The New York Yankees family is mouring on Monday, March 13, after learning former All-Star Joe Pepitone passed away at the age of 82. The team announced the news and released a heartfelt statement in response.
Pepitone's career with the Bombers spanned from 1962-1969, during which he captured three Gold Gloves at first base and was named to three All-Star teams. He also received MVP votes in the 1963 and 1966 seasons. Unfortunately, he was unable to capture a World Series title with the team during their two runs in 1963 and 1964 (losses to the Dodgers and Cardinals). The team won during his rookie season in 1962, but he didn't get any reps in the playoffs.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York (he attended what is now John Jay High School), Pepitone landing with the Yankees seemed like the perfect fit. The team had been scouting him since he was 14 years old.
Pepitone finished his Yankees career with a .252/.294/.423 slash line, 435 runs scored, 166 home runs and 541 RBI in 1,051 games. He played in portions of four more seasons with the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves from 1970-1973.
After his playing days, George Steinbrenner hired him to work as the organization's minor-league hitting coach in the 80s. He eventually served a few months as an assistant on the big-league staff but was replaced shortly after by Lou Piniella.
Former Yankees All-Star Joe Pepitone passes away at age 82
Sadly, as his baseball career progressed, character and off-the-field issues plagued him far worse than they did in his earlier years, which then set the tone for his inauspicious post-playing days.
During his rookie season, he was sent down to Triple-A for disobeying curfew after being caught by manager Ralph Houk and GM Roy Hamey. In 1963, he was responsible for what's still called the "biggest brawl in Yankee Stadium history" when he retaliated against the Indians after being hit by a pitch from Gary Bell (the second time he was hit that game).
Fast forward to 1964, and there was a similar incident on the road against the Tigers that nearly ended in disaster. Multiple times during the 1969 season, Pepitone was either a no-show or departed in the middle of games multiple times, which resulted in fines and suspensions. But the man was a character and very much beat to his own drum. He frequented nights out in New York City alone, partied with Franke Sinatra, got stoned with both Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford (per his account), and was the first major leaguer to bring a hairdryer into the clubhouse (the length and style of his hair was a point of contention multiple times during his Yankees tenure).
After his baseball career, he was busted on misdemeanor drug convictions, which landed him on Rikers Island for four months in 1988. Years later, he was hit with a misdemeanor assault charge as well as a DUI.
Though his career didn't end well -- he had a spectacular year for the Cubs in 1971 before being blindsided by a trade to the Atlanta Braves (and was out of the league after 1973) -- Pepitone had a lasting impact on the 1960s Yankees that won't be forgotten.
Rest in peace to one of the foremost partygoers and eccentric characters in New York sports history.