Pepitone at the 2009 Yankees' Old-Timers' Day
|First baseman / Center fielder|
Born: October 9, 1940|
Brooklyn, New York
|April 10, 1962, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 25, 1973, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Runs batted in||721|
|Career highlights and awards|
Joseph Anthony "Joe" Pepitone (born October 9, 1940) is a former Major League Baseball first baseman and outfielder who played the bulk of his career for the New York Yankees. He also played several seasons with the Chicago Cubs and had short stints with the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. During his time with the Yankees, Pepitone was thrice-named to play in the All-Star Game and also won three Gold Glove awards.
In 1958, Pepitone was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent. After playing four seasons in the minor leagues, he broke in with the Yankees in 1962, playing behind Moose Skowron at first base. A much-discussed legend was that while on his way to 1962 spring training in Florida, Pepitone spent his entire $25,000 ($205,392 today) signing bonus.
Yankee management believed he could handle the first base job and traded Skowron to the Dodgers before the 1963 season. Pepitone responded, hitting .271 with 27 HR and 89 RBI. He went on to win three Gold Gloves, but in the 1963 World Series he made an infamous error. With the score tied 1-1 in the seventh inning of Game Four, he lost a routine Clete Boyer throw in the white shirtsleeves of the Los Angeles crowd, and the batter, Jim Gilliam, went all the way to third base and scored the Series-winning run on a sacrifice fly. He redeemed himself somewhat in the 1964 Series against the Cardinals with a Game 6 grand slam.
Astros, Cubs, and Braves
After the 1969 season, despite having won his third Gold Glove Award, Pepitone was traded to the Astros for Curt Blefary. However, he played only about half the 1970 season before being traded to the Cubs. In Chicago, Pepitone replaced Ernie Banks at first base. He stayed with the Cubs through the 1971 and 1972 seasons, and was traded to the Atlanta Braves in May 1973. In Atlanta, Pepitone played only three games, which marked the end of his major-league career in the United States.
In June 1973, Pepitone accepted an offer of $70,000 ($373,771 today) a year to play for the Yakult Atoms, a professional baseball team in Japan's Central League. While in Japan, he hit .163 with one home run and two RBI in 14 games played. Pepitone spent his days in Japan skipping games for claimed injuries only to be out at night in discos, behavior which led the Japanese to adopt his name into their vernacular—as a word meaning "goof off."
Life after baseball
Jim Bouton talks extensively about Pepitone in his book Ball Four. Pepitone is described as being extremely vain. Bouton said that Pepitone went nowhere without a bag containing hair products for his rapidly balding head. Pepitone even had two toupees, one for general wear and one for under his baseball cap, which he called his "game piece." Bouton told a humorous story about how the game piece came loose one day when Pepitone took off his cap for the national anthem.
In January 1975, Pepitone published his own tell-all baseball memoir, titled Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud. The book received substantial attention for its many revelations, particularly about his abusive father and his self-lacerating candor about his self-destructive ways. Later that year, he posed nude for Foxy Lady magazine, featuring full frontal nudity.
In the late 1970s, Pepitone played for the New Jersey Statesmen in the American Professional Slow Pitch League (APSPL), one of three men's professional softball leagues active during this period. Pepitone would also serve the front office of the North American Softball League (NASL) for their only season in 1980.
In June 1982, Pepitone was hired as a batting coach with the Yankees, but was replaced by Lou Piniella later in the season. Pepitone was given a job in the Yankees' front office in the late 1990s.
Three times divorced, Pepitone currently resides in Massapequa, New York. He currently spends his time signing autographs and baseball memorabilia at autograph shows, and working in a public relations capacity for the Yankees.
He spent four months at Rikers Island jail in 1988 for two misdemeanor drug convictions. He and two other men were arrested in Brooklyn on March 18, 1985, after being stopped by the police for running a red light in a car containing nine ounces of cocaine, 344 quaaludes, a free-basing kit, a pistol and about $6,300 in cash. Coverage of the story by WOR-TV (Channel 9) in the New York area featured clips of an incredulous Pepitone declaring, "I didn't know cocaine was illegal", and his brother Vinnie, a NYPD detective, staunchly defending his character. He was released from jail on a work-release program when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner offered him a job in minor-league player development for the team.
