On May 30 the Baltimore Orioles made a surprise move and signed free agent outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks had been released from the rival New York Yankees just days earlier and was having the worst season of his career. He had a good year in 2018, even receiving some down ballot MVP votes that season, and was rewarded with a seven year, $70 million contract extension from the Yankees. Unfortunately for Hicks, he was not able to regain his 2018 form and produced some very poor seasons while being plagued by injuries ever since the Yankees extended him.
Nevertheless, the Orioles saw something in Hicks and when all-star centerfielder Cedric Mullins was placed on the IL, Hicks was brought in to fill the void. Since his signing, Hicks has appeared in 13 games for the Orioles and reached base in the first 12. In just those 13 games he has out produced the numbers that he put up for New York in 28 games.
Hicks has 13 hits, two doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBI's, a stolen base, and scored 10 runs and is slashing .333/.447/.590 with a 1.037 OPS. With Hick's resurgence on the Orioles it got me thinking; who are the best players to play for both the Orioles and Yankees (the level of contribution was also factored in)?
Who are some of the best players to play for both the Orioles and Yankees?
Jimmy Key was a member of the Yankees from 1993-1996. His best individual season came in 1994 when he led all of baseball in wins with 17. Key finished second in Cy Young voting and sixth in MVP voting that season.
Key was the ace of the staff and the team had the best record in the American League when the strike happened. He was a two time all-star for the Yankees and earned Cy Young and MVP votes in each of those seasons. Key was also a key member of the 1996 Yankees World Championship team.
After winning the World Series with the Yankees in '96, Key signed with the Orioles in '97. Key again was an all-star in '97 and tied for the team lead with 16 wins that season. He helped the O's win the 1997 AL East crown leading the division wire to wire. Injuries caught up to Key in '98 and he retired from the game following the season.
Mr. October is mostly known for his time with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and California Angels, but he did spend one significant season in Baltimore in 1976. After winning three consecutive World Series title with the A's from '72-'74, Jackson became disenchanted with the franchise and left after the '75 season.
In his lone season with the O's, Jackson tied for third on the team in hits (138) and triples (2), he was second on the team in doubles (27), RBI's (91) and stolen bases (28), and led the team in home runs (27). Jackson also led the American League in slugging percentage (.502) and OPS+ (155).
After Jackson's season with the Orioles, George Steinbrenner stepped in and made Jackson an offer he couldn't refuse. Jackson spent the next five seasons in New York winning two World Series titles in '77 and '78. He was an all-star in each of those seasons and earned MVP votes every year from '77-'80, finishing as high as second in the 1980.
Jackson led league that season with 41 homers and also won the silver slugger. Jackson became known as Mr. October when he hit three home runs in game six of the 1977 World Series while only seeing three pitches. It's also worth noting that his final at bat of game five was a home run and Jackson walked in his first plate appearance of game six giving him four home runs in four consecutive at bats.
Mike Mussina was about as reliable pitcher as anyone could ask for. It's hard to pick out his best individual season with the Birds because he was consistently good every year. Moose garnered Cy Young votes in seven of his 10 years in Baltimore, finishing 6th twice, 5th twice, 4th twice, and second once. He was also a five time all-star for the Orioles and won the Gold Glove each year from 1996-99.
I remember watching his greatness first hand on May 30, 1997 when Mussina retired the first 25 Cleveland Guardians (Indians at the time) hitters he faced before Sandy Alomar Jr broke up his bid at perfection with a one out single in the top of the ninth inning. Moose was and will always be a fan favorite in Baltimore, even receiving ovations when he returned to town with the Yankees.
Mussina spent the final eight season of his career with the Yankees. Maintaining his consistency, Mussina, who averaged a 15-8 record with 154 strikeouts per season with the Orioles, then averaged a 15-9 record with 160 strikeouts per season with the Yankees. Moose's final season was his swan song, as he again finished 6th in Cy Young voting, won his sixth gold glove and finally became a 20 game winner after two 19 win seasons with the Orioles. Moose was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 and after having great success with both the Orioles and Yankees, opted to only have the MLB logo on his bust in Canton, not wanting to pick between the teams.
Bonus player: George Herman "Babe" Ruth
Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time. On top of the 714 home runs Ruth slugged, he was a career .342/.474/.690 hitter. His career slugging percentage, OPS (1.164) and OPS+ (206) are all still records today. In the five full seasons Ruth spent as a pitcher, he had a career 2.16 ERA, and averaged 17 wins per season. That many wins per season over the course of his 22 year career put him on pace for 374 wins. The only reason Ruth is delegated to bonus player on this list is because his time with the Baltimore Orioles was in 1914 when they were a Double-A team without any affiliation to today's Orioles that I'm aware of.
Overall, 268 players have played for both the New York Yankees and St. Louis Browns / Baltimore Orioles franchises, to include Branch Rickey. Aaron Hicks is just the latest. I don't know if he'll have the juice to make it onto this list, but he's been fun to watch so far.