Joe Pepitone: The Unconventional Baseball Star Who Won Hearts

Joe Pepitone: The Unconventional Baseball Star Who Won Hearts

On March 13, 2023, Joe Pepitone, the former first baseman of the New York Yankees, passed away at the age of 82.

According to his son, he is suspected to have died from a heart attack. The Yankees issued a statement on Twitter, paying tribute to his contributions to the team.

Despite his off-field antics, Pepitone was a skilled player, winning three Gold Gloves at first base during his 12-year career in Major League Baseball.

Pepitone was born in Brooklyn on October 9, 1940, and attended Manual Training High School before signing with the Yankees in 1958.

He made his big league debut in 1962, and helped the Yankees win their second straight World Series title that year.

Alongside notable players such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Elston Howard, Pepitone quickly gained attention for his off-the-field conduct, which was considered unconventional for the time.

He was known for his unique off-the-field behavior, including his love for hairpieces and his equipment in a little Blue Pan Am bag.

According to Jim Bouton’s groundbreaking 1970 book, ‘Ball Four,’ “Pepitone took to wearing the hairpieces when his hair started to get thin on top. … He carries around all kinds of equipment in a little Blue Pan Am bag.”

Despite his eccentric personality, Pepitone had impressive seasons at the plate, including 83 RBI and 31 home runs in 1966.

Pepitone remained with the Yankees through their decline and was traded to the Houston Astros after the 1969 season for Curt Blefary.

He also played for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves before retiring in 1973. Over the course of his 12-year career in Major League Baseball, Pepitone hit 258 with 219 homers and 721 RBIs.

After leaving Major League Baseball, Pepitone’s colorful character continued to draw attention.

He played a short 14 sports in Japan before returning to the US and posing nude for Foxy Lady magazine in 1975. Pepitone also had a short-lived career as a professional softball player and an even lesser career as a hitting coach.

In his 1975 autobiography, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” Pepitone detailed his nightlife with Frank Sinatra, smoking marijuana with Whitey Ford and Mantle, and his jailing at Rikers Island.

He was arrested in 1988 for two misdemeanor drug convictions and spent about four months in jail at Rikers Island.

Multiple marriages and children from earlier marriages also marked Pepitone’s personal life.

He is survived by his children, including BJ Pepitone and Cara Pepitone, with whom he was living at the time of his death.

Pepitone’s third wife, Stephanie, passed away in 2021. However, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner rehired Pepitone as a trivial league hitting instructor in 1980 and advanced him to the big league team two years later.

Pepitone even trimmed his hairpieces to comply with the Yankees’ grooming policy.

Pepitone’s unconventional behavior both on and off the field made him a beloved figure among baseball fans, and his legacy will continue to be remembered by generations of Yankees fans.

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