Former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone Dead at 82
The left-handed first baseman played in two World Series and won three Gold Gloves during his tenure on the team.
Joe Pepitone, a former MLB player, left-handed power hitter and renowned first baseman for the New York Yankees, has died. He was 82.
Pepitone's son Bill told the New York Times that he and one of his sisters found their deceased father at home in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday morning and that the cause of death is currently unknown. Bill noted his father's death was sudden and unexpected.
Pepitone's former team also released a statement on Monday via Twitter, "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 statement continued, "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. 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."
Pepitone, born on Oct. 10, 1940, joined the Yankees in 1962, and shortly after his rookie season, he became a stand-out, taking over first base and leading the Yankees All-Star teams from 1963-1965 while consistently hitting home runs–including 27 in 1963, 28 in 1964, 18 in 1965 and 31 in 1966.
During his eight seasons with the Bronx Bombers, Pepitone became a fan favorite, something he credited to not only his talent but loyalty to his team.
"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."
Ironically enough, Pepitone's skill was not enough to get the team to score a Championship win. After winning 10 World Series in the 16 seasons before Pepitone joined, the Yankees lost to the Dodgers in 1963 and were swept with a loss once again in 1964 to the Cardinals.
The lefty ended his career in 1973 without winning a Championship but later went on to publish a tell-all memoir titled Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud and continued to explore his love of ball through slow-pitch softball and a career as a minor league coach for the Yankees.
Pepitone remained a pop culture reference well after his retirement, regularly cited on hit shows like The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Sopranos.
The player was not without his controversies, though. In 1985, he was arrested and convicted of misdemeanor counts of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, he served time after he and some friends were pulled over by police who found cocaine, heroin, and quaaludes. He also pleaded guilty to drinking and driving in 1995.
He is survived by sons Bill and Joseph Jr. and daughters Cara, Eileen, and Lisa; two brothers, Vincent and William; several grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Additional information regarding plans for a memorial was not immediately available.