There are so many great stories surrounding this club, I could have written an entire book about it. When it came time to shorten this chapter, I settled on George Selkirk--a little known outfielder whose rise to stardom was preempted by the arrival of Charlie Keller and Tommy Henrich.
NEW YORK YANKEES
NUMBER OF PENNANTS: 4
NUMBER OF CHAMPIONSHIPS: 4
HALL OF FAME PLAYERS: Joe McCarthy (MGR), Joe DiMaggio (OF), Joe Gordon (2B), Bill Dickey (C), Red Ruffing (P), Lefty Gomez (P)
Born in Huntsville, Ontario, Selkirk is among a select group of Canadian players who found success in the majors. At one time, he considered a career in professional wrestling, but changed him mind. He got his nickname “Twinkletoes” from his Newark teammates, who noticed his unusual habit of running on the balls of his feet. Selkirk spent portions of eight seasons in the minors and was affiliated with the Cardinals and Tigers before joining the Yankee farm system. All were powerful teams, making opportunities severely limited.
With Ruth’s numbers on the decline, Selkirk was called to New York in August of 1934. He hit .313 in 46 games, earning a permanent roster spot. When the Bambino left for Boston the following year, Selkirk was faced with the unenviable task of replacing him. During Ruth’s Grapefruit League debut against the Yankees at St. Petersburg, Selkirk played in right field for New York. He collected a pair of hits, including a triple over Ruth’s head. The Associated Press remarked that Ruth was “conspicuously outplayed” by Selkirk that afternoon.
Though Selkirk was by no means “Ruthian,” he was a solid player all around. From 1935-1937, he reached the .300 mark at the plate every year. He had 55 RBIs in 54 games before a collarbone injury kept him out of action for five weeks during the ’37 slate. He finished the season with 68 ribbies and a .328 batting average.
After a down year in ’38, Selkirk came back strong the following season, hitting .306 and reaching the 100 RBI threshold for the second time in his career. Equipped with a keen batting eye, he walked 103 times, running his on-base percentage up to .452 (both of which were career-high marks). He added 21 homers and 103 runs scored to his list of accomplishments in ‘39.
Selkirk appeared in every World Series from ’36-’39 with varying degrees of success. He hit a pair of solo homers and batted .333 against the Giants in the ’36 Fall Classic. In all, he reached base by hit or walk in eighteen of twenty-one postseason games. He gathered five World Series rings altogether.
By 1941, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller were the Yankees’ starting three. Selkirk saw increasingly less action. He retired the following year. Finished as a player, he managed in three different minor leagues for eleven seasons. He later worked in the Kansas City A’s front office and served as GM of the Senators from ’63-’68. He was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He was seventy-nine years old when he died in 1987.