All Time New York Yankees First Basemen

A few weeks ago, we had our Yankees/Red Sox Disappointment draft on a podcast episode. I thought about writing a column on the Yankees disappointments by position. But why? We’ve seen enough bad play and disappointments over the past few years. I would rather focus on some of my favorites.

This is part one of a series of my favorite players by position. This won’t be a regular column, but I’m going to lay out my favorites when the opportunity arises, 

My Top 3 New York Yankees First Basemen of all time are easy, and need little explanation. I’m pretty sure you could easily guess all three. The fun of this column will be diving into the second tier of my favorite New York Yankees First Baseman.


1. Don Mattingly

Any follower of Bleacher Brawls knows damn well that Don Mattingly is not only my favorite Yankees 1B of all time, he is my favorite player of all time. 

Donnie Baseball meant a lot to young Yankees fans like myself. Yankees fans were born into greatness. Yankees fans were supposed to witness World Series championship after World Series championship. Don Mattingly is an all-time Yankee great that never managed to reach the top of the mountain but, despite that, played the game with Yankee pride and integrity. He even mentored a young Derek Jeter before Jeter broke out as the next great Yankee.

Don Mattingly finally reached the postseason in 1995. Watching his ALDS Yankee Stadium home run still provides unparalleled excitement.

2. Tino Martinez

Tino Martinez was put in the very unfortunate position of having to replace one of the most beloved New York Yankees of all time. How did he respond? By becoming another one of the most beloved New York Yankees of all time. Tino won four World Series batting in the heart of the lineup of the late 90s Yankees dynasty. A true warrior that hated to lose. He provided elite defense at 1B and had a career year in 1997, clubbing 44 home runs, winning the Home Run Derby, and placing second in the AL MVP voting.

3. Mark Teixeira

Tex was a favorite in the Bronx. He was the third free agent signing of the 2008 – 2009 offseason and a major part of the 2009 championship team. Tex was more than just a switch hitter with power. He was also a Gold Glove caliber first baseman that made difficult plays look easy. 

Also, apparently “Sexy Texy” was very popular with women aged 30 – 50 during his time in the Bronx.

Best of the Rest

Now that we have gotten the three most obvious first basemen out of the way, we get to the second tier. Players that you might not immediately think of, but certainly left their impression on Yankees fans.


4. Luke Voit

Luke Voit is a polarizing player amongst Yankees fans. Some Yankees fans loved Luke Voit, and others are wrong.

Luke Voit came to the Yankees in 2018 and was electric. He brought a different energy to the Yankees. Luke Voit was a football player who made it as a pro in baseball, but he never lost that football player attitude. The Boss would have loved Luke Voit.

What I loved about Luke Voit was his swing. He was built like a beast. I could watch 2018 – 2020 Luke Voit swing a baseball bat all day. Luke Voit had a ferocious swing. A baseball bat looked like a wiffle ball bat in his hands. He could turn on a pitch faster than anyone in baseball. 

Not only could he turn on a pitch faster than anyone, he could drive the ball with power. He wasn’t hitting home runs that were barely clearing the right field fence, he was crushing balls into deep into right field, even into the upper deck. And in case you forgot, Luke Voit is righthanded. He was driving the ball with power to the opposite field.

What made him special is that he wasn’t a power hitter. He was a contact hitter with power. He didn’t have to pull the ball to hit home runs, he just needed to make contact. He had enough brute strength to hit home runs anyway.

I know what went wrong for Luke Voit, though I’m not sure who deserves the blame. 

Luke Voit began to change his body after 2019. He decided that his build as a defensive lineman wasn’t suitable for baseball and decided to get more into “baseball shape.” By 2021, Luke Voit was a shell of himself. He was leaner and looked more athletic, but what made him special was now gone. He no longer had that ferocious swing. He no longer had the brute strength. He was just another baseball player. He was no longer special.

I don’t know who to blame for this transformation. Did Luke Voit decide to rebuild himself on his own? Or did the Yankees fail in his development by suggesting that he change his approach, stripping him of what made him special?

Luke Voit will always be a “what if.” What if he didn’t change his build? What if the Yankees didn’t have Giancarlo Stanton clogging up the DH spot? What if Luke Voit had been able to focus solely on hitting as a DH and weightlifting to ensure he never lost his sheer power?


