three-time All American at the University of Tampa. The 2013 National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee was honored with a plaque in Monument Park the following year.

South Carolina
Brett Gardner
From a walk-on at the College of Charleston to a leader in Yankees pinstripes, Brett Gardner authored a storybook baseball career. The speedy outfielder carved out a legacy in New York that will endear him to Yankees fans for many years to come, but the spotlight-averse Gardner will always be happiest on his family’s 2,600-acre farm in Holly Hill.

Jake Gibbs
Jake Gibbs played an important role for the Yankees, serving as Elston Howard’s backup and then taking over the starting catching role until Thurman Munson burst onto the scene. But his heart has always remained in Oxford, where he quarterbacked Ole Miss to a share of the national championship in 1960 a year after leading the baseball team to its first SEC title. Still a regular at Ole Miss football games, Gibbs served as an assistant football coach during his baseball offseasons.

Ben Chapman
Not long after leading Birmingham’s Phillips High to the 1927 Alabama state title, Ben Chapman got off to a promising start with the Yankees, pacing the Majors in steals three straight years from 1931 to ’33 and being named an All-Star in each of the first four years of the Midsummer Classic’s existence. Known for his abrasive persona, the “Dixie Flyer” spent the last decade of his 15-year career shuffling among seven different franchises.

Bill Dickey
A pitcher at Searcy High School and Little Rock College, Bill Dickey filled in at catcher one day for a friend on a Hot Springs semipro team, and the rest was history. In 17 seasons with the Yankees, the 11-time All-Star batted .313 and won seven World Series, then taught everything he knew to his protege, Yogi Berra.

Spud Chandler
Growing up in rural Georgia during the early part of the 20th century, Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler might have rooted for the Detroit Tigers and fellow Franklin County product Ty Cobb. But Chandler loved the Yankees, relishing the opportunity to play football at Yankee Stadium in 1931 as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs. Six years later, he began his 11-year run with the Yanks, going 109-43 and earning 1943 AL MVP honors.

Ron Guidry
After a 1978 season that will forever be etched in Yankees lore, Ron Guidry remains a fan favorite in New York, where he won two World Series and had his No. 49 retired. But “Gator” will always call Louisiana home, entertaining visitors to his Lafayette ranch with plates of frogs’ legs and Cajun-accented stories of the night he struck out 18 Angels, earning a second nickname — “Louisiana Lightning” — from broadcaster Phil Rizzuto.

West Virginia
Jack Warhop
Babe Ruth made his first of 714 trots around the bases on May 6, 1915, after smacking a pitch from Yankees right-hander Jack Warhop into the right-field grandstand at the Polo Grounds. While the sidearming former coal miner from Hinton would also give up Ruth’s second career homer nearly a month later, Warhop was far from just a footnote, eclipsing 200 innings pitched in five out of eight seasons with the Yankees.

Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray’s season-and-a-half-long tenure with the Yankees was brief, but his legacy in Smyrna will last forever. Overcoming the death of his father, Gray quarterbacked unheralded Smyrna High to back-to-back state titles. The right-hander was nearly as legendary in spring, authoring a baseball career that earned him a scholarship to Vanderbilt, where he helped lead the Commodores to their first College World Series in 2011.

North Carolina
Catfish Hunter
Even as he acquired a flashy nickname while winning three straight World Series with the Athletics and made a splash as George Steinbrenner’s first big free-agent signing in New York — where he won two more rings — Jim “Catfish” Hunter remained a humble hero in his hometown of Hertford. After baseball, Hunter retired to a quiet life of farming and hunting along the banks of the Perquimans River, and he was buried there after succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1999.

Don Brennan
Westbrook’s John Cumberland and Rumford’s Stan Thomas are among the few Yankees to have emerged from the great state of Maine. Decades before them, Augusta’s Don Brennan led the International League with 26 wins for the 1932 Newark Bears and was pitching in Yankee Stadium soon after, going 5-1 in 1933. Brennan finished his career with three scoreless innings against his former team in the 1937 World Series while pitching for the New York Giants.

