Remembering Yankee Glamour Boy Joe Pepitone

Former Yankee star Joe Pepitone passed away Monday at the age of 82. Born in Brooklyn, Pepi, as he was known, brought style and pizzazz to the staid New York Yankees when he arrived on the scene as a brash rookie in 1962. He was known as much for his waves of dark hair as he was for his power hitting and slick fielding. He shocked the major leagues by bringing a hairdryer into the locker room and though the world may have been on the edge of nuclear war, Pepi stole the headlines with his blow-dried locks.

Pepitone’s emergence allowed the Yankees to trade away their solid first baseman Bill Skowron at the end of the ’62 season for Dodger pitcher Stan Williams. Pepi then took over first base and had several fine seasons for the Bombers. He was a three-time All-Star and helped lead New York to two American League Pennants in 1963 and 1964. He averaged 23 home runs a season over his seven years as a starter for New York and earned three Gold Gloves for his exceptional play at first base. Remarkably, it was Pepi who took over in centerfield when the hobbling Mickey Mantle moved to first base in 1967.

My most searing memory of Pepitone came in the 1963 World Series. It was game four and the Yanks were up against the wall, down three games to zero to the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers had extraordinary pitching that year led by the unhittable duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Koufax was pitching another masterpiece in game four, matched by a superlative pitching performance by Whitey Ford. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh, Mantle gave New York hope with a game-tying home run. But in the bottom of the seventh disaster struck for the Yanks. Jim Gilliam hit a routine ground ball to Clete Boyer at third, but Pepitone at first base astonishingly failed to catch the cross-diamond throw from Boyer. The throw hit the heel of Pepitone’s glove and bounded far enough away to allow Gilliam to go all the way to third. Tommy Davis then knocked in Gilliam with a sacrifice fly and Koufax sealed the 2-1 victory for the Dodgers with two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth. Pepi later explained that he momentarily lost Boyer’s throw in the light-colored shirts of the sundrenched fans behind third base. It was a crushing way to end the series even though New York was thoroughly over-matched by the LA pitching.

Pepitone somewhat redeemed himself in the 1964 World Series with a big grand slam home run against the Cardinals leading New York to a win in game six. Ultimately Pepi’s time ended in disappointment with the Yankees. Known as the “Prince of Potential” or “a poor man’s Joe Namath” the glamour boy never reached the heights of stardom hoped for by Yankee fans. After their AL pennant in 1964 the fortunes for the Yankees faded as did those of the flashy young phenom named Joe Pepitone.

Pepi finished his career playing with modest success for the Chicago Cubs. After he retired in 1973, he became a fixture at Yankee Old-Timers’ games and his warm personality and delightful sense of humor continued to charm Yankee fans. He will surely be missed.

RIP # 25


Baseball Almanac,, Alan Zevin/NYTimes

Tim and Gibby an Unlikely Match Made for the Right Place in the Right Time

As we continue to remember the legacy of Tim McCarver who passed away last Friday, we should not overlook his contribution to that elusive thread of racial healing that drifted precariously throughout the turbulent 1960’s. Growing up in Memphis Tennessee the son of a policeman, McCarver could never be expected to be at the vanguard of the roiling civil rights movement of the sixties. He was a product of white America and possessed what he would describe as latent prejudices against African Americans. When he arrived in the major leagues his team, the St. Louis Cardinals, had already made a strong thrust toward integration by acquiring some of the best black ball players in the country such as Curt Flood, Bill White, Lou Brock, and Bob Gibson. It was his relationship with these players and especially Bob Gibson (who passed away in 2020) which would test McCarver’s ability to overcome his prejudices. All indications are that he did so successfully and during an era of civil unrest the McCarver-Gibson relationship became a model of racial harmony.

McCarver became the starting catch for the Cardinals in 1963 and he and Gibson would be battery mates for the next six years before McCarver was traded to the Phillies. Gibson played his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals, winning 251 games, earning the Cy Young Award twice and MVP once while eventually being inducted in the Hall of Fame. His 1968 season was one for the record books. That year he had an incredible 1.12 ERA. The lowest ERA by any pitcher in the modern era (since 1920). During their six years together, Tim caught 197 of Gibby’s starts and they had tremendous success winning the National League Pennant three times and the World Series in 1964 and 1967.

