Colleagues who are unable to coexist amicably often sour work environments across the globe. Toxic co-workers can upset morale, strain relationships and stymie an entire team’s productivity. Essentially, troublemakers can make the workday unbearable. The New York Yankees have captured a record 27 World Series championships since its establishment in 1913. Despite being the most successful organization in the annals of North American professional sports, the Yankees have endured more than a century’s worth of infighting between various players, managers and C-level executives.
Tensions among Bronx Bombers likely hit its apex shortly after George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in January 1973. Following a 15-year drought, Steinbrenner assembled teams that won consecutive World Series championships in the 1977 and 1978 seasons. However, Steinbrenner’s abrasive nature infuriated many of his employees. After the men in pinstripes lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, “The Boss” apologized to fans for failing to secure another crown. Understandably, Steinbrenner’s expression of regret incensed many members of that prideful squad.
“I felt his meddlesome ways were too meddling at times and that’s why I left the Yankees,” Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage said in an interview on the YES Network.
“I didn’t want to leave the Yankees, but I wasn’t having any fun. When he apologized in 1981 for us losing to the Dodgers in the World Series, that was when I made the decision to play out my contract and become a free agent. In hindsight, I loved Steinbrenner. It was a love-hate. One minute you’d love him, the next minute you hated him.”
From Babe Ruth to the Bronx Zoo era to present day, let’s review 15 New York Yankees employees who hated each other.
15. BABE RUTH AND LOU GEHRIG
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had drastically different personalities. However, on the diamond, Ruth and Gehrig were an unrivaled duo that led the Yankees to titles in the 1927, 1928 and 1932 seasons. Off the field, the shy and humble Gehrig loved that the media focused its attention on the incredibly outgoing and boisterous Ruth. Regrettably, petty gossip and Ruth’s mocking of Yankees manager Joe McCarthy and Gehrig’s consecutive game streak destroyed whatever mutual admiration the two shared. Nicknamed the “Iron Horse,” a 37-year-old Gehrig died after a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 2, 1941. At Gehrig’s viewing, an intoxicated Ruth offended many of those gathering to mourn.
“Lou’s father and mother were there when we came to the house,” said songwriter Fred Fisher, a good friend of the Gehrig’s.
“There were a lot of friends there, too. Eleanor was very composed, having been prepared for the shock. But she became very angry when Ruth and his wife came in very intoxicated. He certainly wasn’t wanted by the Gehrigs, as there was friction between them for years.”
14. JORGE POSADA AND JOE GIRARDI
Jorge Posada served as the Yankees’ backup catcher to Joe Girardi from 1997 through 1999. Girardi left the Bombers as a free agent and played three seasons with the Chicago Cubs and one with the St. Louis Cardinals before retiring in November 2003. Approximately four years after shelving his cleats, Girardi was named the Yankees’ manager on October 30, 2007. From the outset, Posada disapproved of Girardi’s managerial style and he asserted that Joe Torre was a superior communicator and handler of day-to-day operations. The low point between Posada and Girardi occurred in May 2011 when the Core Four member was benched and relegated to an afterthought who wasn’t even allowed to catch in the bullpen.
“I’ll put this as plainly as a I can,” wrote Posada, who caught 1,574 games for the Bronx Bombers, “When you take me out from behind the plate, you’re taking away my heart and my passion. To have even that (catching in the bullpen) taken away from me without adequate explanation, hurt me and confused me. If I wasn’t even considered third-string, then what was I? How did I fit in?”
13. DEREK JETER AND CHAD CURTIS
Sexual predator Chad Curtis flipped when he saw Derek Jeter “fraternizing” with former Seattle Mariners star Alex Rodriguez moments after the two squads fought in August 1999.
“We agreed to disagree on the issue, but I apologized in the manner I went about it,” said Curtis, who was convicted in 2013 and is serving 7–15 years in prison as a felon after standing trial for five counts of criminal sexual conduct.
“You’ve got to take into context what was going on, the brawl and the adrenaline flowing and the way I approached him wasn’t the way I should have went about it. We still disagree, probably, on the issue, but it’s not that big of an issue.”
Jeter basically ignored Curtis’ mea culpa and, henceforth, his very existence.
“He apologized,” Jeter said. “But I didn’t do anything wrong, so there’s no reason to clear anything up.”
12. MEL HALL AND BERNIE WILLIAMS
Mel Hall is a pathetic bully without any redeeming qualities. The Yankees acquired the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Hall in March 1989. A little more than two years later, Bombers great Bernie Williams debuted in the Bronx on July 7, 1991. Whenever the extremely bashful Williams would try to speak, Hall would scream “Shut up, Zero!” Shortly thereafter, Hall nicknamed the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Williams “Zero” and routinely reduced the youngster to tears.
“It was getting really bad,” recalled Gene Michael, then the general manager, “and I called Mel into my office and told him, ‘You either get off him right now or you’re gone.’ And Mel quit doing it. Bernie wasn’t going to be able to blossom that way.”