In January 1992, Pepitone was charged with misdemeanor assault in Kiamesha Lake, New York, after a scuffle police said was triggered when Pepitone was called a "has-been." He was arraigned in town court and released after he posted $75 bail. In October 1995, the 55-year-old Pepitone was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after losing control of his car in New York City's Queens-Midtown Tunnel. Police found Pepitone bloodied, disoriented and mumbling as he walked through the tunnel. Authorities charged Pepitone with drunken driving after he refused to take a sobriety test. Pepitone pleaded guilty. When asked if he was staying away from alcohol, Pepitone responded: "I don't drink that much."
Pop culture references
Larry David productions
Pepitone has been mentioned in at least five episodes of shows written by or produced by Larry David.
He was mentioned in the 1993 Seinfeld episode titled "The Visa". In the episode, Cosmo Kramer reluctantly describes his experience at a recent baseball fantasy camp, wherein Pepitone was crowding home plate while Kramer was pitching, leading to Kramer's beanball that resulted in a subsequent camp-ending brawl, in which Kramer punched Mickey Mantle.
Pepitone was mentioned in the 1994 Seinfeld episode titled "The Mom and Pop Store". In the episode, George Costanza buys John Voight's car, thinking it belonged to Jon Voight the actor. George tells Mr. Morgan, "Well, I think we need more special days at the stadium, you know? Like, uh...Joe Pepitone Day. Or, uh...Jon Voight Day."
Pepitone is mentioned in the sixth season of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm episode titled "The Anonymous Donor", in which Larry David's Pepitone jersey gets lost at the dry cleaners. Larry and Leon Black then go out trying to find who is wearing it. In the episode, "Mister Softee" in the eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry and Leon attend a baseball autograph signing where Leon says, "I'm gonna go check out Joe Pepitone up in here", though Pepitone does not actually appear.
Other TV references
Pepitone was first mentioned in the 1987 Golden Girls episode titled Whose Face is this, Anyway. In this episode, Blanche tells Dorothy that she cannot possibly begin to comprehend the trauma a gorgeous woman goes through when she realizes her beauty is about to fade. Dorothy yells out, "And who do you see when you look at me Blanche, Joe Pepitone?!"
In the 1994 Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Zombie Nightmare", Mike Nelson refers to Joe Pepitone.
Pepitone is mentioned in the first season of The Sopranos episode entitled "Down Neck". Tony is having a flashback to his childhood during a therapy session with Dr. Melfi when he recalls walking out of his house when he was around 8 or 9 years old and his Uncle Junior shouts from his car "Anthony, you watch the game last night?", Tony replies "No, my mom made me go to bed", and then Uncle Junior says "Joey Pepitone, three RBIs!"
Pepitone is mentioned in the show Rescue Me in the episode titled "Jeter". In it, Tommy Gavin is upset at Lou for betraying his trust. He states that Lou is not Derek Jeter, after previously comparing him to the baseball star, and then he goes on to say that he's not even Joe "Goddamn" Pepitone.
Joe Pepitone was mentioned in the special episode of The West Wing made after 9/11, where the character Josh Lyman describes a baseball cap that his dad got Joe Pepitone to sign and he wore it to school every day during the 7th Grade.
In 2010, the novella Soul of a Yankee: The Iron Horse, The Babe and the Battle for Joe Pepitone, written by Pepitone's nephews William A. and Joseph V. Pepitone, was released. In it, the ghost of Lou Gehrig takes Joe through his life to show him the error of his ways, while the ghost of Babe Ruth tries to tempt Joe back into the wild life.
- Markusen, Bruce. "Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Joe Pepitone," Hardball Times (May 31, 2013).
- "Homepage". 23 August 2015.
- Gross, Jane (6 June 1982). "PEPITONE IS GRATEFUL TO REJOIN YANKEES" – via NYTimes.com.
- Buder, Leonard (20 March 1985). "PEPITONE ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Pepitone Hired by Yanks". 15 July 1988 – via NYTimes.com.
- "SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Pepitone in Scuffle at Hotel Lounge". 10 January 1992 – via NYTimes.com.
