CHICAGO – A former member of the Cubs who had a big responsibility during his time with the club has passed away.
Joe Pepitone, who played in Chicago for parts of three seasons in the early 1970s, died at the age of 82 on Monday. His death was announced by the New York Yankees, the team where the first baseman and center fielder played the majority of his MLB career.
Pepitone joined the Cubs in a trade with the Astros midway through the 1970 season and was on the club through the early part of 1973. He played in 268 games in Chicago during that time, hitting .284 with 36 doubles, 39 homers, and 144 RBI in 1,049 plate appearances.
Most Cubs fans best remember Pepitone for being the first replacement for club legend Ernie Banks at first base during “Mr. Cub’s” last year in 1971. Pepitone played in 95 games at first with Banks playing that position in 20 of the 39 contests he appeared in that season. Pepitone also played in 23 games in the outfield in 1971.
After Banks’ retirement that winter, Pepitone was the opening day starter at first base for the Cubs in 1972 and would play 66 games at the position. He’d primarily split time with Jim Hickman (77 games) at first base that season.
After playing in 31 contests early in the 1973 season, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves where he played just three games before finishing that season with the Yakult Atoms of Japan’s Central League.
Former Cubs teammate and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins posted a tribute to Pepitone on Twitter Monday after the announcement of his death.
“We lost a good one today. Rest in Peace Joe Pepitone. Truly was a great friend and teammate. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Pepitone family,” said Jenkins.
Pepitone enjoyed the most successful stretch of his career with the Yankees from 1962 through 1969 when he was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner at first base.