Can Juan Soto’s debut replicate these five historic Yankees debut seasons?

Juan Soto is posing in the Yankees' pinstripes in February 2024.

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With a 4-0 headstart to the season in Houston, the Yankees look primed to bury the disastrous past of 2023. The commanding presence of Juan Soto in their ranks has infused new vigor to the team both on and off the field. This is clearly visible as the debutant slugger led from the front in both offense and defense to vanquish the Astros on their home turf.

The three comeback victories riding on Juan Soto’s sagacious display of hitting and glovework have generated much buzz about his debut season with the Yankees. For fans, he has truly “earned the pinstripes” with complete integration into the team’s fabric, embodying the spirit and legacy of the Yankees.

Many have started to compare his arrival to the most iconic arrival of Babe Ruth in 1920 when a young slugger named Babe Ruth, who forever changed history in the Bronx. Here’s a look back at the top five Yankees debut seasons so far and if Juan Soto can replicate that.

#1. Yankees debut of Sultan of Swat Babe Ruth, 1920

Yankees' legend Babe Ruth at the Yankee Stadium

Babe Ruth’s arrival in the pinstriped uniform of the New York Yankees in 1920 was not just a debut; it was a groundbreaking event that revolutionized the game of baseball. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox, Ruth transitioned from being a pitcher to a full-time outfielder, and his performance that season was nothing short of extraordinary.

The Bambino’s astounding feat of hitting 54 home runs led the Major Leagues and also surpassed the combined totals of every American League team except for the Philadelphia Phillies, who managed a respectable 64 home runs. Ruth’s prodigious power at the plate captivated audiences, drawing over 1.2 million fans to the iconic Yankee Stadium.

Ruth’s dominance extended beyond just his home run prowess. He led the Majors in an impressive array of offensive categories, including runs scored (158), runs batted in (135), walks (150), on-base percentage (.532), slugging percentage (.847), and OPS+ (255). Remarkably, he maintained a robust batting average of .376 across 142 games, showcasing remarkable consistency alongside his raw power. This culminated in an astounding Baseball-Reference WAR (bWAR) of 11.8, a feat he would replicate in three subsequent seasons, solidifying his dominance as one of the greatest players in the game.

Babe Ruth’s arrival in the Bronx marked the dawn of a new era in baseball, forever etching his name in Yankee lore as a pioneering figure who reshaped the sport with his extraordinary talent and larger-than-life presence.

#2. Yankees debut of Mr. October Reggie Jackson, 1977


Reggie Jackson‘s 1977 season was a remarkable display of his prowess on the diamond, transcending mere statistical achievements and cementing his legacy as the legendary “Mr. October.” On October 18th, 1977, at the iconic Yankee Stadium, Jackson etched his name in baseball lore with a performance that will forever be remembered.

In a single, thrilling inning of Game 6 of the World Series, he electrified the crowd by launching three consecutive home runs – each off a different pitcher from the Los Angeles Dodgers. This extraordinary feat became the defining moment of the Fall Classic, propelling the New York Yankees to a championship victory.

However, Jackson’s brilliance extended far beyond that iconic night. Throughout the regular season, he was the driving force behind the Yankees’ success. Signed as a highly coveted free agent, Jackson delivered at the plate, batting an impressive .286 with a .375 on-base percentage and a formidable .550 slugging percentage.

He showcased his power by smashing 39 doubles and 32 home runs, while driving in 110 runs across 146 games, earning a well-deserved selection to the All-Star team. While his regular season statistics were undoubtedly impressive, it was his clutch hitting in the playoffs, culminating in his legendary Game 6 performance, that solidified his place as a Yankees icon and forever linked his name to October baseball.

#3. Yankee clipper Joe DiMaggio sets sail, 1936


Joe DiMaggio‘s arrival in the iconic pinstriped uniform of the New York Yankees was not merely a debut; it marked the commencement of a legendary career that would forever etch his name in baseball history. Fresh off a Pacific Coast League MVP award in 1935, the 21-year-old Californian made his highly anticipated Yankees debut in May 1936. Batting ahead of the iconic Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio’s impact on the team was immediate and instrumental in propelling the Yankees back to the World Series after a four-year absence.

