Farewell to no. 11

The eyes of most baseball fans are trained on Yankee Stadium this weekend, and if they look really hard, they might see a ghost. Hector López, a teammate of Roger Maris when Maris broke baseball's home run record there, died on Thursday at age 93.

While Maris patrolled right field and Mickey Mantle roamed in center, Hector was stationed over in left. He could play just about every position on the field, having spent some time at third base in particular, but with the Yankees he played left. He wasn't a terrible hitter and would pop a home run every now and then. Bobby Richardson was the leadoff man, but you might see Lopez batting second ahead of Roger, with the Mick at cleanup.

Almost as soon as we learned to count, the kids in my neghborhood had the Yankees' uniform numbers memorized. Hector was pretty high up at 11.

1 - Richardson, second base

2 - Frank Crosetti, third base coach

3 - Babe Ruth, retired

4 - Lou Gehrig, retired

5 - Joe DiMaggio, retired

6 - Cletis Boyer, third base (originally 34)

7 - Mantle (who I believe briefly wore 6, and even 34, before our time)

8 - Yogi Berra, catcher

9 - Maris

10- Tony Kubek, shortstop

11 - López

12 - This one I don't remember. The intertubes say it was the journeyman infielder Billy Gardner.

13 - Nobody wore it because it was unlucky.

14 - Moose Skowron, first base

15 - Tom Tresh (shortstop and outfield), who showed up as a rookie in '62

16 - Whitey Ford, ace pitcher

Anyway, getting back to Hector López, he was one of the first Black players the Yankees ever had, along with Elston Howard (32), a catcher coming up behind Yogi. When Hector finished playing, he was the first Black manager in AAA, the highest level in the minor leagues. Then he was a talent scout and a high school coach.

In his days with the Yankees, López, a native of Panama, lived in Brooklyn and took the subway to the stadium, which was on the D line. He must have been quite an unassuming guy. He spent his last years living in Florida.

I'll tell you, the Yankee nostalgia, 60 years on, is running mighty thick this early fall. Take it easy, Hector. We always rooted for you.