Through this time Gibson was considered an extremely talented pitcher and an intimidating figure on the mound. Some would consider him mean and menacing with racial undertones. But McCarver always considered his battery mate a gentleman and friend who was just a fierce competitor on the mound in much the same way as LA Dodger pitcher and contemporary, Don Drysdale.

Over the years the pair became good friends despite their different backgrounds and were goodwill ambassadors for the game of baseball during an unsettled time. One such example was their appearance together on The Ed Sullivan Show just after defeating New York in the 1964 Series. Their relationship though was not without some give and take. McCarver often spoke of the education he received as a newcomer in St Louis. His teammates Gibson and outfielder Curt Flood were Black players who did not hesitate to confront or tease McCarver. As reported by The Guardian “when McCarver used racist language against a Black child trying to jump a fence during spring training, Gibson would remember getting right up in McCarver’s face. McCarver liked to tell another story about drinking an orange soda during a hot day in spring training and Gibson asking him for some, then laughing when McCarver flinched.”

“It was probably Gibby more than any other Black man who helped me to overcome whatever latent prejudices I may have had,” McCarver wrote in his 1987 memoir “Oh, Baby, I Love It!”

There were also lighter moments between the two. According to Tim Kirkjian of ESPN, “when McCarver went to the mound to talk to Gibson, he wasn’t always given a kindly welcome. McCarver famously said that Gibson was particularly ornery during one trip to the mound, and said to McCarver, the only thing you know about pitching is you can’t hit it.

Probably the most significant incident between the two occurred in the morning after the assassination of Martin Luther King. The country was reeling with hatred and on the verge of an explosion, but McCarver tried to discuss the tragic news with Gibson. According to reporter Tim Wendell, “Gibson told McCarver that it was impossible for whites, no matter how well intentioned, to understand how he was feeling that morning. It didn’t help that McCarver was from Memphis, where King was murdered. Yet McCarver stood his ground, telling Gibson that it was possible for people to change. If anything, he was a prime example. McCarver reminded Gibson that when the catcher was new to the team, Gibson and Curt Flood teased him about his reluctance to share a sip of soda offered by a black man. Bob and I reached a meeting of the minds that morning, McCarver later said. That was the kind of talk we often had on the Cardinals.

Gibby and Tim remained friends through the years.

What is most important about the Tim and Gibby relationship is they learned from each other. They learned how to listen, respect each other and to get along together on the biggest stage in a complicated world. One can only assume that our country was made just a little bit better by the actions of these two very talented and gracious gentlemen.


The Guardian

Tim Kirkjiian

Tim Wendel

On a personal note: If you have had the chance to read my novel Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run you will remember that one of the protagonists, an African American teenager named Jonathan, was a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and especially Bob Gibson. Jonathan was looking for role models and, as a struggling JV pitcher, who could be a better role model than Bob Gibson? Jonathan, who had a rebellious spirit, especially liked Gibson because Gibson was “mean”. And if you were black in the white dominated society you had to be mean according to the teenager’s reasoning.

The main theme of the novel is played out as Jonathan reacts to the murder of his other hero Martin Luther King and refuses to accept the condolences from his white friend TJ the book’s narrator. The emotions expressed by Jonathan and TJ are nearly exactly those described by Wendel’s reporting. I was unaware of the Tim and Gibby incident in April 1968, but surely similar confrontations were common back then and remain so today.

Remembering Tim McCarver

Legendary broadcaster and former All-Star catcher Tim McCarver passed away yesterday at the age of 81. McCarver had a long and distinguished 21-year career as a catcher for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although he was considered a light hitter throughout his career my most searing memory of McCarver occurred in the 1964 World Series when his Cardinals faced off against my Yankees. McCarver was in only his second season as a starter, and among the talented batting order of the NL Champion Cardinals, which included Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Bill White and of course Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson, outside of the St. Louis area McCarver was a virtual unknown.

