Thursday, March 26, 2009

John Blanchard

First summer I followed the Yankees, the world was riveted by the M&M Boys chase for Ruth's record.

Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Yogi, too.

Imagine being 12: You grew up watching Mickey Mouse and Yogi Bear, and then one day the greatest baseball team in history is evolving before your eyes, and there's a Mickey and there's a Yogi. It's like an alcohol intervention, it imprints upon you, it chops off your foreskin, it changes you, it turns you into a Yankee zombie for life.

That year, despite all the hype about Maris and Mantle, true Yank fans recognized the greatest home run threat on the team was gettting almost no outside publicity. Big John Blanchard.

I remember him hitting a two-out, bottom of the ninth grand slam to beat Boston. I remember him hitting a titanic shot to help beat Cinncinati in the World Series. No game was ever out of reach when you could bring in John Blanchard to pinch hit. He hit 21 home runs coming off the bench, and his HR frequency ratio had to be comparable to Maris. (I should look it up, but I'm on a role here, dammot!) He scared other teams as much as anybody in the lineup.

He rode the bench and never complained. (Later in life, he lamented the lack of playing time, but the mark of a good teammate -- and he was a good teammate -- is that you don't squawk as long as the team is winning.)

For my money, this guy was the greatest pinch-hitter in Yankee history.

Blanchard had a heart attack yesterday and died at age 76.

Big John.

2 comments:

Jessie said...

The goal of a drug and alcohol intervention is to help the individual acknowledge their behavior and recognize that they need professional help.

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