(Long Island, NY) The modern day Yankees of the ‘high and mighty’ attitude and single box seats costing over $2,000 per game may be the target of much scorn throughout the state of Massachusetts – and even in New York – but the baseball world mourns with them on the passing of not one, but two exceptional people.
Former team executive Arthur Richman and 1961 World Series standout Johnny Blanchard both passed away on Wednesday, and on the cusp of the season opener, the news really hit home. Richman was 83 years old and Blanchard was 76.
“Arthur Richman made baseball and the New York Yankees an enormous part of his life and I am grateful for his contributions both personally and professionally,” Yankees Principal Owner/Chairperson George M. Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the team. “He was a trusted friend and advisor to me and someone the world of baseball will find impossible to replace. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Martha and to the countless others who were fortunate enough to call him a friend.”
During a career that began in 1942 as a copy boy for the now defunct New York Daily Mirror, Richman became a mainstay at the newspaper for over two decades and wrote the widely read “The Armchair Manager” column. He joined the Mets front office when the paper folded in 1963 and stayed in Flushing for a quarter century.
Richman moved to the other side of town in 1989 and worked with the Yankees’ media relations department and as a senior advisor to Steinbrenner. He is credited with convincing The Boss to hire Joe Torre as team manager after Buck Showalter was fired following the 1995 season. Richman obviously saw something in Torre when they were together with the Mets and it is hard to argue with the decision.
Although Blanchard may have only hit .239 over his career, the catcher/outfielder/first baseman was able to come through in clutch situations. He saved his best for October and batted .345 for the Bronx Bombers in five consecutive Fall Classics from 1960 through 1964.
“This is a sad day,” the great Yogi Berra said. “Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We’ll m miss him.”
In a five-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series, Blanchard went 4-for-10 and hit the tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 3 and blasted two home runs in the clincher.
His former manager realized that on a team full of All-Stars, some of the most important moments come from your utility player. “Johnny was a true Yankee, there’s no doubt about that” Ralph Houk said. “Everyone liked him. He would do anything it took to help win a ballgame. He would catch, pinch hit or go play the outfield if it meant the team had a better chance to win.”
It is ironic that Richman ended up working for the Yankees due to the fact that as a young boy during the 1930s, they shunned him when he and his brother waited for autographs.
“The Yankee players, for some reason, weren’t that friendly,” said Richman later in life.
Perhaps things have come full circle, but that is not the point now. Reflecting on these two men’s careers and lives should not be stained by the organization of today, which has not only outspent every other team in baseball, but in all of sports in an economy begging for fiscal responsibility.