|UNMET EXPECTATIONS ...|
|BUT PLENTY OF AMUSEMENT.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- If the Yankee poster boy of the 1920s was Babe Ruth, the '30s Lou Gehrig, the '40s Joe DiMaggio and the '50s Mickey Mantle, Joe Pepitone was it in the '60s. This was not a pretty period to represent after the back-to-back titles in '61-'62. Pepitone is remembered not as a classic Yankee but as a classic underachiever, part flake, part playboy and prominent symbol of a declining dynasty. The Cardboard Examiner, a haven for the James Dean kind of ballplayer and the average kook in spikes, remembers him as one of the coolest and most interesting players ever. I try to keep these fairly short, but Pepitone did a lot of living in his 12-year career. So I told my editor to take a hike. Dive in.
THE BACK PAGE
- When this card was in packs in the spring of '67, Pepitone was an emerging star. He was coming off his best and what would turn out to be his career season in '66.
- Terrific double-barrel cartoons.
- Pepitone, born and reared in Brooklyn, looked the part as a worthy successor to The Mick.
EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA
- Pepitone made a splash with the Yankees after he was given a $25,000 signing bonus. He arrived in spring training after spending it on a Ford Thunderbird, a boat, which he was towing, a shark-skin suit and a dog.
- His behavior early on worried club officials, one of whom feared Pepitone would either wind up knifed in an alley or locked in a mental institution. Trouble seemed to follow him even in high school, when as a senior he was shot in the stomach during a dispute.
- The Yankees, however, were blinded by Pepi's left-handed swing that was constructed for The Stadium's short right-field porch. And it did seem like a perfect fit for a while. He first made the team as Bill Skowron's backup at first in '62 and took over as starter in '63, the first of three consecutive All-Star seasons.
- Despite his carousing, Pepitone held it together on the diamond during the mid-'60s, but the Yankees were falling apart following their loss to the Cardinals in the '64 World Series. That Series grand slam was one of four hits he had in the seven-game series.
- In spring training '67, Pepitone pledged to take his career and the game more seriously. The Yankees were coming off a last-place finish and he also was being asked to patrol Yankee Stadium's hallowed center field with Mantle going to first.
- "I still make jokes in the clubhouse and kid around with the fans, but I'm a more serious ballplayer now,'' Pepitone said. "I know I'm of more value to the club. I'm in a position to make more money, and if I come up with a good year, I can own New York.''
- He never took ownership after averaging only 18 home runs, 63 RBI and batting .264 the next three years. The Yankees average record during that span was 78-83. So the Yankees dumped Pepi on the Astros in December '69 for Curt Blefary.
- In his eight-year career in New York, Pepitone hit .252, with .294 on-base and .423 slugging percentages. He hit 166 home runs but batted only .241 against righties. He did win three Gold Gloves at first base in '65, '66 and '69.
- "I discovered the city, The Copa (legendary New York City after-hours haute) and all of that,'' Pepitone said. "I found I could hit .996 on the street. It probably took 60 points off my average.''
- Afterward with three teams, he never hit more than 16 homers in any season before the Braves released him in June '73.
- According to Jim Bouton in his hilarious book Ball Four, Pepitone carried a large assortment of hair-care products to tend to his premature male pattern baldness.
- While most major-leaguers have a couple different gloves, with one considered a "gamer,'' Pepitone expanded that tradition to his toupees, with one being his "game piece.''
- Bouton wrote that the "game piece'' once lifted off his head when Pepi removed his cap for the playing of the national anthem.
- No surprise he was the first major-leaguer to use a blow dryer in the clubhouse. How he didn't get an endorsement contract with a hair-care company is a mystery.
- Naturally, Pepitone's vanity was a source of amusement in the Yankee clubhouse, especially with Mantle, who would put talcum powder inside that famous hot air gun. Pepitone would get The Mick back by dumping dishwater detergent into the aching star's clubhouse whirlpool.
- Like most rebels without a cause, Pepitone has had a few scrapes with the law, including an arrest for DUI and a misdemeanor drug conviction.
- In the interest of my lone female blog follower, my wife, or any other women who might accidentally stumble upon this post, Joey posed nude for Foxy Lady magazine in '75. Couldn't find any pics on the Web. Sorry, honey. You're welcome, my 37 male followers.