With the Series tied at two games apiece, game five was a real nail-biter. After listening to the game on my trusty transistor radio in school, at the bell I like most of my friends, raced home on our bikes to watch the rest of the game. Tied 2-2 after nine innings, the game entered the tenth with Pete Mikkelsen on the mound for New York. Mikkelsen was the Yanks’ top reliever that year and manager Yogi Berra’s favorite. But to me and my brothers, who joined me watching the game, the erratic righty was nothing but agita.

Sure enough, it took Mikkelsen no time to pitch himself into a jam. With Bill White and Dick Groat on base McCarver came to the plate. A left-handed hitter, he had a unique and somewhat weird batting stance, holding his bat close to his body and just behind his left ear.  With virtually no power (he hit only 99 home runs in his two-decade career) McCarver was not considered a threat. But it didn’t take him long to blast a fat Mikkelsen pitch deep into the lower rightfield stands giving the Cards a 5-2 victory. My brothers and I looked at each other in disbelief—thinking who is this guy?

St. Louis would go on to win the Series in seven games with McCarver hitting at scintillating .478. He appeared in two more World Series with the Cards, winning against the Red Sox in 1967 and losing the next year to the Tigers.

McCarver is probably best known for his career as a broadcaster. He and Joe Buck were the voice of the World Series for 24 years and he was elected to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. But I will never forget that October afternoon so many years ago when that plucky, little known Cardinal catcher ruined my day.

Many thanks to

Dusty Gets His Due

Dusty Baker

It was hard to root for the Houston Astros in last fall’s World Series. The cheating scandal of a few years back still hadn’t faded. But one thing that wasn’t hard to do was to root for Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker.

Dusty Baker had a long and productive 19-year career as a power-hitting outfielder for the Braves and the Dodgers. I remember him well against my Yankees in the 1977, 1978 and 1981 World Series. He was a dangerous right-handed hitter, usually batting cleanup in a very potent LA lineup. Although Reggie Jackson stole the show in the 1977 World Series, Baker was a steady force for the Dodgers hitting .292 after an MVP performance against the Phillies in the NLCS.

In game one of the 1978 World Series Baker had three hits as the Dodgers pounded the Yanks 11-5.  But it was not until 1981 that Dusty finally found the promised land as the Dodgers became World Champions defeating the Yankees four games to two with Baker contributing 2 hits in the deciding sixth game.

As solid as Baker was as a player he is better known today for his successful career as a manager. Baker has managed for 25 years winning over 2,000 games with a .539 winning percentage. His steady competent managerial style was on hand in his very first assignment as he led the San Francisco Giants to 103 victories in 1993, falling short of the divisional title by one game to the red-hot Atlanta Braves.

Altogether Baker won eight divisional titles over his years managing the Giants, the Reds, the Cubs and the Astros and was National League Manager of the Year three times—winning the NL pennant three times, a World Series title eluded him.  But it was this past year that Baker’s long years of dedication, hard work and baseball wisdom got him to the top. Having taken over the scandal-ridden Houston Astros in 2020 Baker righted the ship and provided solid guidance to a young talented team looking to move beyond their franchise’s past troubles. And it was Baker’s excellent leadership that propelled the Astros to their first untainted championship. The decisive four games to two victory by Houston over Philadelphia was Dusty Baker’s finest moment.

After 41 years Dusty Baker is once again a World Champion, an honor he truly deserves and one all fans of the national pastime can cheer.


Astros Soar with History-Making No-hitter in Game Four

Christian Javier

Last night the Houston Astros tied the World Series at two games apiece with a history-making no-hitter. It was the first time in World Series history that a pitching staff pitched a combined no-hitter. Christian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly shut down the hard-hitting Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 without a hit in a game for the ages. The only other World Series no-hitter occurred 66 years ago when Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw his remarkable perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

The young flame-thrower Javier pitched the first six innings recording nine strikeouts. Abreu, Montero and Pressly each pitched one inning mowing down the Phils with ease. The four pitchers totaled 14 punchouts. They allowed three walks for the only Phillie baserunners.

