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Clete Boyer, 70; third baseman for 1960s champion Yankees

June 05, 2007|From the Associated Press

Clete Boyer, the third baseman for the champion New York Yankees teams of the 1960s who made an art form of diving stops and throws from his knees, died Monday in an Atlanta hospital from complications of a brain hemorrhage, son-in-law Todd Gladden said. He was 70.

Boyer played from 1955 to 1971 with the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Atlanta Braves. He helped the Yankees reach the World Series in five straight years from 1960 to 1964, when they won two titles, and later returned to the team as a coach.

"He was a great Yankee and a tough guy. He never talked too much, but he was extremely hardworking," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said through a spokesman.

Boyer was a career .242 hitter with 162 home runs and 654 RBIs, but it was fielding that became his signature.

Boyer added an air of flamboyance to a Yankees team that otherwise played with conservative precision. His only Gold Glove came in 1969 in Atlanta; he might've earned more had it not been for the peerless Brooks Robinson in Baltimore.

"In all my years of playing with him, he only made one bad throw to me," former Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson said Monday. "When I made the double play, I could just about close my eyes, put my glove up and the ball would be there. I would consider him one of the best players defensively. And when we got in the World Series and the lights came up, he made those great, great plays."

In 1964, Boyer and his brother, Ken, became the first brothers to homer in the same World Series game. They did it in Game 7, when the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees. Ken, also a third baseman, was the NL MVP that season. Ken Boyer died of cancer in 1982 at age 51.

The Boyer family of 14 children included another brother who played in the majors, Cloyd, who pitched from 1949 to 1955.

Boyer's best World Series performance came in 1962, when he hit .318 with a home run and four RBIs in the Yankees' seven-game victory over San Francisco.

Born Cletis Leroy Boyer on Feb. 9, 1937, in Cassville, Mo., he made his major league debut at age 18 with Kansas City.

The A's traded him to the Yankees during the 1957 season.

After finishing with the Braves, Boyer played in Japan. He later coached with Oakland and the Yankees and owned and ran Clete Boyer's Hall of Fame Hamburgers near Cooperstown, N.Y.

"He was a hard liver, I don't think that's any secret," Richardson said. "He lived life to the fullest."

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