Sports Outside the Beltway

Former NY Yankee catcher Johnny Blanchard dead at 76

He was not much of a defensive player but because of his good hitting did a good job filling in for the Yankees at catcher, first base, left fielder, and as a pinch hitter. RIP.

Johnny Blanchard, who played in five consecutive World Series for the New York Yankees in the early 1960s, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Minnesota. He was 76.

A key player off the bench when the Yankees won five AL pennants from 1960-64, Blanchard batted .345 (10-for-29) in the World Series overall and hit a pair of home runs as New York defeated Cincinnati in the 1961 Series.

“This is a sad day,” Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. “Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We’ll miss him.”

Blanchard was among the fan favorites at the Yankees’ fantasy camps, held twice a year at the team’s spring training complex.

“Johnny was a funny guy and a great storyteller,” former Yankees pitcher Bob Turley said. “He was always happy. Everybody loved him and loved being around him.”

Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and made his major league debut four years later at 22. He is one of four players in Yankees history to homer in four consecutive at-bats, accomplishing the feat over three games from July 21-26, 1961.

“He would do anything it took to help win a ballgame,” said Ralph Houk, who managed the Yankees from 1961-63. “Johnny was a true Yankee, there’s no doubt about that.”


Former NY Yankee pitcher Tom Sturdivant dead at 78

He won 59 games in a career that spanned 10 years. He won 36 games in a Yankee uniform, notching 16 victories in both 1956 and 57. He pitched in three World Series alsoRIP


Joe Gordon elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

The former Yankee and Indian 2nd baseman will be inducted into Cooperstown next summer. From AP-

NEW YORK — Former second baseman Joe Gordon has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

The late Gordon was a nine-time All-Star with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. He played on five World Series championship teams and retired in 1950.

Gordon was the only person elected Monday on a ballot of players who began their careers before 1943.

Ron Santo, Gil Hodges and Joe Torre fell well short of the 75 percent needed for election to Cooperstown.

Gordon is a good choice. Torre will be elected one day, Santo maybe. Hodges, and this coming from a NY Met fan, I don’t think will make it and am not even sure if he is worthy of induction. It is debatable.

In addition to playing for Cleveland and New York, Gordon served as Manager of the Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Athletics, and Kansas City Royals.


Cincinnati Reds broadcaster and former pitcher Joe Nuxhall dead at 79

He won 135 games in MLB career that spanned over 20 years. After his ballplaying career was over, Joe spent 30 years in the broadcast booth. He died yesterday after being hospitalized for pneumonia. RIP.

CINCINNATI – Joe Nuxhall, the youngest major leaguer at age 15 and later a beloved broadcaster as “the ol’ left-hander” in Cincinnati, has died. He was 79. Nuxhall died Thursday night while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia, the team said. He was awaiting surgery to insert a pacemaker, and had been slowed by a recurrence of cancer since September.

Brought up by Cincinnati to pitch during World War II — just out of junior high classes, he unraveled at the sight of Stan Musial in the on-deck circle — Nuxhall worked more than six decades for the Reds. He continued to pitch batting practice into the 1980s and was a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.

While he won 135 games, it was on the radio where he became best known. On a franchise filled with Hall of Fame players and big personalities, Nuxhall might have been the most popular of all.

“This is a sad day for everyone in the Reds organization,” outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said in a statement. “He did so many great things for so many people. You never heard anyone ever say a bad word about him. We’re all going to miss him.”

Reds owner Bob Castellini said Friday that “Joe exemplified everything baseball’s all about, from the mound to the broadcast booth.”

Great American Ball Park was to be dark Friday night in Nuxhall’s honor, except for spotlights shining on his statue outside the main gate. Also to be illuminated were the big red words of his radio signoff, emblazoned outside the stadium: “… rounding third and heading for home.”

“Summer nights in Cincinnati will never be the same again without the voice of the ol’ left-hander crackling over the airwaves,” U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement. “To millions, even those who never met Joe in person, his voice was the voice of a good friend.”

Nuxhall’s son, Kim, released a statement thanking the public for the many cards and messages sent to his father.

“Dad felt that he truly had three extended families during his career — the great City of Hamilton, where he grew up; Fairfield, where he raised his children; and Cincinnati, where he was able to play and broadcast the great game of baseball with the Cincinnati Reds,” Kim Nuxhall said.

“We will be eternally grateful to the Cincinnati Reds organization and the fans who provided us with experiences and memories of a lifetime. Dad truly loved you all,” he said.

Nuxhall’s place in baseball lore was secured the moment he stepped onto a big league field. With major league rosters depleted during World War II, he got a chance to pitch in relief for the Reds on June 10, 1944.

At 15 years, 10 months, 11 days old, Nuxhall was big for his age. He was 6-foot-3 and his parents let him join the Reds when school let out.

