Monday, June 04, 2007

Clete Boyer Feb 9, 1937 - June 4, 2007


Clete Boyer, a standout third baseman and key component of five New York Yankees World Series clubs, died Monday after suffering a massive stroke in Atlanta, Ga. He was 70.

Regarded as a stellar defensive third baseman, Boyer's 16-year Major League career perhaps received its greatest accolades from his outstanding play in the 1961 World Series against the Reds.

In the first game of the Fall Classic, Boyer contributed to the Yankees' efforts with two stunning plays, throwing out Gene Freese from his knees on a backhanded stop and diving to his left on a ball hit by Dick Gernert.

"I think to when we played Cincinnati, and he made those great plays at third base," former Yankees teammate Moose Skowron said. "He took a couple of balls from his knees, I remember that. He was a [heck] of a gloveman."

Boyer became the Yankees' starting third baseman in 1960 and held the job through the '66 season, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for prospect Bill Robinson.

While many regarded Boyer as one of the game's top defensive third basemen during his era, Boyer often did not receive the accolades offered to his contemporary, Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.

Still, in years past, teammates and opponents have insisted that Boyer was every bit the defender Robinson was, helping save pitching staffs countless runs with his stellar play.

"He was a real good player," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who was a teammate of Boyer's in 1970 and '71 with the Atlanta Braves. "He was up during the Brooksie era and didn't get as much attention because of Brooksie, but he could play third base -- great arm."

Boyer could also be a presence at the plate. In 1,725 Major League games with the Kansas City Athletics (1956-57), Yankees (1960-67) and Braves (1968-71), Boyer batted .242 and never hit higher than .272 in a single season, but he clubbed 162 career home runs, including a career high of 26 in 1967 for the Braves.

"He hit a lot of home runs in Atlanta when we were teammates," Torre said. "Plus, he was a little goofy. It certainly helps you play the game."

After his retirement, Boyer remained around the game. He was a frequent visitor to the annual Old Timers Days at Yankee Stadium and also attended the Yankees' Spring Training as a guest instructor -- a role that Skowron said Boyer was helping to fill even when he was still wearing a big-league uniform.

"He helped out a lot of third basemen who'd join the Yankees in Spring Training," Skowron said. "He'd work out with them. He gave 100 percent, and that's all you can ask."

Born in Cassville, Mo., two of Boyer's brothers -- Ken, a St. Louis Cardinals star, and Cloyd, a pitcher for St. Louis in the early 1950s -- reached the Major Leagues. Boyer, who was not married, is survived by six children.


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