Clete Boyer, the sharp-fielding third baseman who played on Yankeesteams that won five consecutive pennants in the 1960s, died yesterday in Atlanta. He was 70.
The cause was a stroke, said his brother Cloyd, a former major league pitcher.
When the Yankees played the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, third base was a Boyer family affair.
While Clete, who played 16 seasons in the major leagues, was at third for the Yankees in the ’64 World Series, his brother Ken, often an All-Star, played third base for the Cardinals.
“When they asked my mother who she was rooting for in the Series, she told the media, the fellow on third base,” Clete Boyer once told The Tulsa World.
Cloyd Boyer had pitched for the Cardinals and the Kansas City Athletics, appearing in the majors in the late 1940s and ’50s. Clete and Ken became the only brothers to hit home runs in the same World Series game when each homered in the Cardinals’ 7-5 victory in Game 7 of the ’64 Series.
Ken was the better hitter, but Clete excelled in his own right.
“He came up during the Brooks Robinson era and didn’t get as much attention because of Brooksie, but he could play third base,” Yankees Manager Joe Torre, a teammate of Boyer’s with the Atlanta Braves in the late 1960s, recalled yesterday in Chicago. “Great arm.”
Robinson was a perennial Gold Glove winner with the Baltimore Orioles. It took a move to the National League for Boyer to finally win a Gold Glove, in 1969 with Atlanta.
When Bobby Murcer was breaking in with the Yankees in 1965, he was considered their future shortstop, Boyer befriended him and made it clear that any baseball hit remotely near him was fodder for his glove.
“One day during infield practice, he came over to me and stepped off five paces near second base and drew a line in the dirt,” Murcer wrote in The New York Times in 1983.
As Murcer remembered it, Boyer told him, “You take care of this area and I’ll take care of everything on the other side of the line.”
Boyer, a native of Cassville, Mo., was reared in Alba, Mo.
“Where we grew up, down in the southwest corner of Missouri, the Cardinals were like a religion,” Clete Boyer once recalled. The Cardinals signed Cloyd and Ken, but they passed on Clete.
Clete made his major league debut with Kansas City in 1955. He was later traded to the Yankees’ organization and joined the lineup in 1959.
Boyer played on Yankees teams that won the pennant from 1960 through ’64 and captured World Series championships in 1961 and ’62.
He was a mainstay for Yankees infields that included Bill Skowron and Joe Pepitone at first base, Bobby Richardson at second base and Tony Kubek at shortstop.
“He made only one bad throw to me,” Richardson told The Associated Press yesterday. “When I made the double play, I could just about close my eyes, put my glove up and the ball would be there.”
Boyer was traded to Atlanta after the 1966 season and played five seasons for the Braves. He had a career batting average of .242, with 162 home runs. He was later a coach for the Oakland Athletics and the Yankees and a minor league infield instructor for the Yankees.
In addition to his brother Cloyd, he is survived by his sons Brett and Mickey; his daughters Valerie, Stephanie, Colette and Jerran; his brothers Ronald, Leonard, Wayne and Lynn; his sisters Bobby, Marcella, Juanita, Delores, Shirley and Pansy; 10 grandchildren; and 9 great-grandchildren.
Clete Boyer had one regret: He never became a teammate of his brother Ken, who died in 1982.
“As a kid, I always fantasized about us being on the Cardinals together, him at third base and me at shortstop,” Clete told Dave Anderson of The New York Times in 1982. ”The two of us on the same team. But it never worked out.”