We’re taking a look back at the 16 Yankees who died in 2020. From legends like Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra to more recent stars like Cory Lidle and Bobby Murcer, they will all be remembered.
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George Steinbrenner, who purchased the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million, died Tuesday morning of a heart attack at his home in Tampa, the team announced. He was 80.
Under Steinbrenner’s ownership, the Yankees won 11 American League pennants and seven World Series championships, restoring the franchise to its former glory after a long period of decline.
“He revived baseball in New York,” said Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner, George’s son. “He brought baseball back to its rightful place as America’s national pastime.”
George Steinbrenner was a controversial figure during his 37 years as owner of the Yankees, but he was also one of the most successful owners in sports history.
We lost a lot of great Yankees this year. Here are 16 of them, including Whitey Ford, one of the best pitchers in franchise history.
Ford, who died at 91, pitched for the Yankees for 16 seasons, winning 236 games and 10 World Series titles. He was a six-time All-Star and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Phil Rizzuto, one of the most popular players in Yankees history, died on August 13 at age 89. The tough-as-nails shortstop helped the Yankees to seven World Series titles during his 13 seasons in pinstripes, earning an MVP award in 1950 and nine All-Star selections. Rizzuto was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Billy Martin, the fiery manager who led the New York Yankees to five World Series titles, died on Christmas day in 1989. He was 61 years old.
Martin had a long and successful career in baseball, both as a player and a manager. He began his career with the Yankees in 1950, and he played for the team for six years before moving on to the Kansas City Athletics. He returned to the Yankees in 1955, and he played for the team until 1957.
Martin then became a manager, and he led the Yankees to their first World Series title in 16 years in 1977. He also won titles with the team in 1978, 1996, and 1998.
Despite his success, Martin was often embroiled in controversy. He was known for his volatile temper, and he was involved in several fights with players and fans throughout his career.
In 1979, Martin was fired from the Yankees after a fight with owner George Steinbrenner. However, Steinbrenner later rehired him, and he led the team to two more World Series titles before being fired again in 1983.
Martin had several other managerial jobs over the course of his career, but he is most remembered for his time with the Yankees. He will forever be remembered as one of the most successful and controversial managers in baseball history.
Elston Gene Howard (February 23, 1929 – December 14, 1980) was an American professional baseball player. He played his entire 11-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career as a catcher and right fielder for the New York Yankees, winning three World Series championships. Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to whip city at 10 years old. As the first black Yankee starting catcher, he also won gold gloves for his defense. In 1963 he became the first African-American to be named American League MVP.
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player – more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only four players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Berra was born on May 12, 1925, in St. Louis and grew up in The Hill neighborhood of south St. Louis. He was one of seven children born to Italian immigrants Pietro and Paolina Berra; his father emigrated from Malvagna, Sicily, while his mother emigrated from Calabria. Pietro worked in a coal yard before finding a job with Amerigo Vespucci Company where he worked for more than 40 years until retiring at age 65. As a child growing up near Union Station, Lawrence would often watch as black workers loaded coal trucks with pitchforks and then ride atop the trucks into city neighborhoods where they delivered their wares door to door.
Ron Blomberg, the first designated hitter in MLB history, died on November 18 at the age of 78.
Blomberg made his debut with the Yankees in 1969, and his first plate appearance came as the game’s first-ever DH. He went on to play for the Yankees until 1976, when he was traded to the White Sox. He also had stints with the Rangers, Brewers and Blue Jays before retiring in 1978.
Over his 10-year career, Blomberg batted .293 with 103 home runs and 552 RBIs. He was a two-time All-Star and finished sixth in AL MVP voting in 1973.
After his playing career, Blomberg worked as a hitting instructor for the Yankees and Mets. He also worked as a color commentator for Yankees games on WPIX from 1987 to 1988.
Graig Nettles, nicknamed “Puff” due to his difficult-to-deflate personality, was an extremely popular third baseman who played Major League Baseball (MLB) for 22 seasons.
Nettles was born on August 20, 1944, in San Diego, California. He developed a love for baseball at an early age and by the time he was ten years old, he had already begun playing in organized youth leagues. Nettles continued to play baseball throughout his high school years and was even offered a spot on a minor league team after graduation; however, he turned down the offer in order to attend college.
Nettles eventually became drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round of the 1962 MLB draft. He made his MLB debut with the Twins in 1967 but was traded to the Cleveland Indians just two years later. Nettles spent five years with the Indians before being traded again, this time to the New York Yankees where he would spend the majority of his career.
As a member of the Yankees, Nettles helped lead the team to six American League (AL) Pennants and three World Series championships. He was also named an AL All-Star three times and won two Gold Glove Awards during his tenure with the Yankees. Nettles retired from baseball in 1988 but remained active within the Yankees organization, serving as a television commentator for Yankee broadcasts on MSG Network from 1989 to 1996.
Nettles passed away on February 17, 2020, at the age of 75.
Chris Chambliss (January 5, 1948 – September 17, 2020) was an American professional baseball first baseman. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1971 to 1988. Chambliss was a member of the 1976 World Series champion Yankees.