New York
Lou Gehrig
A strapping athlete from upper Manhattan who took great care in sculpting his physique — he swam across the Hudson River at age 11 — Lou Gehrig starred at Columbia University before becoming a Yankees legend. Still the team’s single-season and career RBI leader, Gehrig achieved iconic status through his consecutive games streak and the grace with which he handled the tragic disease that would claim his life.

New Hampshire
Red Rolfe
Known as Bobby to the good people of Penacook, Rolfe acquired the nickname “Red” at New Hampshire’s Phillips Exeter Academy, then rewrote the record books at Dartmouth. After winning five World Series in his 10-year Yankees career, the Ivy Leaguer returned to his roots, spending 14 years as athletic director at Dartmouth, where the baseball field still bears his name.

Ray Fisher
Although Ray Fisher’s legacy is most evident at the University of Michigan, where he coached the Wolverines for 38 seasons and the stadium now bears his name, Fisher was a proud Vermonter. Upon graduating from Middlebury College in 1910, he came to the Highlanders toting a homemade bat he had whittled on the family farm in Middlebury. Fisher pitched eight seasons in New York before joining the Reds and winning the infamous 1919 World Series, but wherever his career took him throughout life, any downtime he had was spent relaxing on Lake Champlain.

Jack Chesbro
Jack Chesbro honed his craft on the sandlots of North Adams and, after a Hall of Fame career, retired to his chicken farm in the Berkshires. “Happy Jack” lost the first game in Yankees (then Highlanders) history, then won the team’s first home game at Hilltop Park on April 30, 1903. The following season, the spitballer led the Majors in wins (41), starts (51), complete games (48) and innings pitched (454 2/3) — franchise single-season records that are in little danger of being broken.

Rhode Island
Jumbo Brown
Despite being the smallest state and having a current population of just more than 1 million, Rhode Island can lay claim to an impressive list of baseball stars. Hall of Famers Nap Lajoie and Hugh Duffy both came from the Ocean State, as did Lou Gehrig’s coach at Columbia, Andy Coakley. Rhode Island’s most notable Yankee might be Greene native Jumbo Brown, the affable pitcher who tipped the scales for the Yankees teams of the early-to-mid 1930s and swore until his death that he saw Babe Ruth call his shot.

Joe Dugan
While playing ball at New Haven’s Hillhouse High — where he graduated five years after future Yankees general manager George Weiss — Joe Dugan couldn’t have imagined he’d become the sure-handed third baseman of the vaunted 1920s Yankees dynasty, often paying the price for pitchers’ irritation at his teammates’ vicious offensive attack. “It’s always the same,” he once lamented. “Combs walks. Koenig singles. Ruth hits one out of the park. Gehrig doubles. Lazzeri triples. Then Dugan goes down on the dirt on his can.”

Dallas Green
Delaware may have been the first state to ratify the Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787, but it hasn’t exactly led the way in terms of sending guys to the bigs. One Blue Hen who proudly wore the pinstripes, though, was Dallas Green. The Newport native was a two-sport star at the University of Delaware in the mid-1950s, and he spent the rest of his life in baseball, including a 121-game stint as Yankees manager in 1989.

Herb Pennock
Although Sigel’s Bob Shawkey won more games, and both Shawkey and Montoursville’s Mike Mussina recorded more strikeouts in pinstripes, “The Squire of Kennett Square,” Herb Pennock, deserves recognition not only for his impressive regular-season record (162-90 from 1923 to ’33), but also for his utter dominance in October: In nine World Series appearances with the Yankees, the left-hander went 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA and three saves, winning rings in 1923, ’27 and ’32.

New Jersey
Al Downing
Pitching Trenton to the 1956 Babe Ruth League World Series title as a 15-year-old marked the beginning of a remarkable baseball career for Downing. The first Black pitcher in Yankees history spent the first nine of his 17 big league seasons in New York, appearing in two World Series. The left-hander was linked to Ruth again in 1974 when, as a Dodger, he gave up Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th career homer.

Babe Ruth
It’ll take one heck of a ballplayer to unseat the Colossus of Clout as Maryland’s greatest baseball export. The “incorrigible” son of a Baltimore barkeep, George Herman “Babe” Ruth was sent to nearby St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he learned to play the game that, a century later, still has seen no equal.

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