Don Larsen

An interesting comparison between Larsen’s masterpiece and last night’s gem was the similarity of pitching deliveries. Larsen was noted for his no-windup delivery which back in the fifties was very uncommon. Today many pitchers throw without a windup and have tremendous success as was evident last night. All four Astro pitchers used a no-windup delivery. Of course, it would be unheard of back in the fifties to remove a pitcher in the sixth inning throwing a no-hitter. Things have changed nowadays, and no one has questioned Dusty Baker’s decision to remove Javier. In fact, the Astros had a similar combined no-hitter against the Yankees in 2003. And since Houston had a comfortable 5-0 lead last night it made sense to remove Javier in case he is needed again if the series goes to seven games. 

We’ll see if Philadelphia can bounce back tonight. 

Holy Cow He Did It! See Ya!

Last night Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the 2022 season and tied Roger Maris for the American League single-season home run record. The momentous blast over the leftfield wall in Toronto occurred in the top of the seventh inning against Blue Jay lefty Tim Mayza. The home run propelled the Yankees to an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Judge’s home run ironically came 61 years after the Maris record which was set in 1961. The ball bounced back onto the playing field where it was retrieved and given to Judge. He in turn gave the historic baseball to his mom in a touching moment.

This historic event has specific meaning for me. As a nine-year-old I was fortunate enough to attend the game in 1961 where Maris hit his 61st. Pictured above is the ticket stub from that game that my brother saved. Back then our dad made it his mission to take us to at least one Yankee game every year. The trek over to Yankee Stadium from New Jersey wasn’t always an easy one especially for my dad who worked in construction and the summer and early fall were extremely busy for him. But we made it to that game. The last game of the 1961 season. And it will forever be etched in our memories.

Congrats to Aaron Judge for his tremendous achievement and to Roger Maris for all the memories. And thanks, dad.

In Praise of Albert Pujols

On Friday night Albert Pujols hit the 699th and 700th home runs of his illustrious career. Only three other major leaguers have hit 700 or more home runs. Babe Ruth was the first, finishing his career in 1935 with 714 home runs. That number remained the gold standard for 39 years until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. Hammerin’ Hank finished his career in 1976 with 755 round trippers. It would take another 33 years until Barry Bonds passed Aaron in 2007. Bonds holds the all-time record as he finished his career with 762.

Albert Pujols’ 700th Career Home Run – Bing video

Although Pujols may still have plenty left in the tank he has vowed to end his 22-year career at the end of this season. His production numbers have dropped dramatically over the past several years. Pujols saw a modest resurgence this year fueled by a return to his beloved St. Louis Cardinals and the implementation of the DH in the National League, but it is unlikely that if he continued playing, he could seriously challenge the Bonds home run record.

Albert Pujols

Yet what a way to go out! Prince Albert will add 700 home runs to the list of the incredible achievements of his 22-year career which include three MVP awards, the 2001 Rookie of the Year award and two-time NL home run leader. Pujols also is the only player in major league history to hit 400 home runs in his first ten seasons.

A fabulous way to end a remarkable Hall-of-Fame career.

Stats per

Judge Joins the Elite Yet Controversial 60 Home Run Club

Last night Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees became only the sixth major leaguer to hit or surpass 60 home runs in a single season.

Only Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have accomplished that incredible feat.

Babe Ruth had 60 home runs in 1927 with the Yankees.

Roger Maris 61 in 1961 with the Yankees.

Mark McGwire 70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sammy Sosa 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001 with the Chicago Cubs.

Barry Bonds has the Major League record with 73 which he hit in 2001 with the San Francisco Giants.

Judge now holds the American League single season record for most home runs by a right-handed batter. Jimmy Foxx hit 58 for the Philadelphia Athletics and Hank Greenberg had 58 in 1938 for the Detroit Tigers.

Although the 60-home run mark has been a milestone for nearly a century those who have achieved it have done so with a certain amount of controversy.

