The Yankees franchise lost a legend on Monday. Joe Pepitone was an MLB all-star, a Gold Glove First Baseman winner, who died at age 82. He was known for his flamboyant personality, wild hair pieces, and love for nightlife. In a statement after his passing, the Yankees said his “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 Brooklyn-native went to Manual Training High School before signing with the Yankees in 1958. Four years later in 1962, he made his big league debut. In the ball club led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Elston Howard, he helped the Yankees win their second World Series title. Pepitone joined the Yankees at a high point in their history. After they won the 1962 World Series, Pepitone and the team would go on to win 2 straight pennants, only to lose in the World Series. He was traded to the Houston Astros in 1969 and then to the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees eventually brought Pepitone back in 1980 as a minor league hitting instructor.
Although he had fame from his performance on the field, his off-the-field antics gained him popularity. It is said that Joe was the first player to ever bring a hair dryer into the clubhouse. The hair dryer would later be given as an artifact to the Baseball Reliquary and displayed at the Burbank Central Library in California during a 2004 exhibition: “The Times They Were A-Changin’: Baseball in the Age of Aquarius.”
Published in 1975, his autobiography chronicled his rough upbringing, including verbal and physical abuse, as well as his love of nightlife, adventures with Frank Sinatra and smoking marijuana with Mickey Mantle.
“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,’’ continued the Yankees’ statement Monday.
He died peacefully at his daughter, Cara Pepitone’s home in Kansas City, Missouri. While no cause of death has been given, it is suspected that Joe passed away from a heart attack.
Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works.