Throughout the storied history of the franchise, the Yankees have had their fair share of October heroics. Today, we wish a former Yankees World Series hero, Ricky Ledee, a happy 49th birthday! While he might be approaching 50, it wasn’t that long ago that Ledee was the young kid on the Yankees roster. His heroics in 1998 forever made him a Yankees World Series hero and he helped the team win again in 1999.
Ledee’s big league career started with the 1990 amateur draft, when the Yankees selected him in the 16th round. After spending the first 7 seasons of his career in the Yankees minor league system, he was called up for the first time on June 14th, 1998, where he recorded a hit and a walk in 4 trips to the plate.
In limited playing time, Ledee slashed .241/.299/.392 while hitting 1 home run in his debut season. However, that Postseason, Ledee would turn from an unknown 4th outfielder into a Yankees World Series hero.
Finding a Left Fielder
During their historic 1998 season, the Yankees relied heavily on Chad Curtis to man left field. However, the glove-first Curtis struggled offensively down the stretch and saw Ledee and fellow rookie Shane Spencer cut into his playing time.
While Spencer quickly became a sensation with 10 home runs over the final 27 games of the season, he was viewed as a defensive liability. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Ledee Curtis and Spencer, were nearly non-existent at the plate in the ALCS against Cleveland.
Heading into the World Series, the Yankees appeared to have a noticeable hole in their lineup.
Becoming a Yankees World Series Hero
As the 1998 World Series started, veteran manager Joe Torre decided to go with Ledee in the ninth spot in the batting order and in Left Field. Little did Yankee fans know just how important of a decision that would be.
Going into the 6th, the Yankees found themselves in a 5-2 hole and up against Padres’ ace Kevin Brown, with future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman lurking. With 1 out Jorge Posada singled and Ledee walked, allowing Chuck Knoblauch the opportunity to tie the game with a 3-run home run. 5 batters later, Tino Martinez‘s Grand Slam clinched the opening game.
Ledee would double in a run in Game 2 and add another double, single and sacrifice fly in the World Series clinching Game 4. For the World Series, Ledee hit .600/.615/.900 while getting on-base in 8 consecutive plate appearances. His extremely productive at-bats turned Ledee into a Yankees World Series hero.
While Ricky Ledee would never turn into the full time left fielder that the Yankees hoped he would, he still managed to play an additional 9 MLB seasons. He again played a critical role in the Yankees 1999 World Series run before spending time in Cleveland, Texas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and in Queens.
While the Yankees are a team full of superstars, it’s easy to remember the names of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Derek Jeter. However, without a guy like Ledee playing his part, the Yankees might not have won that World Series back in 1998.
Ricky Ledee’s heroics helped continue a new-era of Yankees dominance and we wish him a very happy birthday!