Nuxhall spent most of the time watching from the bench, assuming he’d never get into a game. The Reds were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals 13-0 after eight innings when manager Bill McKechnie decided to give the kid a chance.

Nuxhall was so rattled when summoned to warm up that he tripped on the top step of the dugout and fell on his face in front of 3,510 fans at Crosley Field. He was terrified when it came time to walk to the mound.

“Probably two weeks prior to that, I was pitching against seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, kids 13 and 14 years old,” he recalled. “All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial and the likes. It was a very scary situation.”

Nuxhall walked one and retired two batters before glancing at the on-deck circle and seeing Musial. Nuxhall unraveled — Musial hit a line-drive single, and the Cardinals scored five runs as the young pitcher lost his ability to throw a strike and failed to get another out. In all, he walked five and threw a wild pitch in two-thirds of an inning.

“Those people that were at Crosley Field that afternoon probably said, ‘Well, that’s the last we’ll see of that kid,’” Nuxhall said.

The Reds sent him to the minors, but eight years later he was back with the Reds. Nuxhall spent 15 of his 16 big league seasons with the Reds, going 135-117 before his retirement in 1966.

A year later, Nuxhall started doing radio broadcasts, describing games in a slow-paced, down-home manner that caught on with listeners. Marty Brennaman became the play-by-play announcer in 1974, and the “Marty and Joe” tandem spent the next 28 seasons chatting about their golf games, their gardens and some of the biggest moments in franchise history.

Nuxhall retired as a full-time radio broadcaster after the 2004 season, the 60th anniversary of his historic pitching debut. Since then, he was heavily involved in charity work, especially his scholarship and character education programs.

He had surgery for prostate cancer in 1992, followed by a mild heart attack in 2001. The cancer returned last February, when he was preparing for spring training in Sarasota, Fla.

Nuxhall called some games last season even though his left leg was swollen by tumors. He was hospitalized again this week.


Former New York Yankee Clete Boyer dead at age 70

He was a member of five New York Yankee World Series teams. He also had 2 brothers, Ken and Cloyd, who played in the major leagues. Being an old Strat-O-Matic, I ‘m well acquainted with Clete. He was an excellent glove man, but not much of a hitter. RIP

NEW YORK – Clete Boyer, the third baseman for the champion New York Yankees teams of the 1960s who made an art form of diving stops and throws from his knees, died Monday. He was 70. Boyer died in an Atlanta hospital from complications of a brain hemorrhage, son-in-law Todd Gladden said.

“He wanted to be cremated and he wanted his ashes to go in a Yankee urn,” Gladden said.

Boyer played from 1955-71 with the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Atlanta. He helped the Yankees reach the World Series in five straight years from 1960-64, when they won two titles.

Boyer’s death came on the 50th anniversary of the day he joined the Yankees, completing a dozen-player trade between New York and the A’s.

“He was a great Yankee and a tough guy. He never talked too much but he was extremely hardworking. A wonderful third baseman, and had fire in his belly,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said through a spokesman.

In 1964, Boyer and his brother, Ken, became the first brothers to homer in the same World Series game. They did it in Game 7, and nodded to each other as they rounded the bases.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the Series and Ken was the NL MVP that season. An All-Star third baseman, he died in 1982 at age 51.

Another brother, Cloyd, pitched in the majors from 1949-55. There were 14 children in the Boyer family.

Cletis Leroy Boyer was a career .242 hitter with 162 home runs and 654 RBIs. Decent stats, but it was fielding that became his signature.

Boyer added an air of flamboyance to a Yankees team that otherwise played with a conservative precision.

“In all my years of playing with him, he only made one bad throw to me,” former Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson said by telephone from his home in South Carolina.

“When I made the double play, I could just about close my eyes, put my glove up and the ball would be there,” he said. “I would consider him one of the best players defensively. And when we got in the World Series and the lights came up, he made those great, great plays.”

Boyer’s lone Gold Glove came in 1969 in Atlanta; he might’ve earned more had it not been for the peerless Brooks Robinson.

“He was in the Brooksie era. He didn’t get as much attention as Brooksie,” said Yankees manager Joe Torre, a former Boyer teammate with the Braves.

“Plus, he was a little goofy,” he said. “Certainly, it helps you play the game.”

After finishing with Atlanta, Boyer played in Japan. He later coached under Billy Martin with Oakland and the Yankees.

Boyer was part of an exceptional Yankees infield in the 1960s that included Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek and first basemen Moose Skowron.

Richardson said he was with Boyer last month in New York for a reunion of the 1961 Yankees infield. “We had three or four, we looked forward to them,” Richardson said.

The Yankees beat Cincinnati in the 1961 World Series. Boyer’s best Series performance came in 1962, when he hit .318 with a home run and four RBIs in the seven-game victory over San Francisco.


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