Friday, February 28, 2014

Clete Boyer, Most Perceptive - 693

Originally published April 13, 2011
Serving as a coach under Yankees manager Stump Merrill, Clete Boyer never got the credit he deserved, Merrill told The New York Daily News in 2007.

"He was the most perceptive baseball man I ever knew," Merrill told The Daily News after Boyer's passing that June, "and he was tireless in teaching the rudiments of infield play to our kids in the organization."

Boyer passed away then at the age of 70, known as the Yankees' sure-handed third baseman of the early 1960s. He then took what he learned and showed on the playing field and use that for a long career in both the majors and minors as a coach and manager.

Boyer's playing career lasted 16 seasons, starting with Kansas City, them moving on to the Yankees. His major league career ended with five seasons with the Braves. Boyer then moved to Japan for four final seasons there.

His coaching career began by 1980, with the Athletics. Boyer served as Oakland's third base coach through 1985. For his first three seasons there, Boyer coached under manager Billy Martin. He also later coached under Martin with the Yankees in 1988.

Boyer even got to manage a couple games in 1981 after a Martin suspension.

"I've played in five World Series," Boyer told The Associated Press after his first managerial win, "but I've never had to think as much as I've had in the past two games."

By 1987, Boyer was back with the Yankees, the team he'd had so much success with as a player. He served as their third base coach in 1988, then went to single-A Fort Lauderdale, for a more extended look at managing.

"You know, this is the best organization ever," Boyer told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel in April 1989, "and I often think how lucky I am to be with the Yankees. I think back on how lucky I was to play with the Yankees, and now I can still put on the uniform every day. I just want to pass on what I learned to these kids."

That off-season, Boyer wasn't working with kids, he was working with seniors, managing in the Senior Professional Baseball League in Florida. Speaking to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in October 1989, Boyer said he wasn't looking to manage at higher levels.

"Watching kids develop in the minors is actually a bigger thrill than coaching in the big leagues," Boyer told The Herald-Tribune. "It's a mental victory when you see them move up."

Boyer coached 1990 with AAA Columbus. By 1992, Boyer was back in the majors, coaching with the Yankees. He was also plain spoken.

In May 1993, Boyer disputed Brewers first base coach Tim Foli's reaction to a foul ball. That reaction caused a bench-clearing fight, The Milwaukee Journal wrote. Boyer was clear on what he thought about Foli.

"Foli's an idiot," Boyer told The Journal. "The doctor slapped his mother when he came out. I never saw anyone who liked him. He was like that when he played."

Among one of Boyer's final jobs with the Yankees was trying to make Drew Henson into a hitter and third baseman.

After his passing in 2007, Boyer drew praise from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"He was a great Yankee and a tough guy. He never talked too much but he was extremely hardworking," Steinbrenner told The AP through a spokesman. "A wonderful third baseman, and had fire in his belly."

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