Michael released Hall following the 1992 campaign and publicly declared that Williams was the team’s center fielder of the future. For 16 years of high-quality production, Williams’ No. 51 jersey number was retired and he received a plaque in Monument Park in May 2015. Meanwhile, Hall was sentenced to 45 years in prison in June 2009 on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child.
11. HIDEKI IRABU AND GEORGE STEINBRENNER
“(Hideki Irabu) was a world-class pitcher,” said former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu in Japan in 1995.
“When Nolan Ryan saw him, he said he had never seen anything like it. There were just some days when he was as good a pitcher as I had ever seen. A fabulous arm.”
George Steinbrenner signed a 28-year-old Irabu to a four-year contract worth $12.8 million to become a Yankee and he debuted in the Bronx on July 10, 1997. Although initially solid on the hill, Irabu badly regressed and finished the 1997 season with a record of 5-4 and bloated 7.09 ERA. Irabu survived two more spiritless campaigns before his portly build and laziness drew Steinbrenner’s wrath.
“[Hideki Irabu] is a fat, p**-y toad,” Steinbrenner said in April 1999 after the pitcher failed to cover first base during an exhibition game.
10. ALEX RODRIGUEZ AND DEREK JETER
As previously noted, the Yankees foolheartedly obtained a 29-year-old Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later in February 2004. Although once close friends, the narcissistic Rodriguez incomprehensibly criticized Jeter during a series of interviews and irreparably shattered their bond.
“Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him,” Rodriguez said in a March 2001 interview with Esquire magazine.“He’s never had to lead. He can just go and play and have fun.”
In an interview in 2007 with the New York Times, A-Rod seemed to remain very lukewarm on praising his captain: “We were best of friends about 10, 13 or 14 years ago, and we still get along well,” Rodriguez said. “We have a good working relationship. I cheer very hard for him, and he cheers hard for me, and, more importantly, we’re both trying to win a world championship. We’ll leave it right there.”
9. JOE DIMAGGIO AND MICKEY MANTLE
Uptight Yankees icon Joe DiMaggio never forgave the carefree Mickey Mantle for supplanting him in center field in 1952. Even as a 63-year-old Mantle was dying from liver cancer, an 80-year-old DiMaggio refused to comfort, or even speak with, the ailing Oklahoman.
“As Mickey Mantle was dying of cancer, I thought Joe would relent. It didn’t happen,” wrote Dr. Rock Postiano and John Postiano’s in their new book, “Dinner with DiMaggio.”
“Joe never forgave Mantle for replacing him in center field and not taking his advice about how to conduct himself as a Yankee. Despite getting updates on Mickey’s condition, which was bad and worsening, Joe would not soften.”
8. THURMAN MUNSON AND REGGIE JACKSON
Beloved catcher Thurman Munson premiered as a Yankee in August 1969. Almost seven years after Munson first appeared behind the plate, Reggie Jackson agreed to a five-year deal worth $2.96 million in November 1976 to join the Bombers. Munson, a seven-time All-Star who earned the 1976 American League MVP award, served as the Yankees’ captain from 1976 until his tragic death in August 1979. Inexplicably, even before arriving in the Bronx, Jackson belittled his teammates and downplayed Munson’s importance.
“This team, it all flows from me,” said Jackson.
“I’m the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad. Really, (Munson) doesn’t enter into it. He’s being so damned insecure about the whole thing. I’ve overheard him talking about me.”
7. BILLY MARTIN AND ED WHITSON
Billy Martin never liked Ed Whitson as a ballplayer or man. With the Yankees only four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East, Martin scratched Whitson from his scheduled start versus the Baltimore Orioles in September 1985. Following the game, most Yankees went to dinner at a restaurant in downtown Baltimore. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Whitson was at this establishment and drinking heavily. Eventually, Whitson exchanged words with an unassuming patron and grabbed him by the throat. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Martin, who had a reputation as a fearless brawler, approached Whitson to intervene. Predictably, within seconds, Martin and Whitson were engaged in the first of their four tussles that evening.
“I wasn’t trying to fight, I was trying to break up a fight,” said Martin, who suffered a broken right arm in one of the melees. “If I was fighting, he would have been knocked out from the beginning.”
6. ALEX RODRIGUEZ AND BRIAN CASHMAN
To replace Aaron Boone, the Yankees sent Alfonso Soriano and Joaquín Árias to the Texas Rangers on February 15, 2004. In October 2007, Rodriguez announced that he was opting out of his contract. Against general manager Brian Cashman’s wishes, a 32-year-old Rodriguez and the Bombers agreed to a 10-year contract worth $275 million in November 2007. Rodriguez failed to earn his money and he constantly battled with Yankees executives in the ensuing seasons. A hardcore PED abuser, Rodriguez underwent arthroscopic surgery in his hip to repair a torn labrum in January 2013. Approximately six months after having the procedure, Rodriguez used social media to announce he was healthy and ready to return.
“Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news – the green light to play games again!” tweeted Rodriguez.
When media members told Cashman about Rodriguez’s tweet, the longstanding executive couldn’t contain his anger.
