Ralph Houk

Ralph George Houk (/ˈhaʊk/; August 9, 1919 – July 21, 2010), nicknamed The Major, was an American catcher, coach, manager, and front office executive in Major League Baseball. He is best known as the successor of Casey Stengel as manager of the New York Yankees from 1961–63, when his teams won three consecutive American League pennants and the 1961 and 1962 World Series championships.

Ralph Houk
Ralph Houk 1975
Houk in 1975
Catcher / Manager
Born: August 9, 1919
Lawrence, Kansas
Died: July 21, 2010 (aged 90)
Winter Haven, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 26, 1947, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
May 1, 1954, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average.272
Runs batted in20
Managerial record1,619–1,531
Winning %.514
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Playing career

A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Houk was a catcher working his way through the Yankees' farm system when the U.S. entered World War II. He enlisted in the armed forces, became an Army Ranger, and rose to Major (the source of his Yankee nickname). He was a combat veteran of Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge, and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the Silver Star with oak leaf clusters.[1][2]

Returning to baseball after the war, Houk eventually reached the Major Leagues, serving as the Yankees' second- and third-string catcher behind Yogi Berra. A right-handed hitter listed as 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and 193 pounds (88 kg), Houk played in only 91 games over eight seasons (1947–54), finishing with a batting average of .272. Although the Yankees participated in six World Series during that period, Houk had only two Series at bats (one in 1947, the other in 1952), batting .500.

Coaching career

During his last five years as a big-league player (1950–54), