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‘Generational favorite’ Yankees All-Star Joe Pepitone dies at 82

NEW YORK — Joe Pepitone, a 1960s New York Yankees All-Star and Gold Glove first baseman who became known for his flamboyant personality, hairpieces and penchant for nightlife, has died. He was 82 years old.

Pepitone lived with his daughter, Cara Pepitone, at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, and was found dead Monday morning, according to BJ Pepitone, a son of the former player. The cause of death was not immediately clear, but BJ Pepitone said a heart attack was suspected.

The Yankees said in a statement that “Pepitone’s playful, charismatic personality and on-field contributions have made him a favorite of generations of Yankees fans, even beyond his years with the team in the 1960s. “.

Born in Brooklyn, Pepitone went to Manual Training High School, signed with the Yankees in 1958 and made his big league debut in 1962. He helped the Yankees win their second straight World Series title that year. , a team led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris. and Elston Howard.

Pepitone has drawn attention for his conduct off the pitch. At a time when most players were laid back and conformist, Pepitone was thought to be the first to bring a hair dryer into the clubhouse, an artifact later donated to the Reliquary of Baseball and displayed at the Burbank Central Library in California. at a 2004 exhibit: “The Times They Were A-Changin’: Baseball in the Age of Aquarius.”

He posed nude for a January 1975 edition of Foxylady magazine.

“Things were a little different back then, of course,” Pepitone told Rolling Stone in 2015. “When I brought the hair dryer into the clubhouse, they thought I was a hairdresser or something like that; they didn’t know what was going on, you know? I walked in with a black Nehru jacket, beads, hair slicked back; it was ridiculous. I think about it now and laugh.

Jim Bouton, in his groundbreaking 1970 book “Ball Four” which revealed the inner workings of baseball teams, recounted how “Pepitone started wearing the hairpieces when his hair started thinning on top . . . It carries all kinds of gear in a small Blue Pan Am bag.”

Pepitone’s 1975 autobiography, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud”, detailed nightlife with Frank Sinatra, smoking marijuana with Mantle and Whitey Ford, and Pepitone’s imprisonment on Rikers Island.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner brought Pepitone back as a minor league hitting coach in 1980 and promoted him to the big league team two years later. Pepitone said he would even cut off his wigs to comply with Yankees grooming policy.

“This one,” he told the New York Times, holding a wig, “is my player. There’s gray in it. The longest is my departure.

Pepitone was jailed at Rikers Island for about four months in 1988 following two drug offense convictions, then was rehired by the Yankees to work with minor leaguers. He was arrested in 1992 at a seaside resort in Catskills for a fight that started when a man called him a “washed person” and pleaded guilty in 1995 to drunk driving.

He joined the Yankees at a high point in team history. After winning the 1962 title, New York won the American League pennants the next two years only to lose in the series, and Pepitone became an All-Star for three straight years beginning in 1963.

He remained with the Yankees during their decline and was traded to Houston after the 1969 season for Curt Blefary.

Pepitone went on to play for the Chicago Cubs from 1970 to 1973 and finished his career with Atlanta and the Japan Central League Yakult Atoms in 1973. He hit .258 with 219 homers and 721 RBI.

BJ Pepitone and Cara are children from Pepitone’s third marriage, with Stephanie, who died in 2021. Pepitone is also survived by his son Joseph Jr. and his daughters Eileen and Lisa from previous marriages. BJ Pepitone said the family have yet to decide on funeral plans.


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