In foul territory and in anonymity.
Why we like him: According to my dad, Hector Lopez is the Yankee that nobody remembers, and it's actually kind of a shame. Statistically, this guy had, for lack of a better word, an interesting career. He started out in the late 1950s in what was essentially the New York Yankees' feeder system at that time, the Kansas City Athletics. He actually put together four pretty decent seasons there, and even led the league in grounded into double plays and sacrifice flies in the same season (1958), which is truly amazing when you think about it. He was apparently always willing to sacrifice himself as well as another baserunner for the good of the team. Bizarre.
In 1959, Lopez was a throw-in piece in the deal that brought Ralph Terry to the Bronx from Kansas City in return for three has-beens/losers, a practice that was used and abused to perfection by the Yankees during that era. At the end of the '59 season, the Yanks even snatched up Roger Maris, the eventual back-to-back MVP winner in '60 and '61, away from KC for Don Larsen ("But he threw a perfect game in the Series! Forget about the rest of his crappy career!") and the corpse of Hank Bauer.
The early part of his career was a nightmare for Lopez defensively. In 1955 and 1956, he led the league in errors committed by a third baseman, and led the league in errors committed by a second baseman in 1958 in just 96 games. Just looking at the stats sheet, it looks like Hector was a player being played woefully out of position in the infield when he clearly lacked confidence in himself to perform at those positions. After arriving in the Bronx, Casey Stengel obviously recognized that Lopez possessed clearly usable skills at the plate, but needed a change of scenery at his position to alleviate the pressures of being an everyday infielder in place like New York. Lopez sort of made the vast Yankee Stadium left field his own over the next few seasons, even splitting a little time with an aging Yogi Berra after his switch of positions.
Though not as well-known as some other Panamanian Yankees, Hector Lopez deserves just a little more love and recognition. After all, he was the left fielder for some of the best and most memorable Yankee squads of the 1960s. His final stat line: 12 seasons of near anonymity, .269 with 136 homers and 591 RBI, .286 postseason average, a heap of errors, and the label of "the Yankee that nobody remembers." Well nobody except for my dad, and now me too, I guess.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hector Lopez, Ballplayer.