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Clete Boyer
Third baseman
Born: February 9, 1937(1937-02-09)
Cassville, Missouri
Died: June 4, 2007 (aged 70)
Atlanta, Georgia
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
June 5, 1955 for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
May 23, 1971 for the Atlanta Braves
Career statistics
Batting average     .242
Home runs     162
Runs batted in     654
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Cletis Leroy "Clete" Boyer (February 9, 1937 – June 4, 2007) was a former Major League Baseball player.

A third baseman who also played shortstop and second base occasionally, Boyer played for the Kansas City Athletics (1955-57), New York Yankees (1959-66) and Atlanta Braves (1967-71). Boyer also spent 4 seasons in the Central League in Japanese baseball with the Taiyo Whales (now the Yokohama BayStars).

Boyer was one of 14 children. He and four of the brothers played professional baseball, with Ken, also a third baseman, and Cloyd, a pitcher, also making the majors.[1]

In his 16-year career, Boyer hit 162 home runs with 654 runs batted in and a .242 batting average[1] in 1725 games played.

Contents

Early career

A "bonus baby", Boyer broke into the major leagues in 1955 as a utility infielder at age 18. With no minor league experience, he played a total of 124 games for the Kansas City Athletics until he was traded to the Yankees in February 1957 in a thirteen-player deal, seven players going to Kansas City and six (one of whom was pitcher Bobby Shantz) to the Yankees. He spent three seasons in the Yankee farm system until he was called up late in 1959.

The Yankee years

Boyer became the Yankees' regular third baseman in 1960, beating out three others (including Gil McDougald, who in spring training had announced that this, his 10th season in the majors, would be his last) for the starting job. He batted .242 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs as the Yankees won the pennant. However, he had a humbling moment in the first game of the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With two runners on base and the Yankees trailing 3-1 in the second inning, manager Casey Stengel, never confident in Boyer's hitting, replaced him with a pinch-hitter, Dale Long, who flied out to right fielder Roberto Clemente. The Yankees didn’t score in the inning and lost 6-4, ultimately losing the Series in Game 7 on Bill Mazeroski’s home run off Ralph Terry in the bottom of the ninth. Boyer didn't play in the Series again until Game Six.

After the Series, the Yankees fired Stengel. Ralph Houk replaced him as manager and restored some of the confidence in Boyer that Stengel had taken away. Whereas Stengel preferred other players at third base over Boyer, Houk saw something special in Boyer's defensive prowess and gave him the opportunity to play every day.

The 1961 team (with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Yogi Berra and Moose Skowron), which defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, was considered by many as the best ever, with sluggers Mantle and Maris chasing Babe Ruth's 1927 record of 60 home runs (Maris eventually broke the record on the final day) and pitcher Whitey Ford winning 25 games and losing four. What Boyer did not do with the bat (he hit .224 during the regular season), he more than made up for defensively, in an infield that also featured the double play duo of Tony Kubek at shortstop and Bobby Richardson at second base.

During each of Houk's three seasons as Yankee manager (1961–1963), Boyer led American League third basemen in putouts, assists and double plays, finishing ahead of even rival Brooks Robinson—yet Robinson, not Boyer, won the Gold Glove Award each year. In the first game of that 1961 World Series, Boyer displayed his defense by making two spectacular plays—one on a Gene Freese ground ball in the second inning, in which Boyer stopped the ball backhanded and threw Freese out from his knees, and another on a Dick Gernert ground ball in which Boyer dove to his left and threw Gernert out, also from his knees.

Boyer's offensive numbers improved in 1962: career bests in batting average .272, home runs (18) and runs batted in (68). He also came within nine assists of the third base record of 405 set by Harlond Clift of the 1937 St. Louis Browns. Once again, the Yankees won the World Series, this time in seven games over the San Francisco Giants. In Game One of the Series, Boyer's seventh-inning home run off starter Billy O'Dell broke a 2-2 and gave the Yankees the lead for good; they won the game 6-2 in what would be the last of Whitey Ford's World Series-record 10 victories. The Series ended with Bobby Richardson catching Willie McCovey's line drive with runners on second and third. Just a few feet to either side, and Richardson could not have gotten his hands on it, and the Giants would have scored two runs and won the Series. In 1963 Boyer batted .251 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs as the Yankees won another pennant, however, they were swept in the World Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first time this had ever been done to a Yankee team in a World Series. Dodger ace Sandy Koufax won the first and fourth games, striking out a series record 15 batters in the opener. Boyer was the only Yankee regular not to strike out against Koufax.