“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” said Cashman. “Alex should just shut the f—- up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”
The Yankees essentially terminated Rodriguez in August 2016. Once released, Cashman admitted that Rodriguez didn’t meet the team’s expectations.
“It’s something I think even Alex would tell you, he couldn’t live up to that,” Cashman said.
5. BABE RUTH AND MILLER HUGGINS
Miller Huggins was a brilliant manager who gained induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964. Huggins helped lead the Yankees to World Series championships in the 1923, 1927 and 1928 seasons. Still, in spite of the Bombers’ greatness on the diamond, Huggins’ job was stressful. Nicknamed “Mighty Mite,” Huggins loathed Babe Ruth’s chaotic and undisciplined lifestyle and the two constantly feuded. On one occasion, the 5-foot-5, 140-pound Huggins aggressively confronted the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ruth in the clubhouse.
“I just wish you were 50 pounds heavier,” Ruth said.
“Lucky for you, I’m not,” Huggins retorted.
New York Times columnist Arthur Daley succinctly described Huggins’ intense and feisty personality. “(Huggins) was a mousey little guy who was the commanding general of what was probably the greatest of all baseball teams, the New York Yankees of 1927,” Daley wrote. Although Ruth disliked Huggins, “The Bambino” acknowledged “Mighty Mite’s” importance following his death in September 1929.
“He was the only man who knew how to keep me in line,” Ruth said at Huggins’ funeral.
4. JOE TORRE AND RUBEN SIERRA
Journeyman outfielder Rubén Sierra was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Cecil Fielder in July 1996. Joe Torre, who was in his first season as the Yankees’ manager, was thrilled that Sierra got sent to Motown. In his autobiography, “Chasing the Dream,” Torre called Sierra the ”toughest guy I ever had to manage” and said he knows ”nothing about baseball.”
Sierra angrily defended himself against Torre’s words.
“When he made the trade, he never said that,” Sierra said.
“He never said I was a hard guy to manage. Now he’s got this book and he drags Ruben Sierra down. He’s just trying to ruin my reputation. He’s trying to ruin my career. I’m not a troublemaker. I don’t fight with anybody. I’m not a hypocrite. I’m a man.”
3. CLIFF JOHNSON AND GOOSE GOSSAGE
Utility man Cliff Johnson got into a clubhouse fistfight with Goose Gossage in April 1979 that caused the Hall of Fame reliever to spend two months on the disabled list. To this day, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Johnson and 6-foot-3, 215-pound Gossage disagree on who started the fracas.
“I really feel awkward and strange recounting it,” said Johnson, 70. “Bringing it up was something I was never comfortable with. I’m not a pugilist. But a man that’s attacked is going to do what a man has to do.”
In contrast to Johnson’s account, Gossage claims he was assaulted and defended himself.
“You ever seen a smart fight? Things happen,” said Gossage, 66.
“He hit me first, he pushed me first, he took my face in his hand and just kind of put it into the bathroom partition. He touched me first. Absolutely. I didn’t hit him first.”
2. REGGIE JACKSON AND BILLY MARTIN
Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin were destined to become enemies. Roughly two years after Martin began his first stint managing the Bombers, Jackson signed a five-year contract valued at $2.96 million in November 1976 to come to the Bronx. During a weekend series in Boston, Martin snapped when Jackson’s lackadaisical effort in right field allowed Red Sox legend Jim Rice to extend a single into a double. Martin acted swiftly and immediately benched Jackson in favor of Paul Blair. Upon returning to the dugout, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Martin challenged the 6-foot, 195-pound Jackson to scrap.
“You’re a SOB,” Jackson is reported to have said. “You’re nothing but an old bleep-bleeper… you’re too old. Do you want to fight?”
Martin lunged at Jackson, but was restrained by Yankees coaches Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.
“I only ask one thing of my players. Hustle,” said Martin.
“If they hustle for me, they can play for me. I told them in spring training. I had a meeting. I told them you play only one way, to win. You play hard and give your 100 percent best. If you don’t hustle, I don’t accept it. If a player shows up the club, I show up the player.”
1. DAVE WINFIELD AND GEORGE STEINBRENNER
George Steinbrenner signed Dave Winfield to a 10-year deal valued at $23 million in 1981. Although the Hall of Famer primarily thrived in pinstripes, Steinbrenner thought Winfield was an underachiever and he had buyer’s remorse. Tensions between the pair escalated and Steinbrenner resorted to calling Winfield “Mr. May” because he struggled in previous playoff performances. “The Boss” ordered general manager Lou Piniella to field offers for Winfield. However, trading Winfield was difficult because he was a 10-and-five player who could veto any move.
Now determined to ship Winfield out of the Bronx, Steinbrenner paid gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up dirt on Winfield. Steinbrenner’s devious tactics surfaced and MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent permanently banned “The Boss” from handling the Yankees’ daily operations. After intense legal wrangling, Steinbrenner’s ban was reduced and he was reinstated in 1993. As for “Mr. May,” Winfield refused to enter the Hall of Fame as a Yankee and he was instead enshrined as a San Diego Padre.
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