Players You Forgot Were Yankees: The 1990s
The 1990s saw the Yankees win three World Series titles and begin a dynasty, but it was also perhaps the best in terms of the team always having at least one player each year who you can look back on and say “that guy was a Yankee?”
Earlier this week, we profiled those types from both the 1970s and 1980s, but in the 1990s, the team’s proverbial one-hit wonders included a few notable ex-Mets, multiple MLB managers, a pitcher who is now reunited with a short-lived teammate on the other coast, and one of just a handful of players in team history whose name begins with the middle vowel.
Oh, yeah, and also the guy on the other side of one of Derek Jeter’s most famous (and most important) home runs ever.
You may remember this group from when we did the original piece late this summer, but here they are: a ten-spot of players you may have forgotten were Yankees in the 1990s.
Kevin Elster: After spending the first seven years of his career with the New York Mets, shortstop Kevin Elster found five different homes between 1994 and 2000 – but his first “new” locale was the Bronx. Sadly, it wasn’t a successful stop, as he played just seven games in 1994 and 10 in 1995, going 2-for-37 total (or .054) before being released in June 1995.
Rick Honeycutt: Now Don Mattingly’s pitching coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Rick Honeycutt was actually his teammate for a very short time in Mattingly’s final season. A successful starter and reliever during his 21-year career, a then-41-year-old was purchased from Oakland in September 1995 and made three appearances as a lefty specialist, pitching a grand total of one inning and allowing three runs. He was later purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals in December 1995, and spent two more years in St. Louis before retiring after 1997.
Pete Incaviglia: Blink and you may have missed “Inky’s” three-week tenure in pinstripes, which came in the summer of 1997. Incaviglia was signed as a free agent on July 25 after being released by Baltimore, but was released on August 15 after going 4-for-16 in five games. And so, his claim to fame (as any Yankees fan who saw Raul Ibanez play at the Stadium might be able to tell you) is that he is just one of just six players in Yankees history whose last name begins with the letter I.
Bob Melvin: Now the manager of the Oakland Athletics, Bob Melvin played for seven different teams during his 10-year career as a catcher – and in his final season of 1994, he donned No. 43 and played in nine games for the Yankees, hitting .286 (4-for-14) with one homer and three RBI before being waived in July and finishing his career with the Chicago White Sox for 11 games.
Bob Ojeda: Although he is well-known for playing for a pair of Yankees rivals – the Mets and Red Sox – starting pitcher Bob Ojeda also put on the pinstripes for a short time in 1994, the final season of his career. It was a short stint indeed, as the lefty had one rough start at Triple-A (5.2 IP, 6 ER) and then made two Major League starts – lasting just three total innings and giving up eight runs in those frames – before being released on May 5, effectively ending his career.
Jeff Reardon: He sits seventh on the all-time saves list, and the last two of Jeff Reardon’s 367 career saves came in pinstripes. Signed as a free agent in 1994, Reardon made 11 appearances in April and May of that year, going 1-0 with an 8.38 ERA and those two saves before being released on May 6, a move that ended his legendary 16-year career.
Lee Smith: Like Reardon, Lee Smith was a Yankee for just a short time, coming over from the Cardinals in August 1993 and recording three saves in eight appearances down the stretch before leaving as a free agent. His pinstriped saves were Nos. 399, 400, and 401 of 478 total for Smith, a final number that made him the all-time leader when he retired after the 1997 season.
Dale Sveum: The recently-deposed Cubs manager was a bit of a journeyman over his 12-year MLB playing career, and one of Sveum’s seven stops came in the Bronx in 1998. The utility infielder, who signed as a free agent the previous winter, played just 30 games and hit .155 in 58 at-bats before being released in August, but he earned himself a World Series ring for his role in the first cog of a Yankees three-peat.
Tony Tarasco: You may remember Tarasco, who hit .240 over eight seasons with six MLB teams, as the Orioles' right fielder who cried foul on Derek Jeter's "assisted" home run in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. What you may not remember, however, is that one of the other five teams he played for was in fact the Yankees. He signed with the team in 1999, and although he spent most of the year at Triple-A Columbus, he did go 5-for-31 with three RBI in 14 Major League games in May and June…and may or may not have made up with Jeffrey Maier and/or the Bleacher Creatures during his time in right field.
Mark Whiten: “Hard Hittin’” Mark Whiten may be best known for hitting four home runs and notching 12 RBI in a game for the Cardinals in 1993, but he also made the Yankees one of his eight MLB stops in 1997. Signed as a free agent the previous winter, Whiten hit .265 with 5 home runs and 24 RBI in 69 games with the Yankees before being released on August 15, the same day as Pete Incaviglia. He finished his career a few years later with a .259 average and just 105 home runs in 3,104 at-bats, totals that seem to make his uniquely-rhythmic nickname somewhat of a misnomer.