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Ralph Houk dies at 90; managed 2 champions
Question of the Day
Red Sox spokesman Dick Bresciani said Houk’s grandson, Scott Slaboden, told the team Houk died at his home in Winter Haven, Fla. Slaboden, who lives in the Boston area, wrote in an e-mail to the team that Houk “died peacefully of natural causes after having a brief illness.”
Houk spent parts of eight seasons as a backup catcher for New York, appearing in just 91 games. Former Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek, who played for Houk in the minors and majors with New York, said Houk learned a lot about handling a pitching staff from working with Hall of Famer catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey in the bullpen.
Houk managed 3,157 games and won 1,619 with a winning percentage of .514. He followed Casey Stengel as Yankees manager in 1961 and was George Steinbrenner’s first manager for New York in 1973. He resigned after one year working for the Boss and moved on to Detroit.
“People forget that before he was a manager, he was a war hero and he was a catcher for a lot of years,” Tigers radio analyst Jim Price said. “He was a great guy, I knew him very well, and everyone that played for him loved him.”
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Yankees organization, which has lost three notable figures from its storied history in the last 10 days. Longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard died on July 11 and iconic owner Steinbrenner passed away two days later.
The Yankees repeated as champions in 1962 and won the AL pennant in 1963, but were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
“Sometimes when you have good players, you can mess it up and he didn’t do that,” he said. “He didn’t overmanage. He was probably, more than a strategist, a handler of men.”
Houk moved into the front office after the series loss to the Dodgers, serving as Yankees general manager in 1964 and ‘65. He returned to managing the Yankees in 1966 and held the job until 1973, but he only had four more winning seasons and never finished better than second place.
By Robert N. Tracci
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