- "You Can Call Me Joe Pepitone". Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram. October 26, 1995.
- Karen Freifeld (February 23, 1996). "Joe Pepitone In Auto Plea". Newsday (Melville, New York).
- Bouton, Jim, and Leonard Shecter. Ball Four; My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues. New York: World Pub. Co., 1970. 400 pages. (ISBN 0-9709117-0-X)
- Pepitone, Joe, and Berry Stainback. Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud. Chicago: Playboy Press, 1975. 246 pages. (ISBN 0-87223-428-2)
- Pepitone, William A., and Joseph V. Soul of a Yankee: The Iron Horse, the Babe and the Battle for Joe Pepitone. Morrisville, North Carolina: Self-Published through lulu.com, 2011. 130 pages. (ISBN 0-55774-941-7)
- Yanks Harvest Bumper Farm Crop; Well-Balanced Array of Minor Leaguers Aids Champions All-Star Rookie Cast Includes Sons of Keller, Tresh – Mike Tresh's Son on List – New York Times article, January 3, 1962
- BROOKLYN TALENT AT YANKEE CAMP; Pepitone Stands Out – New York Times article, February 8, 1962
- YANKEE ROOKIES RATED BEST EVER; Houk Praises Tresh, Gibbs, Linz, Pepitone and Keller – New York Times article, February 25, 1962
- Mantle, Boyer Hit Homers As Yanks Top Orioles, 4-1; Yanks Turn Back Orioles, 4 to 1, On Homers by Mantle and Boyer – New York Times article, March 11, 1962
- Sports of The Times; Overheard at the Stadium – Time Marches On – Nuisance Hitter – The Hollywood Touch – New York Times article, April 11, 1962
- Yanks Trade Pepitone to Astros for Blefary;; INTERLEAGUE DEAL INVOLVES NO CASH Houk Plans to Use Blefary in Outfield -- Walker Sees Change Helping Pepitone – New York Times article, December 5, 1969
- Astros' Pepitone Threatens to Retire – New York Times article, July 22, 1970
- Cubs Acquire Pepitone on Waivers – New York Times article, July 30, 1970
- Pepitone Quits Baseball; 'No Longer Interested' – New York Times article, May 3, 1972
- Pepitone to Return to Cubs 'to Help Win the Pennant' – New York Times article, June 1, 1972
- Pepitone Is Traded By Cubs to the Braves – New York Times article, May 20, 1973
- Pepitone Quits Again – New York Times article, May 27, 1973
- Pepitone Hoping to Do His Swinging in Japan – New York Times article, May 28, 1973
- Pepitone's a Hero in His Tokyo Debut Before 40,000 – New York Times article, June 24, 1973
- Pepitone Returns to U.S. – New York Times article, July 9, 1973
- The Joe Pepitone Prayer: Don't Let Me Die in Japan; For 12 years--from 1962 -- Joe Pepitone played first and outfield for the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs – New York Times article, May 19, 1974
- Sports Editor's mailbox: No Tears for Joe Pepitone – New York Times article, May 26, 1974
- PEPITONE IS GRATEFUL TO REJOIN YANKEES – New York Times article, June 6, 1982
- PEPITONE ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES – New York Times article, March 20, 1985
- Pepitone Is Indicted – New York Times article, May 4, 1985
- SPORTS PEOPLE; Pepitone Trial Starts – New York Times article, August 27, 1986
- PEPITONE IS GUILTY OF LESSER CHARGES – New York Times article, September 18, 1986
- PEPITONE SENTENCED TO SIX MONTHS IN JAIL – New York Times article, October 23, 1986
- Pepitone to Begin 6-Month Jail Term – New York Times article, May 17, 1988
- Pepitone Hired by Yanks – New York Times article, July 15, 1988
- Pepitone Is Released – New York Times article, September 15, 1988
- SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Pepitone in Scuffle at Hotel Lounge – New York Times article, January 10, 1992
- SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Pepitone Is Arrested – New York Times article, October 26, 1995
- Joe Pepitone In Auto Plea – Newsday article, February 23, 1996
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Joe Pepitone's entry in BaseballLibrary.com