Steve Yeager signing autographs before the 2008 NLCS Game 3.
|Los Angeles Dodgers – No. 7|
November 24, 1948 |
Huntington, West Virginia
|August 2, 1972, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 29, 1986, for the Seattle Mariners|
|Runs batted in||410|
|Career highlights and awards|
Stephen Wayne Yeager (born November 24, 1948) is an American right-handed 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.
Early and personal life
Yeager was born in Huntington, West Virginia. He attended Meadowdale High School in Dayton, Ohio. He is a cousin of the test pilot Chuck Yeager. Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley was the best man at his wedding. Yeager is Jewish, having converted to Judaism when his career was over.
Minor league career
Yeager hit two grand slams in a single game while playing for Meadowdale High School (Ohio) in Dayton, Ohio. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 6, 1967, in the 4th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball draft. 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. The following season, in 1968, Yeager played 59 games for the Single-A Daytona Beach Dodgers of the Florida State League. 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.
Yeager was promoted to Double-A before the end of the 1969 season, playing in 1 game for the Albuquerque Dodgers of the Texas League. He spent the next two-and-2/3 seasons with the Double-A franchise. In 162 games played over the 1970 and 1971 seasons, he hit .276, with 77 RBIs in 490 at bats. 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.
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. With the Triple-A Dukes, he played 82 games, batting .280 with 45 RBIs in 257 at bats.
Major league career
Yeager made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on August 2, 1972. He started 34 games that season, backed up Joe Ferguson in 1973, and split time with Ferguson for the pennant-winning 1974 club. Thereafter, Yeager was the starting catcher for the Dodgers and became an integral part of the Dodgers' success in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yeager helped the Dodgers to the World Series in 1974, 1977, 1978, and 1981. 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. One of the homers, off Ron Guidry, turned out to be the game-winner in Game 5.
Yeager injured his knee in 1982 and broke his wrist the next year, which severely limited his playing time. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Ed Vande Berg following the 1985 season and retired after hitting only .208 in 1986.
Lou Brock called Yeager "the best-throwing catcher in the game." 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. 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. 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. 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.
In 1976, Yeager was injured when teammate Bill Russell's bat shattered and a large, jagged piece hit Yeager, who was in the on-deck circle. The wood hit him in the neck and pierced his esophagus, necessitating surgery. After the incident, Dodger trainer Bill Buhler invented and patented device hangs from the catcher's mask to protect the throat. It was soon worn by most catchers around the Majors and other leagues.
Minor league coaching career
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. 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 became 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.
- Yeager is a co-owner of a Jersey Mike's Subs franchise.
- Yeager served as a technical advisor and also played a small role as Coach Duke Temple, in Major League, Major League II, and Major League: Back to the Minors.
- In September 1979, he and his family appeared on an episode of Family Feud. They played for a total of 6 days.
- In 1982, Yeager posed semi-nude in a Playgirl magazine.
- "Steve Yeager".
- "Major league catcher Steve Yeager returns to Long Beach to join Armada". Signal Tribune Newspaper.
- "Jewish Baseball Players". Baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Los Angeles Dodgers 8, San Francisco Giants 0".
- "Former Dodgers' star Yeager has found missing ingredient". Retrieved April 14, 2012.
- "Yeager Expects Ribbing For Playgirl Photo". Associated Press. August 29, 1982.
- Steve Yeager at the Internet Movie Database
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Baseball Library bio
- Baseball Almanac bio
- Famous (one of National Geographic 100 best) picture of Yeager kissing coach Monty Basgall
- Yeager (with Garvey, Fingers, & Buckner) on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 1974 World Series issue
- "Minor league baseball: Yeager is managing Breakers day by day", 8/29/01