Right from the outset, DiMaggio showcased his exceptional talent and potential. He established a new franchise record for rookies by hitting 29 home runs, a mark that stood for over 80 years until Aaron Judge surpassed it with 52 homers in 2017. Across 138 games, DiMaggio displayed a well-rounded offensive skill set, batting an impressive .323 with a .352 on-base percentage and a formidable .576 slugging percentage for a robust OPS+ of 128.

He led the team in hits (206) and doubles (44) while tying for the Major League lead with 15 triples. This impressive performance earned him a well-deserved All-Star selection and an eighth-place finish in the American League MVP voting. His 125 RBIs placed him second on the team, just behind his legendary teammate Lou Gehrig’s 152 RBIs. DiMaggio’s remarkable 1936 season marked the beginning of a storied Yankees career, forever cementing his place as one of the most iconic figures in baseball history.

#4. Ace Catfish Hunter debuts for Yankees, 1975

Yankees legend Catfish Hunter

The year 1975 marked the arrival of Catfish Hunter in the iconic pinstriped uniform of the New York Yankees. George Steinbrenner, known for his aggressive ownership style, made Hunter the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history through a lucrative free-agent deal. However, the initial honeymoon phase was rocky, as Hunter stumbled out of the gate, losing his first three starts, causing even Steinbrenner’s confidence to waver momentarily.

These concerns were short-lived, as Hunter quickly silenced the doubters, showcasing the talent that earned him the hefty contract. He rebounded in spectacular fashion, leading all of Major League Baseball in wins for the second consecutive year with an impressive total of 23 victories. His durability was unmatched, as he piled up a staggering 30 complete games. Hunter led the league in several key pitching categories, including innings pitched (a grueling 328), batters faced (1,294), WHIP (a minuscule 1.009), and hits allowed per nine innings (a stingy 6.8).

Hunter’s dominance on the mound was undeniable, and he was recognized as one of baseball’s elite pitchers, finishing a close second in the American League Cy Young Award voting to Baltimore’s Jim Palmer. He amassed a remarkable 8.1 Baseball-Reference WAR (bWAR), solidifying his place as the anchor of the Yankees’ pitching staff. While the initial hiccups caused some to question the investment, Catfish Hunter proved himself worth every penny in his debut season with the Yankees, demonstrating his exceptional skills and justifying Steinbrenner’s aggressive pursuit of his talents.

#5. Roger Maris’ Yankees debut, 1960

Teammates welcome Roger Maris to the Yankees dugout after he hit a home run vs. the Reds at Crosley Field at Game 2 of the 1961 World Series on October 7, 1961.
Yates Marin

Roger Maris‘ arrival in the iconic pinstriped uniform of the New York Yankees in 1960 was not merely a debut; it was the spark that ignited a legendary career and an iconic rivalry. Acquired from the Kansas City Athletics in a blockbuster seven-player trade in December 1959, Maris wasted no time in making his mark on the Yankees franchise.

He immediately established himself as a formidable force to be reckoned with in the Yankees lineup, leading the American League in several offensive categories, including slugging percentage (.581), RBIs (112), and extra-base hits. Maris’ impact extended beyond his raw power, as his .283 batting average and .371 on-base percentage showcased a well-rounded offensive skill set. This impressive stat line, which included 39 home runs, culminated in a dominant .581 slugging percentage.

Maris’ contributions were not limited to impressive statistics alone. He played a pivotal role in the Yankees’ success, appearing in both All-Star games and featuring in 136 games throughout the season. His stellar performance was a key factor in propelling the Yankees to their first of five consecutive World Series appearances, solidifying their position as a dominant force in baseball during that era.

This 1960 season not only marked a remarkable debut for Maris but also laid the foundation for his historic home run chase with teammate Mickey Mantle the following year. Roger Maris’ arrival in the Bronx cemented his place as one of the most impactful and influential players in the storied history of the New York Yankees franchise.

Can Juan Soto’s Yankees debut match these historic years? What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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