Clearing the haze: Joe Pepitone’s controversial Tale about Mantle

Mickey Mantle and Joe Pepitone

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One year and a day ago, Joe Pepitone, the former Yankees star, passed away. But Joe Pepitone is still alive in the minds of every Yankees fan. And, despite no longer being present, the player considered one of the best players of his generation had numerous distinct situations during his time with the Bronx Bombers, including a situation with Mickey Mantle.

Pepitone’s autobiography, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” published in 1975, recounts his career overshadowed by his indulgences in parties.

Despite accolades such as appearances in the All-Star from 1963 to 1965, a championship victory in 1962, and multiple Gold Gloves (1965, 1966, 1969), Pepitone’s potential remained largely untapped due to his distractions off the field.

Joe Pepitone’s colorful confessions

Joe Pepitone, former player of the new york yankees

Nine years ago, there was renewed interest in his autobiography, even discussions about adapting it for the cinema. Joe Pepitone, always frank, resurfaced in interviews, including a lively chat with Rolling Stone magazine, where he shared anecdotes from his time with the Cubs and even with the Yankees.

The former player spoke at the time that he got drunk with Mickey Mantle and even smoked marijuana. The interview captures Pepitone’s irreverent spirit, complete with colorful language and anecdotes of his antics. Despite the passage of time, Pepitone remains unapologetic, even claiming to have introduced marijuana to Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

“Oh, yeah! He didn’t like that too much. In front of people, he’d tell them, ‘That was bullshit, that would never happen!’ But it was true! He came to my room, him and Whitey [Ford], and they could smell the shit in the room. They said, ‘We heard you do that shit. What’s it like?’ ‘Well, try it!’ ‘Oh, no no no!’ ‘C’mon, take a hit!’ They each took a hit; next thing I know, they’re talking to me about all kinds of shit, and they’re laughing at anything I said. I could have had them jumping up and down on the bed, if I’d wanted to!” – Joe Pepitone, speaking to the Rolling Stones in 2015

How was Joe Pepitone important to the Yankees?

Joe Pepitone, affectionately known as Pepi, was a beloved figure among New York Yankees fans during his tenure with the team in the 1960s. Renowned for his slick fielding, powerful left-handed swing, and vibrant personality, Pepitone quickly endeared himself to the Yankee faithful.

His flamboyant antics and on-field prowess made him a standout in the clubhouse and on the diamond. Pepitone’s arrival in 1962 signaled a new era for the Yankees, and he wasted no time in making his mark. With a charismatic demeanor and a penchant for the spotlight, he embraced the role of a local hero.

Despite his initial success, Pepitone’s time with the Yankees was not without its challenges. As the team transitioned from its dominant years to a period of rebuilding, Pepitone found himself at the center of both triumphs and setbacks. He played alongside legends like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, contributing to the team’s success with his powerful bat and agile defense.

However, Pepitone’s tenure with the Yankees was also marred by controversy and personal struggles. His rebellious nature and off-field antics sometimes overshadowed his on-field achievements. Despite his undeniable talent, Pepitone’s career with the Yankees was marked by inconsistency and unfulfilled potential.

In the end, Pepitone’s legacy with the Yankees is a complex one. While he undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the franchise and its fans, his time in pinstripes is also a reminder of the challenges and pressures that come with playing in the spotlight of New York City.

As we celebrate Joe Pepitone’s legacy, his larger-than-life personality and colorful escapades continue to resonate with fans, keeping his memory alive even a year after his departure.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Clearing the haze: Joe Pepitone’s controversial Tale about Mantle

  1. “The Mick,” as adoring fans like Billy Crystal & millions of others referred to Mantle, was my childhood idol, but he was a flawed man, as he openly acknowledged after he was operated on because of the extensive damage he did to his liver throughout a lifetime of heavy drinking.

    Appearing before the press after his operation, Mantle, in one of his Greatest Moments as a Man, said basically the following: People say I’m a role model; and I am a role model in how NOT to conduct your life. He also openly acknowledged (in one or more interviews) that he had been drunk virtually ever day of his adult life.

    There was even an amusing story (in hindsight) that came out years later that Mantle had a severe hangover during a game in which he wasn’t playing because he had been on the injured list (IL). He had drunk to excess the night before because he mistakenly thought he was still on the IR until the next day. Well, manager Ralph Houk knew otherwise & called on Mantle to pinch hit late in the game. Mantle confided in a teammate that he couldn’t see clearly, but he went to the plate anyway & proceeded to hit a Home Run! When asked how he did it, he amusingly replied, I saw 3 balls coming in, and I swung at the middle one.

    None of that diminished my love or admiration for Mantle as a ballplayer, or my admiration for how he endured so much pain playing on two bad legs. And his teammates universally loved & admired him for it, which is why Mantle chose to have the words “A GREAT TEAMMATE” inscribed on his Yankee Stadium plague, rather than some words of praise about his Otherworldly Abilities as a Baseball Player. The fact that Mantle wanted to be known foremost as “A GREAT TEAMMATE” said volumes about his character & what he valued most in life.

    Mantle lived much of his playing days fearing that he would die young, as did his dad, his grandfather, and an uncle (if I remember correctly). So, he lived his life in the fast line, wanting to experience as much fun as he could in what he anticipated would be a very short lifespan.

    In the end, in that speech before the press after his operation, he showed his Greatness, not as a player, but as a MAN who could acknowledge his faults & encourage others to NOT follow his example in that regard.

    Would it shock me that Mantle & Ford might have tried weed with Pepi? Of course not. If anything, that would fit in nicely with the macho mentality that dominated that period in American culture.

    Heck, even the American Jazz Icon, the Great Louie Armstrong, composed several songs that cryptically referred to his love of marijuana. The most notable of these was his song “Muggles,” which everyone in the know back then knew was a slang term for cannabis or a joint.

    Today, given the change in the perceptions about “Mary Jane,” as it was also euphemistically called back in my youth, No One should be shocked about someone trying “weed.” So I laughed at the thought that Pepi’s statement about Mantle & Ford trying marijuana with him was somehow controversial. So what if they did?

    I was teary-eyed watching Mantle’s last press conference at the hospital after his operation, but my admiration for him was only Enhanced because of the honesty he displayed in dissecting his life & his faults as a man, and the Great Dignity with which he discussed that aspect of his life.

    Mickey Mantle is an Honored Member of the Baseball Pantheon of “The Greatest of the Great,” and he showed himself to be just that as a Man, as well, in acknowledging his faults so publicly. How many of us can say the same about ourselves, even in private conversation? “You done good, Mickey!” to use an appropriate slang term. Thank You for all those wonderfully memories, Mickey!

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