As a twenty-something New York Yankees fan, I'm privileged to say I have witnessed my fair share of on-field success. You could say I'm spoiled, as the Yankees have won five World Series titles, and only missed the playoffs twice in my 23 years on this earth. I witnessed the tail end of the Yankees' late '90s dynasty, the 2000 championship being the first one I truly remember. Since then, the Yankees have had their ups and downs, from squandering a 3-0 2004 ALCS lead to the rival Boston Red Sox, to the 2009 championship in the New Yankee Stadium, to the struggles of the past few seasons. Through it all, I realize how important the 1996 Yankees team was to kickstarting the franchise's success in subsequent years.
I was only three years old when Charlie Hayes caught that final out and Joe Buck proclaimed, "The Yankees are champions of Baseball!" That '96 team was integral in the Yankees' return to the top. It was the perfect mix of cast-offs, hired guns, and young stars. As the 20th anniversary of that magical run approaches, it got me thinking: What happened to the other guys? Where are they now? So, without further adieu, here is what they’ve been up to since:
19 Wade Boggs
One of the lasting images of the 1996 Yankees is Wade Boggs’ famous ride around Yankee Stadium on the back of a police horse after the team’s championship. The Hall-of-Famer arrived in New York in 1992 after a prolific ten-year run with the Boston Red Sox. 1996 marked Boggs’ fourth straight season hitting over .300 and his eleventh straight All-Star appearance. His 10th inning bases-loaded walk in Game 4 of the World Series gave the Yankees the lead in an eventual 8-6 win.
18 Jimmy Key
Key came to New York in 1993 after nine seasons and a World Series title with the Toronto Blue Jays. He posted an 18-6 record during the 1993 season, and won a league-leading 17 games the following season. His last appearance for the Yankees came in the deciding Game 6 of the 1996 World Series against Braves’ ace Greg Maddux. He gave up just one run in five strong innings, picking up the win along with his second World Series championship. Talk about going out with a bang.
17 Tim Raines
The speedy, hard-hitting veteran arrived in New York via trade in December 1995. At 36, Raines was in the twilight of his career, but contributed nine home runs and ten stolen bases in 59 games during the 1996 season. His production may not have been what it was during his Montreal Expos tenure, but Raines served an important utility role and fostered a loose, friendly atmosphere in the clubhouse.
16 Charlie Hayes
Yankee fans will forever remember Hayes as the one who caught Mark Lemke’s pop up behind third base to secure the Bronx Bombers’ first championship title in 18 years. Like many veterans on that ’96 team, Hayes was a midseason acquisition, and filled a much-needed role as Wade Boggs’ backup at third base.
He spent one more season in New York before heading to San Francisco in 1998. Hayes spent his final three years in baseball split between the Mets, Brewers, and Astros.
15 Cecil Fielder
The three-time All-Star drove in 37 runs in 53 games since his arrival in New York during the summer of 1996. He maintained his solid play into October, hitting three postseason homers and batting .391 in the World Series.
Fielder stayed in New York for one more year before splitting the 1998 season between the Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Indians. Since his 1999 retirement, Fielder’s turbulent personal life has made headlines. In 2004, he filed a $25 million libel lawsuit against the parent company of The Detroit News after the newspaper reported on his debts to various casinos and credit card companies.
14 Darryl Strawberry
The Yankees signed Strawberry on July 4, 1996, but he was already well known in the Big Apple as a former New York Met. After fighting through legal troubles and drug addiction, the embattled slugger enjoyed a solid comeback in the Bronx.
He belted 11 home runs in 63 regular season games, and added another three in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. Since the 1996 season, Strawberry’s playing career was marred by health scares, drug arrests, suspensions, and jail stints. From a colon cancer diagnosis in 1998, to drug and prostitution solicitation charges in 1999, to a yearlong prison sentence in 2002 for probation violation, Strawberry struggled through hard times.
