Yankees fan favorite Joe Pepitone dies at 82
Joe Pepitone, a three-time All-Star playing for the New York Yankees between 1962 and 1969 who was also known for his off-field lifestyle, has died at age 82, according to an announcement from the team.
“The Yankees are deeply saddened by the passing of former Yankee Joe Pepitone, whose playful and charismatic personality and on-field contributions made him a favorite of generations of Yankees fans even beyond his years with the team in the 1960s,” the Yankees said.
Pepitone, a native of the borough of Brooklyn, was part of the New York Yankees team that won the World Series in 1962, during his rookie season. Pepitone, who played 63 games as a backup outfielder, was not on the postseason roster, but was awarded a championship ring.
“As a native New Yorker, he embraced everything about being a Yankee during both his playing career — which included three All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves — and in the decades thereafter,” the Yankees statement said. “You always knew when Joe walked into a room — his immense pride in being a Yankee was always on display. He will be missed by our entire organization, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all who knew him.”
During his eight seasons with the Bronx Bombers, Pepitone was a popular figure, endearing himself, he believed, to fans through his play and effort during the games.
“No matter what I did off the field, I gave 100% on the field,” he once told the Society for American Baseball Research. “That included backing up my teammates during brawls. If there was trouble, I went directly to the middle of it. The fans notice that.”
Pepitone is featured in the groundbreaking baseball book, “Ball Four,” where former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton revealed players’ carousing lives after the games ended each night. Pepitone was portrayed as vain, and he is known for being the first player to have a hair dryer.
And Pepitone called his memoir “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” which, according to Rolling Stone, described how he “unsuccessfully tried to out-run his personal demons by playing even harder off the field than on it.”
According to the New York Times, Pepitone told famed sportscaster Howard Cosell in 1984: “I discovered the city, the Copa, and all that. I found I could hit .996 on the street. It probably took 60 points off my average.”
Pepitone hit 219 home runs in the major leagues and had an average of .258. He played in the World Series in 1963 and 1964, but the Yankees lost each time.
Following his seasons with the Yankees, Pepitone had brief stints with the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves and played in Japan for just 14 games.
Pepitone frequently returned to Yankee Stadium for alumni events like Old Timers’ Day.