5. Cecil Fielder

Cecil Fielder is absolutely one of my all-time favorite New York Yankees first basemen. I have actually written about Big Daddy in a previous column. Cecil Fielder is an all-time Yankee for anyone in my generation, being one of the main reasons the Yankees won the 1996 World Series.

There is a fair argument that Cecil Fielder doesn’t qualify as a first baseman, considering he spent more time at DH during his fairly brief Yankees tenure. 

However, here is the case for Cecil Fielder. In Games 3, 4, and 5 of the 1996 World Series, he started over Tino Martinez at first base.

Tino Martinez is number two on my all-time Yankees first baseman list. If I wasn’t so emotionally attached to Don Mattingly, there would be a legitimate case that Tino Martinez is the best Yankees first baseman of my lifetime. 

Tino was clutch, Tino was a competitor, Tino hated to lose, and Tino a force in the middle of the Yankees lineup during the most recent Yankees dynasty. Despite all of that, Cecil Fielder was so good. Cecil Fielder was so clutch that he forced Joe Torre’s hand. Joe Torre had no choice but to start Cecil Fielder over Tino Martinez during three games of a World Series. 

That is not a knock against Tino, but a massive endorsement of Cecil Fielder. And as Yankees fans know, Cecil Fielder delivered.

Big Daddy should have been the 1996 World Series MVP. He hit .391 during that series and was an absolute menace to the Atlanta Braves. Every time he came to bat, I knew it was going to be a battle. 

Will Cecil Fielder make the list again as an all-time favorite DH? Possibly. But that is for another day. 

Today, I celebrate the first Yankees clutch World Series performer of my lifetime.


6. Steve Balboni

Is Steve Balboni an all-time great Yankee? No, he’s not. I doubt many younger fans know who he is or even care who he is. 

I recognize that. He wasn’t a particularly outstanding player. He wasn’t even the Yankees’ full time first baseman during his 1989 – 1990 stint with the Yankees. He only played first base because Don Mattingly suffered a back injury, forcing the weak fielding Balboni to move from DH to the infield.

In all fairness, he’s only on this list because of childhood nostalgia. He had a look that stood out, maybe not in the best way. A big, burly, balding guy with a thick mustache. He could have easily fit in as part of a biker gang. 

Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni is relatively forgotten, but he was memorable to me as a young baseball fan.


Honorable Mentions

I have a couple of honorable mentions. These guys don’t qualify as Yankees first basemen, but they each played a handful of games at first base and deserve mention in no particular order.


DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu has been a tremendous Yankee since he was signed as a free agent going into the 2019 season. DJ has spent significant time at 1B, 2B, and 3B. I don’t really view him as a first baseman, so he’s not going to be on this list. However, I would expect him to be on another list or two in the future.

Paul O’Neill

You aren’t a true Yankees fan if you don’t love Paul O’Neill. He’s an all-time Yankees great and guaranteed to be the top right fielder when I make that all-time list.

What many people likely have forgotten is that Paul O’Neill played a handful of innings at first base for the Yankees, being switched to first base late in the game. According to baseball-reference, it happened three times during his Yankees career. I do remember this happening, maybe I only saw it once? 

Paul O’Neill doesn’t qualify as a first baseman, but I’m going to jump at any chance to include him in a column.


Johnny Damon

Just like Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon was not a first baseman, but was moved to first base late in games when the bench got short. Johnny Damon, who was clearly not a first baseman, warming up the infield made me laugh each time. I even have a memory of him stretching to snag a ball. Much like O’Neill, this isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s memorable to me.


Gary Sheffield

Another Yankee who I have written about before. I loved Gary Sheffield and his intense, warrior mentality.

In 2006, Gary Sheffield collided with Shea Hillenbrand towards the end of April. This required wrist surgery, and Sheff was expected to miss the remainder of the season. The Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu to compensate. 

Gary Sheffield, being the savage that he is, intensely rehabbed and made it back for the end of the season. The problem? The outfield was full and there was no OF spot for Sheff to play.

Being the warrior that he is, Sheff saw the gaping hole at 1B and offered to play there going into the playoffs. Sheffield only managed nine games at 1B before the playoffs began, but he did as well as any fan could hope. He even dropped into a full split to stretch for a thrown ball. 

Gary Sheffield wanted to win and played every inning like it was a battle. He should be a Hall of Famer. Sheffield’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a testament to everything that is wrong with the process.


New York Yankees Fan

By JMo

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