The Glove Club: Joe Pepitone
When the New York Yankees were looking to bolster their starting rotation following the 1962 season, they considered Bill Skowron expendable because of a first sacker they had waiting in the wings: Joe Pepitone. By trading Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for starting pitcher Stan Williams, the Yankees opened the door to the left-handed hitting Pepitone, who brought a better first-base glove to the Yankee infield while expected to provide the same level of run production that the Yankees had gotten from “Moose” Skowron the previous five seasons.
As the New York Yankees’ first baseman for most of the 1960s, Joe Pepitone won three Gold Gloves.
Pepitone was signed by the Yankees in 1958 and made his debut in New York 4 seasons later, hitting .239 in 63 games. In 1963, he inherited Skowron’s first base position on a full-time basis, and responded by batting .271 with 27 home runs and 89 RBIs. In 1964, Pepitone’s batting average slipped to .251, but his power numbers increased to 28 home runs and 100 RBIs.
The 1964 season also was the one when Pepitone emerged as one of the American League’s premier first basemen. He led the league in putouts, assists and double plays at first base. He won the Gold Glove in 1965, 1966 and 1969. A versatile athlete, Pepitone moved to the Yankees’ outfield as needed, and played more games in the outfield than at first base in 1967 and 1968.
From 1963 through 1969, Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs per season.But his decline in run productivity coincided with the Yankees’ decline in the standings. After hitting a career-best 31 home runs in 1966, he hit only 28 home runs combined over the next two seasons. His bat revived in 1969, as Pepitone returned to first place full time, hitting 27 home runs and winning hit third Gold Glove.
Joe Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs for the Yankees from 1963-1969. His best season as a Yankee came in 1964, when he hit 28 home runs with 100 RBIs and led American League first basemen in putouts, assists and double plays.
Following the 1969 season, the Yankees traded Pepitone to the Houston Astros for outfielder Curt Blefary. He hit .251 in 75 games for Houston before being purchased by the Chicago Cubs, where he replaced Ernie Banks at first base. His combined batting numbers for 1970 included 26 home runs and 79 RBIs.
Pepitone played three more seasons in Chicago. He hit .307 for the Cubs in 1971 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. In 1973 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Andre Thornton, but played in only three games for the Braves before retiring at age 32.
Pepitone finished with a career batting average of .258. He had 1,315 hits and 219 home runs. He was a member of the All-Star team three times.