13 Dwight Gooden
One could argue that Gooden was cut from the same cloth as Strawberry. Like Strawberry, Gooden burst onto the scene with the Mets in the 80s with otherworldly performances before drug addiction and legal troubles hampered his career. He showed flashes of his former self with the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter in May 1996 and winning 11 games by year’s end. However, he was left off the postseason roster.
Gooden pitched one more season in New York, winning a respectable nine games, but his career would never be the same. He retired in 2001, and has since had several run-ins with the law. His arrest record includes charges of DUI (2002), driving with a suspended license (2003), misdemeanor battery (2005), and endangering the welfare of a child (2010).
12 Joe Girardi
Today, Girardi is better known as a manager that led the Yankees to their 27th World Series championship. Yet, the veteran catcher first etched his name into Yankees lore in the 1996 World Series with his Game 6 RBI triple off Greg Maddux to give New York a 1-0 lead. Following the ’96 championship, he split time with (and mentored) young catcher Jorge Posada through the 1999 season. He left the Yankees in 2000 to return to the Chicago Cubs, where he played the first four seasons of his career.
11 Mario Duncan
The 1996 season was Duncan’s only full campaign in pinstripes, yet he made it a memorable one. The veteran signed with the Yankees in December 1995 after playing his first ten seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, and Philadelphia Phillies. The second baseman batted .340 with eight home runs and 56 runs batted in. He also coined the ’96 team motto "We play today, we win today,” which encapsulated the tenacious, win-at-all-costs attitude that drove the team to their first World Series title since 1978.
10 Joe Torre
Commemorative lists like these are usually reserved for players only. Yet, manager Joe Torre’s imprint on the Yankees ‘90s dynasty cannot be overstated.
Despite facing a flurry of criticism from the New York tabloids upon his 1996 arrival in the Bronx, Torre guided the Yankees to a 92-70 record en route to the first of four World Series titles in five years.
After leading the team to the playoffs in all 11 seasons as manager, Torre left the Yankees after their 2007 ALDS loss to the Cleveland Indians. Torre moved out west to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008-2010. He sparked some controversy with his tell-all 2009 book, “The Yankee Years,” detailing his time in the New York dugout.
9 Jim Leyritz
Leyritz is best known for his game-tying home run in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, a game the Yankees would go on to win. However, Leyritz’s life has been plagued by controversy since his retirement from baseball in 2000.
In 2006, Leyritz admitted to using both HGH and amphetamines during playing career, and in 2007, was arrested in Florida on suspicion of drunk driving and vehicular homicide in a crash that resulted in a 30-year-old woman’s death. Although Leyritz’s blood alcohol level was .18 at the time, he was acquitted of DUI manslaughter after a trial ruling in 2010. His only conviction was a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. He settled a civil lawsuit with the deceased woman’s family for $350,000.
8 John Wetteland
One unforgettable image of the 1996 New York Yankees is John Wetteland’s Game 6 celebration after Charlie Hayes caught the final out. In a frenzy of ecstasy and jubilation, Wetteland raised his right arm, holding up “number one” as Girardi and the rest of the Yankees team mobbed him.
Wetteland led the American League with 43 saves in 1996, and nailed down four more in the Fall Classic against the Braves, earning Series MVP honors. He and Mariano Rivera proved a formidable one-two punch out of the bullpen, but it wouldn’t last. Rivera assumed the closer role in 1997 after Wetteland signed a four-year contract with the Texas Rangers. Wetteland pitched his final seasons in Texas, retiring with 330 saves.
7 Tino Martinez
Tino was my favorite childhood Yankee. It wasn’t just his cool name, but his towering home runs and clutch hitting that drew me to him as a young fan. Looking to replace retired first baseman Don Mattingly, the Yankees acquired Martinez in a trade with Seattle in 1996. The 28-year-old slugger signed a five-year, $20.5 million deal during the season, and batted .292 with 25 home runs and 117 RBI.
