By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
Two stars from the Detroit Tigers teams of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s were shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker. Amazingly, they both began their big league careers on the same day: Sept. 9, 1977. These two players starred together for Detroit from 1978 through 1995 and comprised an excellent double play combination, one some consider one of the best of all time. The partnership of Trammell and Whitaker was the longest partnership of any two teammates in the history of Major League Baseball. In total, they played 1,918 games together over 18 consecutive years -- a remarkable accomplishment.
In comparison, the Yankees have never had two players (non-pitchers) spend that many seasons together on the field. The two players that had the longest consecutive streak of years played together were two of the more recent Yankees -- shortstop Derek Jeter and catcher Jorge Posada. These two players were Major League teammates for 15 consecutive seasons from 1997 through 2011.
As remarkable as that is, if one were to count their Minor League careers, Jeter and Posada actually were together a lot longer. Drafted two years apart, Posada (1990) and Jeter (1992) crossed paths numerous times during their Minor League trek to the big leagues. Posada and Jeter were first teammates for the Single-A Greensboro Hornets at the tail end of the 1992 season. While Posada played in 101 games that season, Jeter, who began the year with the Gulf Coast League Yankees, a Rookie Level team, was a late promotion to Greensboro and only played eleven games there. Their paths crossed again toward the end of the 1994 Minor League season when Jeter again earned a late-season promotion to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, where Posada was already playing.
In 1995, both Jeter and Posada played the majority of the season together for the Clippers. They both also earned brief stays with the Major League club that year and saw the Yankees capture the first ever American League Wild Card entry to the postseason. The next year, in 1996, Jeter was promoted to the Yankees to stay. Posada had three brief cups of coffee with the big league club that year, and he also played with the team in late September. Posada earned his permanent promotion to the Major Leagues in 1997, and Jeter was Posada’s teammate for the entirety of his 15-year career.
For Jeter and Posada, their years together were remarkable because of the tremendous success the Yankees enjoyed. During Jeter and Posada’s 15 years as MLB teammates, the Yankees went to the postseason 14 times. The only year they were not involved in playoff baseball was 2008. In that time, the Yankees appeared in 14 AL Division Series, eight AL Championship Series, and six World Series, winning the World Series four times (1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009). Jeter is the all-time leader in postseason games played with 158. In second place on that remarkable list is Posada with 125 games played.
There were two other non-pitching teammates in Yankees who enjoyed lengthy tenures together. The second-longest teammate partnership in the Yankees annals belongs to catcher Yogi Berra and center fielder Mickey Mantle. Berra and Mantle were teammates for 13 seasons from 1951 through 1963. In 1964, Berra wasn’t Mantle’s teammate -- instead, he was the Yankees’ manager.
During their years together on the field, the Yankees also enjoyed an extended period of remarkable success. Across those 13 seasons, the Yankees appeared in eleven World Series and won seven times (1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962). The only two seasons the Yankees did not appear in the World Series, they still finished near the top of the division. In 1954, they ended the season in second place despite winning 103 games, and in 1959, they finished in third place.
The third-longest-tenured Yankees teammates were first baseman Lou Gehrig and second baseman Tony Lazzeri, who formed the right side of the Yankees’ infield from 1926 through 1937. During Gehrig and Lazzeri’s twelve years together, the Yankees appeared in six World Series, winning five of those Fall Classics (1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, and 1937). Just as impressive, those teams finished in second place every other season except 1930, when the Yankees finished in third place.
Dr. Paul Semendinger is the Editor-in-Chief of Start Spreading the News, a blog about the Yankees. He is an elementary school principal, an adjunct college professor, a marathon runner, and at 53-years-old is still pitching in competitive baseball leagues. He keeps waiting, ever patiently, for the Yankees to offer him a contract. Paul can be found on Twitter @DrPaulRSem.
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