Joe Pepitone, a “favorite of generations” and three-time All-Star of the New York Yankees between 1962 and 1969, has died at age 82, according to an announcement from the team.
Pepitone died at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, according to ESPN. The cause of death is not clear, but his son, BJ Pepitone, said a heart attack is suspected.
“The Yankees are deeply saddened by the passing of former Yankee Joe Pepitone…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,” the Yankees said.
The former first baseman drew a lot of attention for being a non-conformist. Pepitone was said to be the first to bring a hair dryer into the clubhouse, an artifact later given to the Baseball Reliquary. The hair dryer was displayed at the Burbank Central Library during a 2004 exhibition: “The Times They Were A-Changin’: Baseball in the Age of Aquarius.”
“When I brought the hair dryer into the clubhouse, they thought I was a hairdresser or something,” Pepitone said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015.
Former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton revealed in his book “Ball Four” the carousing lives of players after the games ended each night. Pepitone was portrayed as vain, and Bouton recounted that “Pepitone took to wearing hairpieces when his hair started to get thin on top.”
In his autobiography “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud”, the popular player detailed nightlife with Frank Sinatra, smoking marijuana with Mantle and Whitney Ford, and his time in jail at Rikers Island after he and some friends were pulled over by police for running a red light and found cocaine, heroin, and quaaludes in the car.
He was arrested again in 1992 at a Catskills resort for a brawl that started when a man called him a “washed up nobody.” He also pleaded guilty to drinking and driving in 1995.
The popular player joined the Yankees at a high point in the team’s history and stayed through their decline. Following his time with the Yankees, Pepitone spent a short time with the Houston Astros and went on to play for the Chicago Cubs for roughly three years before being traded to the Atlanta Braves in the middle of the 1973 season.
He only played three games for the Braves, which were the last of his major league career. That summer, Pepitone joined the Yakult Atoms, now known as the Yakult Swallows, for 14 games. He hit .258 with 219 homers and 721 RBI.
Pepitone was born in Brooklyn on October 10, 1940. He is survived by sons Bill and Joseph Jr. and daughters Cara, Eileen, and Lisa; two brothers, Vincent and William; several grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.