MLB

History of New York Yankees captains: Aaron Judge joins elite company after massive 9-year contract

The Yankees accomplished their No. 1 goal this offseason, signing outfielder Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million contract a historic 2022 in which he became the first player since Barry Bonds to hit 60 home runs and broke Roger Maris’ Yankees record with 62 at season’s end.

Soon after the ink dried on that contract, the Yankees named him the 16th captain in franchise history.

Judge, who has been with the Yankees full-time since 2017, failed to reach a deal before the 2022 season, and instead played out his contract year without negotiations, as promised. As it turned out, his play did all of the negotiating he needed, with the superstar contending for a Triple Crown into the last month of the season while hitting home runs at an incredible clip.

Earlier in the offseason reports indicated Judge’s standing with the Yankees may be higher than ever. Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman both reported that a captainship may well be in Judge’s future, a revered title within the Yankees organization.

MORE: Aaron Judge agrees to record-breaking contract to return to Yankees

Now official, Judge is the 16th captain in Yankees history, and he joins eight Hall of Famers with that status. Judge, who avoided criticism of the organization last season and even settled on a new contract ahead of his arbitration hearing, seems to have built up a lot of good standing with chairman Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees. Becoming the first captain since Derek Jeter solidifies that standing.

List of New York Yankees captains

There have been just 15 captains in MLB history, most recently Derek Jeter and beginning with Clark Griffith in 1891.

If Judge being named captain does come to pass, he would be joining the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jeter. 

Player Position Years
Clark Griffith* P 1903–1905
Kid Elberfeld SS 1906–1907
Willie Keeler* OF 1908–1909
Hal Chase 1B 1910–1912
Frank Chance* 1B 1913
Roger Peckinpaugh SS 1914–1921
Babe Ruth* OF 1922
Everett Scott SS 1922–1925
Lou Gehrig* 1B 1935–1939
Thurman Munson C 1976–1979
Graig Nettles 3B 1982–1984
Willie Randolph 2B 1986–1988
Ron Guidry P 1986–1988
Don Mattingly 1B 1991–1995
Derek Jeter* SS 2003–2014
Aaron Judge OF 2023-present

* – Denotes Hall of Famer

Ruth had just one year as captain because his explosive attitude led to him confronting a fan in the stands and having his captainship stripped. He lasted less than a week.

Why is the Yankees captainship so prestigious?

The reason being a Yankees captain is so prestigious is because of its rarity. The Yankees often go years or even decades at a time without naming a captain, instead reserving it for players in high standing with the team.

Captains in baseball don’t work like football, for example. They don’t necessarily represent the team, they’re simply a clubhouse leader. For a Yankees franchise that historically presents itself as a team, captains can be viewed as redundant barring truly outstanding circumstances.

Twice, the Yankees have said there won’t be another captain following the previous one. After Lou Gehrig’s death, Joe McCarthy said the Yankees would never have another captain. And current GM Brian Cashman once said the captainship should end after Jeter’s retirement. After Judge was named captain, Cashman’s words were an about face.

Being a captain doesn’t necessarily give players special status by itself. But it’s a high honor from the Yankees, a team that steeps itself in tradition as much as any other in North American sports.


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