After the 1963 season Houk was promoted to general manager and Berra replaced him as field manager. Early on, the 1964 team slumped under Berra, especially Boyer who batted .218 on the season. As Berra's managing improved, the team improved with it and won its fifth straight pennant by one game over the Chicago White Sox and two over the third place Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series with Clete playing against his brother Ken. The Yankees lost in seven games, but not before Ken and Clete became the first brothers to hit home runs on opposing teams in a World Series game.[2] In the 7th inning of that seventh game, Ken homered off Yankee pitcher Steve Hamilton and exchanged nods with Clete. Clete returned the favor in the 9th after homering off Cardinal ace Bob Gibson.

After the 1964 Series, Houk unceremoniously fired Berra (in mid-season the management, dissatisfied with Berra's work, made up their mind to fire him at the end of the season no matter what the Yankees did) and replaced him with Johnny Keane, who had managed the Cardinals to the World Series victory over the Yankees. In spring training of 1965 Boyer was involved in a fight in a Fort Lauderdale bar with a male model, Jerome Modzelewski, while in spring training.[3] During the season, he did bat .251 with a career-tying 18 home runs, but the Yankees slumped to sixth place, their lowest finish in 40 years. In 1966 the Yankees fired Keane two weeks into the season, and Houk returned as manager. However, Houk's second managerial stint was far less successful than his first. Their talent and farm system both depleted, the Yankees finished dead last—the first time they had done so since 1912. After a season in which he hit .240 with 14 home runs, Lee MacPhail, who replaced Houk as general manager, traded Boyer to the Atlanta Braves for Bill Robinson, that year's Minor League Player of the Year.

Post-Yankee days

In 1967 Boyer had his best offensive season. Playing in hitter-friendly Atlanta Stadium, he established career highs in home runs (26) and RBIs (96) in a lineup that featured the likes of Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou and Mack Jones; Boyer batted cleanup behind Aaron. He also continued his mastery of the glove, leading National League third baseman in fielding both in 1967 and 1969. In the latter year, he finally won the Gold Glove Award that had eluded him in his Yankee years; with brother Ken having won the award five times, the Boyers became the first brothers to win a Gold Glove. On August 31 of that year, he fell victim to Morganna, the famed buxom “Kissing Bandit.” Prior to the kiss, he had been mired in a 1-for-17 slump; in that very at-bat, Clete drove in a run with a single. He got two more hits later in the game, then eight more hits in his next 15 at-bats. That season the Braves won the Western Division title (both leagues now had Eastern and Western Divisions after each expanding from 10 teams to 12) but lost in the playoffs to the eventual World Champion New York Mets.

Boyer continued to sparkle at third base until he was released by the Braves on May 28, 1971, after a bitter feud with General Manager Paul Richards and manager Lum Harris over mismanagement. Boyer complained that the organization didn’t teach the players the proper fundamentals. Richards countered that Boyer was a troublemaker. He left Major League Baseball and resurfaced in Japan, where he played professionally for the Taiyō Whales from 1972 to 1975. His roommate was Sadaharu Oh.[4] After retiring in 1975, he was the defensive coach for the Whales in 1976. Afterwards, Boyer returned to the Major Leagues as a third-base coach with the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics, mostly with former teammate Billy Martin as manager.

In 2000, Boyer opened a restaurant named "Clete Boyer’s Hamburger Hall of Fame" in Cooperstown, NY just a few miles south of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The restaurant features sandwiches and hamburgers named after various Yankees' immortals such as: "Yogi's Special meatball sub", "the Mickey Mantle Cheeseburger Deluxe", "the Reggie Veggie Burger", "the Bobby Richardson Cheeseburger", "the Roger Maris Hamburger Deluxe", and "the Whitey Ford Blue Cheese Burger". Boyer could often be found at the restaurant chatting with visitors and graciously signing photos and other memorabilia.[5]

Boyer died on June 4, 2007 from complications of a brain hemorrhage in an Atlanta area hospital.[1] Boyer was survived by six children, ten grandchildren[6] and older brother, former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, Cloyd Boyer. Brother Ken Boyer (1964 National League MVP), another former St. Louis Cardinal, predeceased Clete in 1982.

Boyer is the first professional athlete to be interred in an Eternal Image MLB-branded urn. His family had his cremated remains placed in a New York Yankees urn.

See also

References

External links

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