In the ever long, ever growing rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox, there has always (for the most part, anyway) been a constant theme: Legends in left for Boston and legends in center for New York. I was thinking about this after my arm got tired out, throwing shit at my T.V. when I found out Jacoby Ellsbury went to the Yankees. I'm over it now, but whether or not he knows it, Ellsbury has a lot to live up to, as did Damon when he pulled the same sacrilegious move seven years earlier. The most famous steal the Yankees got was Ruth, who played right, but as you'll see it's center field where legends and near legends (and total washouts) roamed.
The story begins in 1936, when Joe DiMaggio had a terrific rookie season, and of course led the Bombers to many titles in his relatively brief career. In 1951, he decided to call it quits, so the Yankees right fielder, Mickey Mantle took over and brought the same amount of winning play until his legs finally gacve out on him in 1968. The next center fielder to take over was Bobby Murcer, a very good, if not great player. Murcer had the unfortunate fate of being on some pretty bad Yankee teams, and when he returned in the late '70s, they had already won the two titles that generation of Yankees would win.
When Murcer was traded in 1974, Bobby Bonds spent his one season there. Bonds had spent his entire career up to that point with San Fransisco, but would spend the next seven years playing for seven different teams. When Billy Martin became manager, he expressed his dislike for Bonds, so that may have been the reason for it. Then for the next few years, Mickey Rivers patrolled center. Then Murcer came back and shared duties with Jerry Mumphrey, a fairly unspectacular player.
The '80s were a weird time for that position in the Bronx. The early years were filled with the Mumphreys, the Omar Morenos and-at the end of the decade- Roberto Kelly. There were those years in the middle (85-mid 89) where Rickey Henderson-usually a left fielder- played center for New York, which fit it with a Hall of famer playing the position theme...Henderson would return to left field when he went back to Oakland in mid '89.
After Roberto Kelly was traded to Cincinnati for Paul O'Neil in the early nineties, it made room for Bernie Williams, who played there until he retired in 2006 to play smooth jazz guitar full time. He put up some borderline Hall of Fame numbers, but fell short of the 3,000 hit club.... The aforementioned traitor Johnny Damon played until 2009, when they won it all. Damon actually has some HOF like numbers, with 1668 RBIs and 408 stolen bases, but somehow only made the All Star team twice. The Yankees then picked up Curtis Granderson (who actually has made three All star teams, go figure), who played there until an injury riddled 2013 season made him expendable... making way for traitor #2, Ellsbury. (Yeah, I said I was over it, but it's only been a week or so).
The Sox legacy in left starts around the same time as the Yankees center field legacy did, in the late '30s. 1939, to be exact... that's when Ted Williams started his 22 year career in left...well, it would have been 22 had he not fought in both WWII AND the Korean war (greatest generation, indeed). The year after Teddy Ballgame retired, Carl Yazstremski took over, and was the regular left fielder until around 1975, when another future Hall of Famer, Jim Rice took over. Yaz would sometimes play left, but mainly DH'd and played a little first until his retirement in 1983.
Rice continued to play left until 1987, when he became the full time D.H., and Mike Greenwell took over. A lifetime .300 hitter, Gator was also pretty bad in the field. After he retired, Troy O'Leary, who had been playing right, took over left for a couple of years, and was then replaced by "Jurassic" Carl Everett, named so because his deeply religious beliefs-he basically didn't believe dinosaurs existed, despite overwhelming evidence- and also, his temper was rather dinosaur-like ...
...and then came Manny. Idiot-man child/amazing hitter, Manny played to his own beat, which was off (hey, I just made that up, cool), and could be an adventure in the outfield; high fiving fans after a catch on the road, disappearing into the Green monster during the game. However, you put up with it when he does his usual .300 plus average, 35 plus homers, 100 plus RBI's Boston had had enough of his antics in 2008, where they traded him away and got Jason Bay for a year and a half.
In 2010, Daniel Nava was then called up at age 27 to platoon with veteran Bill Hall, but that was a one year plan...They then signed All Star Carl Crawford to a big contract, which was a bust, as he was hurt for most of 2011 and was then shipped off to the Dodgers, along with Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox then signed Jonny Gomes to platoon with Nava, and that seems to be working out.
So with the Ellsbury signing, the rivalry continues...he may not be a future Hall of famer, but he's a vast improvement over Omar Moreno (callback!), who might as well have been Rita Moreno...if there was anyone outside of Vince Coleman who was made to play on artificial turf, it was Omar...and while the Gomes/ Nava platoon seems to be working as well as the old John Lowenstein/ Gary Roenicke tandem from the late '70s, early '80s Oriole teams, I'm still waiting for the next long term solution...if those still exists anymore...