Jorge Posada At Second Base: Not The First Yankee Great To Play Out Of Position

Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees steps out of the batting cage during practice prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
"Then Jimmy Carter punched him in the back of the neck when he wasn't looking -- a total cheap shot -- and the Secret Service jumped in to break it up."
"I found a severed finger inside my Coke can today, but I think I know whose it is, so I'm keeping it for a while."
"So, Jorge Posada played second base on Thursday."

Three sentences. All equally likely when yesterday started. Yet Jorge Posada did play second base on Thursday. Cross it off the list. It looked something like this:

 It wasn't a totally foreign position for Posada: he played second when he was a 19-year-old for single-A Oneonta in 1991. He made only 20 errors in 64 games, so you were probably right to think it was just a matter of time for him to work his way back to his position. Posada playing second was like Tom Brady covering a wide receiver for a couple of snaps, which would never happen and that's why our sport is better.

But it wasn't the first time that a Yankee great played an unusual position. Here are some from the past, and you don't even need to include oddities like Catfish Hunter playing first base for an out before he came to the Yankees, or Mickey Mantle playing shortstop as a 21-year-old.

Red Ruffing - LF - 1931
Ruffing was a Hall-of-Fame pitcher who came over in a trade from the Red Sox for some cash. Don't worry -- that cash was used to finance an early version of "Wicked" and everyone loves that one. In his first year with the Yankees, he filled in for part of a game in left field.

At that point in his career, Ruffing was a mediocre pitcher at best, but he had hit .374/.415/.596 in 99 at-bats the previous year. One of the better-hitting pitchers in major-league history, Ruffing ended the '31 season with a .330 batting average, but he also started a nine-season stretch with an ERA above the league average and 200 innings pitched, so the temptation was lost.

Joe DiMaggio - 1B - 1950
It's usually not a big deal when a guy steps in at first for a game or so, but DiMaggio was one of the best center fielders of all-time. For him to play even a single game at first was big news, but that's exactly what he did on July 3, 1950. From the New York Times:

Excellent players handle old age in different ways. One day in 1950, Casey Stengel asked Joe DiMaggio to take a turn at first base, and at the end of the day the Yankee Clipper's uniform was soaked through with sweat. He never played another game at first.

Dave Winfield -3B - 1986
The 34-year-old outfielder played a few innings at third on July 2, 1986. Just over a month later, Don Mattingly played his first game at third (Mattingly is the last lefty thrower to start at third base). And it's not like the Yankees were starting the Neifi Perez of third basemen that season -- Mike Pagliarulo was an okay player. Still, injuries and creativity can make for strange bedfellows, and when Pags went down, manager Lou Piniella got frisky.

Lou Gehrig - SS - 1934
Gehrig never actually played shortstop, but he was listed as a shortstop on July 14, 1934 to keep his consecutive-games streak going. From Quirky Research:

Gehrig was forced out of the previous day's game in the second inning with an injury (described in the next day's New York Times as "a cold in the back that makes breathing difficult and swinging a baseball bat torture"), but insisted on maintaining his consecutive-game streak (then at 1,426).

Leading off the game, Gehrig singled to right, was immediately pinch-run for by normal starting shortstop Red Rolfe, and returned to the team hotel.

Ol' Biscuit Pants played almost 700 more games after that without interruption. It's a shame he was under the weather, but it sure would have been cool if he could have taken at least one grounder at short. Oh, and if someone from back then could have .gif'd it. That would have been awesome.

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