Ruth achieved his feat during an era when some of the greatest baseball players were not allowed to play in the major leagues due to racial segregation.

Maris reached 60 home runs only after the majors extended the season from 154 games to 162. Thus, giving him more games than Ruth.

McGwire, Sosa and Bonds all reached the 60-home run mark during the steroid era. McGwire has admitted that he used steroids to improve his power numbers. Though there is much evidence to the contrary Sosa and Bonds have not admitted steroid use.

To this point Judge’s pursuit of the single season home run record has been met with tremendous excitement and no controversy. We’ll see how far he goes. I for one will be rooting for him.

Mickey and Bobby: An Unlikely Pairing

This incredible photo was taken on September 18, 1965, at Mickey Mantle Day in Yankee Stadium. The Mick is with New York Senator Bobby Kennedy who had come to the Stadium to take part in the event honoring the Yankee legend. The photo was signed by Mantle and given to my friend who had worked on the RFK presidential campaign in 1968. My friend had read my book Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run and understood the metaphoric connection between Mickey and Bobby. Kennedy had won the New York Senate seat the previous November.

Mickey and Bobby. Also, with Mrs. Lou Gehrig. September 18, 1965.

On that September day Mickey Mantle and Bobby Kennedy were probably the two most popular people in New York and the entire country. Though Mantle was on the downside of his playing days he was at the pinnacle of his fame and New Yorkers were coming to appreciate what he meant to the city and to baseball. And Mickey Mantle Day was a time to show it.

Bobby Kennedy was carrying the torch of optimism once held by his deceased brother and was happy to have the opportunity to bask in Mickey’s glory.

In just a few short years Mickey Mantle’s remarkable career would fade away in retirement and Bobby Kennedy’s valiant life of public service would end tragically.

Though their paths would never again cross Mickey and Bobby would forever be etched on the soul of America.

The Three Alou Brothers Make History: All Three in The Same Outfield!

By guest blogger Gary Livacari

On this day 59 years ago something unique occurred in baseball history. The three Alou brothers: Felipe, Matty, and Jesus, all played together in the same outfield for the Giants. Three brothers in the same outfield had never happened before. In the game, played on September 15, 1963, at Forbes Field, the Giants defeated the Pirates 13-5 in front on 18,916 fans. The game featured Hall-of-Famers Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Willie McCovey for the Giants; and Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazerowski for the Pirates.

The three Alou’s played together in eight games in 1963. Felipe, then 28, was a regular outfielder for the Giants; Matty, 24, was a defensive replacement and pinch hitter who started only six games; and Jesus, 21, was a September call-up. They played in the same outfield for a few innings in three games in September. Despite some lingering baseball mythology, they never all started a game together.

Brothers Felipe, Matty and Jesus Alou

Jesus made his debut on Sept. 10, and it was unique in its own right. Manager Al Dark had the Alou brothers bat consecutively in the eighth inning, Jesus and Matty as pinch hitters before Felipe came up. The Alou’s went 0 for 3 against the Mets’ Carlton Willey.
On Sept. 15, the historic day, Felipe played all three outfield positions, and Matty and Jesus joined him in the outfield as late-inning substitutes. Two days later, Felipe started again and Matty and Jesus moved into the outfield late in the game. On Sept. 22, they played in the outfield together one last time, with Felipe again starting and ultimately playing all three positions before Matty and Jesus flanked him in the late innings. The Alou’s all played in the same game one more time, on Sept. 25, when Felipe started, and his brothers pinch-hit.

The next season Felipe was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. The brothers all played at least 15 seasons in the major leagues, but there were no more all-Alou outfields!

Felipe was the best of the Alou brothers with 2,101 hits from 1958-74. Matty had 1,777 hits from 1960-74 and Jesus had 1,216 from 1963-79. The Alou’s, some of the first ball players to come from the Dominican Republic, played a combined 47 seasons. Matty Alou passed away in 2011.

Information: Excerpt edited from the New York Times article on the Three Alou’s in the same game.…/the-myth-of-the-alou-brot…/…

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