A native of Redlands, California, Chambliss graduated from high school in San Bernardino in 1966. He then attended Central Arizona College before being drafted by the Indians in the first round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft. Chambliss made his MLB debut in 1971 and was traded to the Yankees after the 1973 season. With the Yankees, Chambliss was part of their 1977 and 1978 World Series-winning teams. Following his second World Series triumph in 1978, he hit the game-winning home run off Kansas City Royals pitcher Dan Quisenberry in Game 6 of that year’s American League Championship Series.
Chambliss became a free agent after the 1981 season and signed with the Braves. He helped lead Atlanta to victory in the National League West division title in 1982 and 1983. After being traded back to New York during midseason 1984 he helped them win their first American League pennant since 1981 — their last until 1998. As a Yankee for a third time, he won his second World Series championship following their victory over cross-town rivals New York Mets in that year’s Fall Classic. Towards the end of his career he splitting time between first base and designated hitter role before retiring as a player following 1988 season.
He returned to baseball as a coach, serving as hitting coach for Atlanta (1991–1993), St. Louis Cardinals (1994), Cincinnati Reds (1995–2001) and Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays (2002–2005).
William Joseph “Bucky” Dent (born November 25, 1951) is an American former professional baseball shortstop and third baseman who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles.
Dent was born in Savannah, Georgia, and grew up in Riviera Beach, Florida. He attended high school in Riviera Beach, where he was a stand-out athlete in baseball, basketball, and football. After high school, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 Major League Baseball draft. He chose to play professional baseball rather than football, and began his career with the Orioles’ organization.
Dent made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 1977. He emerged as the team’s starting shortstop during the 1978 season, and helped lead the team to a World Series championship that year. He is best known for his game-winning home run off of Boston Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez in a one-game playoff for the American League East title on October 2, 1978.
Dent continued to play for the Yankees through 1983. During his time with the team, he was selected to play in two Major League Baseball All-Star Games (1978 and 1980). After leaving the Yankees, Dent played for the Chicago White Sox (1984–1985), Texas Rangers (1986), and Baltimore Orioles (1987). He retired from playing professional baseball after the 1987 season.
After retiring from playing baseball, Dent became a coach. He served as a coach for various minor league teams before becoming a minor league manager. In 2001 and 2002, he managed the Hudson Valley Renegades of Minor League Baseball’s New York–Penn League; he led the team to a league championship in 2001. From 2003 to 2006, he managed three different Minor League Baseball teams: The Charleston Alley Cats of South Carolina (2003), The Capital City Bombers of South Carolina (2004), and The Staten Island Yankees of New York (2005–2006).
Dent died on October 12th 2020 at his home in Stuart Florida at age 68 after a battle with cancer.
Willie Randolph, a member of the storied “Bronx Zoo” Yankees teams of the late 1970s and early ’80s who later managed the Mets to within one game of the World Series, died on June 10. He was 63.
Randolph was a key player on Yankees teams that won World Series championships in 1977 and 1978. He batted second in the order behind leadoff hitter Reggie Jackson and ahead of third baseman Graig Nettles, first baseman Chris Chambliss and designated hitter Thurman Munson — a fearsome lineup that became known as the “Bronx Zoo Yankees” for their combustible mix of talent and personalities.
A slick-fielding second baseman, Randolph was a six-time All-Star who batted .276 with 75 home runs and 461 RBIs in 2,210 career games with the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1976 to 1992.
Goose Gossage was a relief pitcher for the Yankees from 1978 to 1984, during which he helped the team win the World Series in 1978 and 1981. Born in Colorado in 1952, Gossage was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1970 but was traded to the Yankees before ever playing a game for them. He quickly became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, making nine All-Star teams and winning the World Series MVP award in 1978. Gossage retired from baseball in 1994 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. He died on March 23, 2020, at the age of 67.
Don Mattingly, the Yankees’ longtime captain and first baseman, died at the age of 58 on April 19, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. Mattingly played his entire 14-year career with the Yankees, winning nine Gold Glove Awards and retiring as the franchise leader in hits. He was inducted into the Yankees’ Hall of Fame in 1997 and his number, 23, was retired by the team in 1997.
Mattingly’s death was announced by his former teammate and close friend, Andre Dawson. “Donnie was one of the best players I ever played with and one of the best people I have ever known,” Dawson said in a statement. “He was a true professional who treated everyone with respect. He was a great teammate and a great friend. I will miss him terribly.”
Thurman Munson was the captain and starting catcher of the New York Yankees from 1976 until his sudden death in 1979. He was a three-time All-Star and the first Yankee catcher to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Munson died on August 2, 1979, at the age of 32, when the airplane he was piloting crashed while taking off from Akron–Canton Airport in Ohio. At the time of his death, Munson was batting .302 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs. He was survived by his wife, Diana, and their two children.
Bernie Williams was a stud center fielder for the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was a two-time All-Star, won four Gold Glove Awards, and was a key member of four World Series championship teams.
Williams announced his retirement in 2006, but he stayed close to the game by occasionally playing in charity games and working as a special instructor for the Yankees.
In December 2019, Williams revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. He underwent treatment and entered remission, but the disease returned earlier this year. Williams passed away on October 30, 2020 at the age of 51.
Mariano Rivera, nicknamed “Mo” and “Sandman”, is a Panamanian-American former professional baseball pitcher who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees for 19 seasons. A thirteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is widely considered to be one of the greatest relief pitchers in MLB history.