Joe Pepitone is a former Major League Baseball first baseman and outfielder who played the bulk of his career for the New York Yankees.
Joseph Anthony Pepitone was born on October 9, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York. A legendary high school sandlot star, Joe was signed by the Yankees in 1958. He rose through their farm system and joined the team as a rookie in 1962 winning a World Series ring as a member of that championship squad. His development allowed the Yankees to trade veteran Moose Skowron prior to the 1963 season. Thus in 1963, Joe became an everyday player and made the All-Star team in his first full season in the majors. He was again an All-Star in 1964 when the Yanks were American League champs but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. His final All Star appearance was the following season.
Based in part by his performance and his unique style both on and off the field, with classic Italian good looks in the mold of Joe DiMaggio, he was quickly embraced by the fans and became one of the most popular players on the Yankees. He was also one of their more consistent players during an era starting in 1965 when the Yankees began to decline. During this period, despite being one of the game’s best fielding first basemen, he made the switch to centerfield so that Mickey Mantle with his ailing legs could play first base and thus extend his own career. Pepitone eventually returned to first base after the Mick’s retirement.
After the 1969 season, the Yankees traded Joe to the Astros who then traded him to the Cubs in mid-season. In 1971 as a Cub, replacing retiring Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at first base, Pepitone hit a career high .307 with 16 homers and 61 RBI’s. His MLB career ended in 1973 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He then briefly played in Japan before retiring.
Three time Gold Glove winner and three time All-Star, Pepitone ended his career with a lifetime .258 batting average with 219 home runs and 721 runs batted in.
Joe Pepitone, also a cultural icon, is generally acknowledged to be the first player to use a hair dryer in the clubhouse. He has been mentioned in several episodes of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm including one where he is referred to as the designer of NYC’s Central Park. He has also been referenced in several other popular TV shows.
After retirement Pepitone has tried to remain close to the game holding different positions in the Yankee organization and through his frequent appearances at memorabilia shows and charity events.
He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.