Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29th, 1969

Joe Pepitone Quits Yankees

Pepitone didn't actually quit the Yankees; of course, he just made a show of announcing he was quitting after they fined him $500 for leaving the bench during a game. It is perhaps a reflection on the Yankees' organization in the late 60s that they were still trying to wrangle Pepitone under control despite all evidence that it simply couldn't be done.

Signed with a $20,000 bonus, Pepitone used it to purchase himself a car and motorboat (and probably, the first in his series of lavish hairpieces). According to Pepitone, in his first season the local mob near where the Yankees had Spring Training thought it was greatly unfair the young Italian was not getting the starting job and offered to have the incumbent, Moose Skowron, involved in an "accident" but Joe apparently turned them down.

He won out on talent the next season however, and responded by hitting reasonably well and making the All-Star team. His hitting would decline the next two years, although Pepitone would win the first of his three Gold Gloves in 1965. The Gold Glove was something of redemption for Pepitone who had made a crucial error in the 1963 World Series--leading, according to Jim Bouton, to Pepitone being the only man he had ever seen shake-off a pick-off signal during the 1964 World Series.

After the incident and fine that is today's event, Pepitone was traded to the Astros and would finish his career with the Cubs and Braves. He also spent a brief time in Japan, but the Japanese hardly knew what to make of 'Pepi' and when he jumped his team while hitting just .163. In the 1980s Pepitone fell back in with a bad crowd and served some brief time in prison but happily managed to put his life back together and is currently employed by the Yankee front office.

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