25 March 2009

Johnny Blanchard dies

Ex-Yankee Johnny Blanchard died early this morning of a heart attack at age 76.

The third string catcher nearly quit in 1960 when Casey Stengel toyed with activating 40-year-old Jim Hegan as a back up to Yogi Berra when Elston Howard was hurt. Blanchard had a career year and was adequate behind the plate. And he also did some special home run hitting.

On July 21, Blanchard hit a ninth inning, two out, pinch hit grand slam home run at Fenway Park to give the Yanks an 11-8 victory over the Red Sox. The next day Blanchard hit another ninth inning, pinch hit homer to spark a second come-from- behind victory over Boston.

On July 26, the man they called "Super- Sub" slashed his third and fourth home runs at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. The homers drove in four runs as the Yanks beat the White Sox, 5-2.

Four straight homers over three games tied a major league record. Not bad for a guy who was ready to pack in his career the year before.

Blanchard's career was essentially spent as a third string catcher: He played in 516 games, batted .239, hit 67 home runs. In the World Series he caught fire; in 15 games he batted .345 and had five home runs.

In 1965, the Yankees traded him to to Kansas City.

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