Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#245 Joe Pepitone

#245 Joe Pepitone
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the umpire ruled Joe Pepitone off of the bag whenever he caught the throw. You can't just set up shop smack in the middle of the infield grass, Joe!

Fun facts about Joe Pepitone:

-Joe was a Brooklyn boy who signed with the Yankees out of high school in 1958. He supposedly spent his $20,000 to $25,000 bonus on a Ford Thunderbird and a speed boat.

-After hitting .239 with 7 home runs and 17 RBI as a rookie in 1962, he took over as New York's starting first baseman the following year and made the first of three consecutive All-Star teams. His .271 average and 27 home runs trailed only Elston Howard for the team lead, and he topped all Yankees with 89 RBI. However, "Pepi" went just 2-for-13 (.154) in the World Series and made a crucial error in Game 4 that set up the Series-clinching run for the Dodgers.

-On August 29, 1964, he drove in seven runs via a first-inning grand slam and an eighth-inning three-run homer. The Yankees pounded Boston 10-2.

-Pepitone rebounded in 1964 to swat 28 home runs and a career-high 100 runs as the Yankees captured another pennant. They fell in the World Series again, with their young first baseman again managing a scant .154 average (4-for-26). However, his eighth-inning grand slam in Game 6 did fuel a series-tying Yankee win.

-Joe was recognized three times as the top-fielding first baseman in the American League, winning Gold Gloves in 1965, 1966, and 1969.

-He was famous for his hard-partying ways and vanity. According to Jim Bouton in Ball Four, Pepi had two different toupees: one for everyday wear and a "game piece", the latter to be worn only on the diamond. One of the famous anecdotes in the book had Bouton and Fritz Peterson sneaking into the clubhouse during a game to sprinkle talcum powder in Joe's hair dryer. After the game (a Yankee loss), Joe applied his "everyday" rug and turned on the dryer to straighten his actual hair, and Bouton told it, "he looked like an Italian George Washington". So did Pepi actually wear a rug? You tell me.

-Though he usually did not hit for a high average, his power and the lower offensive standards of his era made Pepitone a valuable player throughout the 1960s. For instance, a .255 average and .290 on-base percentage in 1966 are mitigated when you consider that the Yanks hit .235 with a .299 OBP overall that season. He also hit a personal-and-team-best 31 home runs, and finished with an 118 OPS+ (again, 100 would be league average).

-Between 1970 and 1973, Joe played for the Astros, Cubs, and Braves before heading to Japan. In a dozen big league seasons, he hit .258 with 219 homers and 721 RBI.

-He did not adjust well to Japan. He hit only .167 in 14 games for the Yakult Atoms, blew off games to go to night clubs, and soon jumped the team.

-He briefly served as Yankee hitting coach in 1982, and has spent the last decade and change employed in the club's front office. He is currently in their public relations area.

-Pepitone has run afoul of the law several times in his post-playing days. In 1985, he and two others were arrested in Brooklyn after their car ran a red light. The car contained drugs and paraphrenalia, a pistol, and $6,300 in cash. He wound up serving four months at Rikers Island and was freed for a work-release program when George Steinbrenner offered him a minor-league player development position. In 1992, he was charged with a misdemeanor assault and released on bail. Four years later, he lost control of his car in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and charged with driving under the influence.
#245 Joe Pepitone (back)


  1. This is a guy you cannot imagine being 70 years old.

    The Yankees had some real partiers in those days, including Mickey Mantle. It didn't seem to affect their performance.

  2. Marc - On the other hand, maybe they would've been even better if they'd been tee-totalers. Who knows?

  3. How much better could they have been? Of course, the other teams were probably partying just as much as the Yankees in those days.