Steve Yeager

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Steve Yeager
Steve Yeager 2008 NLCS.jpg
Steve Yeager signing autographs before the 2008 NLCS Game 3.
Los Angeles Dodgers – No. 7
Catcher/Coach
Born: (1948-11-24) November 24, 1948 (age 69)
Huntington, West Virginia
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 2, 1972, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
August 29, 1986, for the Seattle Mariners
MLB statistics
Batting average .228
Home runs 102
Runs batted in 410
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Stephen Wayne Yeager (born November 24, 1948) is an American former professional baseball catcher. Yeager spent 14 of the 15 seasons of his Major League Baseball career, from 1972 through 1985, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His last year, 1986, he played for the Seattle Mariners. As of 2012, Yeager was the Los Angeles Dodgers' Major League catching coach. He was co-MVP of the 1981 World Series.

Early and personal life[edit]

Yeager was born in Huntington, West Virginia.[1] He attended Meadowdale High School in Dayton, Ohio.[1] Yeager hit two grand slams in a single game while playing for Meadowdale.

He is a cousin of the test pilot Chuck Yeager.[2] Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was the best man at his wedding to local rock musician Gloria Giaone.[1] Yeager is Jewish, having converted to Judaism when his career was over.[3] He later moved to Granada Hills, California.[4]

Minor league career[edit]

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 6, 1967, in the 4th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball draft, when he was 18 years old.[5][6] After one game with the rookie level Ogden Spikers of the Pioneer League, Yeager was sent to the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate, the Dubuque Packers of the Midwest League.[6] The following season, in 1968, Yeager played 59 games for the Single-A Daytona Beach Dodgers of the Florida State League.[6] In 1969, he played 22 games for the Bakersfield Dodgers, the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate in the California League, where he threw out 26 runners from behind the plate.[6] That season he suffered a fractured leg in a first-inning collision with a runner at home plate, but was not aware how bad his injury was, and finished the game.[5]

Yeager was promoted to Double-A before the end of the 1969 season, playing in one game for the Albuquerque Dodgers of the Texas League.[6] He spent the next two-and-2/3 seasons with the Double-A franchise.[6] In 162 games played over the 1970 and 1971 seasons, he hit .276, with 77 RBIs in 490 at bats.[6] He threw out 84 runners, second in the league that year, and was named to the Texas League All-Star team as a catcher in 1971.[6]

In spring training in 1972 he won the Dodgers writers’ Dearie Mulvey Memorial Trophy as the best rookie.[5] With the Dukes becoming the new Pacific Coast League Triple-A affiliate for the Dodgers in 1972, Yeager was promoted while remaining in Albuquerque for another season.[6] “You won’t beat that arm of his,” Tommy Lasorda said that season.[5] With the Triple-A Dukes, he played 82 games, batting .280 with 45 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .502, in 257 at bats.[6][5]

Major league career[edit]

Los Angeles Dodgers (1972-85)[edit]

Yeager made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on August 2, 1972, and went on to play 15 season in the major leagues.[6] He started 34 games that season and batted .274/.374/.406.[6] In the winter before the 1973 season he was named to the Dominican League All Star team.[5] He backed up Joe Ferguson in 1973, and split time with Ferguson for the pennant-winning 1974 club as he hit .266 with 12 home runs.[6] Thereafter, Yeager was the starting catcher for the Dodgers and became an integral part of the Dodgers' success in the 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1976, he led NL catchers in assists, with 77.[6] In 1977, he came in second in voting for the Gold Glove Award.[5] He led NL catchers in baserunners caught stealing percentage in both 1978 (46.7%) and 1982 (43.1%).[6]

Yeager helped the Dodgers to the World Series in 1974, 1977, 1978, and 1981.[6] In the '81 Series against the New York Yankees, he shared the World Series Most Valuable Player award with teammates Pedro Guerrero and Ron Cey. Yeager, who was backing up Mike Scioscia by that time, did not have overwhelming stats for the Series, as he went 4-for-14 (.286), but three of his hits were a double and two home runs.[6] One of the homers, off Ron Guidry, turned out to be the game-winner in Game 5.[5]

While with the Dodgers, Yeager caught Jerry Reuss' no-hitter on June 27, 1980.[7]

Yeager injured his knee in 1982 and broke his wrist the next year, which severely limited his playing time.

Seattle Mariners (1986)[edit]

He was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Ed Vande Berg following the 1985 season and retired after hitting .208 in 130 at bats in 1986.[6]

Characteristics[edit]

Lou Brock called Yeager "the best-throwing catcher in the game."[5] His specialty was defense and his command of the game on the field. In one nationally televised game, he made a putout to second base – and the radar gun in place to record pitches caught his throw to second (from a crouch) at 98 mph. He was very good at managing the game from his position and was even more highly regarded for his abilities with young pitchers. In 1974, he had 806 putouts, the most in the National League.[6] This compensated for his overall subpar offense, as illustrated by arguably his best offensive year occurring in 1974 when he batted .266 in fewer than 100 games.[6] Despite this reputation, Yeager was still somewhat of a clutch hitter as he had an average of .321 when hitting with the bases loaded during his career, as well as hitting 4 home runs in 21 World Series games.[6] He also had success hitting off pitcher Ken Forsch. While never hitting more than two home runs off any other pitcher, he managed to hit 5 against Forsch in his career.

With the Dodgers, whenever knuckleballer Charlie Hough pitched, Yeager would use a special enlarged catcher's mitt and would hold it in a cupped style, palm facing upward, instead of the normal upright "target" position.

Throat protector[edit]

In 1976, Yeager was injured when teammate Bill Russell's bat shattered as he hit a ground ball and a large, jagged piece from the heavy end of the bat slammed into the throat of Yeager, who was in the on-deck circle.[5] The wood hit him in the neck and pierced his esophagus, necessitating surgery.[5] After the incident, at Yeager's urging Dodger trainer Bill Buhler invented and patented a device that hangs from the catcher's mask to protect the throat.[5] It was soon worn by most catchers around the Majors and other leagues.

Coaching career[edit]

Steve Yeager has been the Dodgers catching coach for the past 6 seasons. [8]

Minor league coaching career[edit]

In 1999, Yeager was the hitting coach for the Dodgers’ Single-A San Bernardino Stampede, which won the California League championship. He managed the Long Beach Breakers in the independent (now-defunct) Western Baseball League in 2001.[6] The team won the league championship in their inaugural season that year, beating the Chico Heat 3 games to 2. He was the Jacksonville Suns hitting coach in 2004, when the team won the championship, and in 2005-06 he was the hitting instructor/coach for the Dodgers AAA farm club, the Las Vegas 51s. He later joined the A Dodgers affiliate Inland Empire 66'ers and became the hitting coach in 2007.

Yeager was instrumental in the conversion of Russell Martin from third base to behind the plate.

In 2007, he became the manager for the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League.[6]

Outside baseball[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]