Since 1996, Martinez became a fan favorite. He is perhaps best known for his two heroic World Series home runs, one a moonshot grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, and the other a game-tying two-run ninth-inning homer against the Diamondbacks in 2001. After his 2005 retirement, Martinez took on short stints as a hitting coach with both the Yankees (2008) and Miami Marlins (2013).
6 David Cone
Much like Gooden, Cone was another New York Mets pitching great who joined the Yankees across town. Cone went 7-2 in 11 starts, despite missing much of the 1996 season after undergoing surgery for an aneurysm in his pitching arm. He won his Game Three start in the World Series that year, and would go on to win three more titles in pinstripes.
5 Bernie Williams
On a team with plenty of acquired veterans, Bernie Williams stood out as a polished young product of the Yankees’ farm system. Williams made his Yankee debut in 1991 at age 23, and by 1996, had established himself as a homegrown star, along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera.
Williams was an integral part of the team’s ’96 championship, crushing five home runs and 11 RBI in BOTH the ALDS and ALCS. Since 1996, Bernie went on to hit 22 postseason home runs and 80 RBI. He spent his entire career in pinstripes, and took his last at-bat in 2006 before “unofficially” retiring.
4 Paul O'Neill
Paul O’Neill’s fiery post-strikeout tirades and relentless on-field effort earned him the nickname, “The Warrior” from Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner. O’Neill was already a fan favorite by the time the 1996 season came around. However, his performance that year would solidify him as one of the most beloved Yankees of all time. O’Neill batted .301 with 19 home runs and 91 RBI in his third season in New York, fairly stellar numbers for a 33-year-old right fielder.
O’Neill spent five more seasons in the Bronx, and always saved his best play for October. He batted a ridiculous .474 during the 2000 Subway Series against the Mets en route to the team’s third straight world championship.
3 Andy Pettitte
A key member of the Yankees’ “Core Four” of young stars, Pettitte rose to prominence in 1996, going 21-8 while finishing second in AL Cy Young Award voting. Despite getting lit up for seven runs in Game 1 of the ’96 World Series, Pettitte bounced back nicely with a scoreless outing in Game 5. He remained an ace of the Yankees pitching staff until he left for his home state of Texas to join the Astros in 2004.
He spent three seasons in Houston, but returned to the Bronx in 2007. He stirred some controversy the following year when he admitted to using HGH during his rehab from an elbow injury in 2002. However, he continued his solid play, winning 14 games in 2009 and pitching the deciding game of that year’s World Series to win his fifth title.
2 Mariano Rivera
Many remember Rivera as the greatest closer in baseball history. What many don’t remember is that “Mo” began his career as a starting pitcher in 1995. By 1996, he found his new home as John Wetteland’s setup man in the bullpen, pitching 107 2/3 relief innings for a 2.09 ERA. Rivera took Wetteland’s role as closer the following season, and the rest is history.
Rivera spent his entire 17-year career in New York, where he racked up an MLB-record 652 saves, and became one of the greatest postseason players of all time. He also holds numerous postseason records, including lowest ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched) at 0.70, and most saves at 42.
1 Derek Jeter
This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t check up on Derek Jeter. The Yankees captain remains one of the most recognizable faces in baseball, even in retirement. In 1996, Jeter batted .314 with 10 home runs during the regular season, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors. The 22-year-old improved his average to .361 that postseason.
From then on, Jeter’s Yankee career became the stuff of legend. Since his 1996 debut, he went on to win four more World Series titles, winning the MVP for the team’s 2000 victory over the crosstown rival New York Mets. In the shadow of the steroid era, Jeter was the poster child for playing the game the right way. He assumed the moniker “Mr. November” for his clutch postseason play. He is the Yankees all-time leader in hits, and ended his career with a walk-off single in his final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
Since hanging up his cleats, Jeter founded the popular website “The Player’s Tribune.” allowing an unfiltered medium for professional athletes to tell personal anecdotes and make free agency announcements, all while connecting directly with fans. Jeter married model Hannah Davis in 2016, and appeared at the 20th Anniversary commemoration of the 1996 Yankees championship in August.
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