Three-time All-Star and longtime major leaguer Joe Pepitone has died, the New York Yankees announced Monday. He was 82. A cause of death was not given.
"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 in a statement.
"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 was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and he signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1958. He made his MLB debut in 1962 and played his first full season in 1963, when he slashed .271/.304/.448 with 27 home runs at age 22. Pepitone was an All-Star that season and he helped the Yankees to the American League pennant.
During that 1963 World Series, Pepitone made a costly error in Game 4 when he lost the ball on a throw from third baseman Clete Boyer in the backdrop of the Dodger Stadium crowd. The runner was able to advance to third base on Pepitone's error and later scored what proved to be the World Series winning run.
From 1963-69, Pepitone hit .252/.294/.423 with the Yankees and averaged 26 home runs per 162 games played. He went to three All-Star Games with New York (1963-65), received MVP votes in two seasons (1963 and 1966), and won three Gold Gloves (1965-66, 1969). The Yankees went to the 1963 and 1964 World Series with Pepitone, though he never won a championship with the club.
The Yankees traded Pepitone to the Houston Astros in Dec. 1969 and he finished his career with Houston (1970), the Chicago Cubs (1970-73), and Atlanta Braves (1973). He left the Braves in June 1973 and finished that season with the Yakult Atoms in Japan. Pepitone retired with 219 home runs, 1,315 hits, and a .258/.301/.432 batting line in 1,297 games.
Following his major-league career, Pepitone played in a professional softball league and later served as a minor-league coach with the Yankees from 1981-82. He briefly served as the team's MLB hitting coach in 1982 and had stints in the front office. Pepitone had legal troubles later in life, including spending four months in prison for two misdemeanor drug convictions in 1988.
Pepitone was one of the game's great characters and he was featured prominently in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four. He wrote his own memoir, Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud, in 1975, which detailed his upbringing and life outside baseball.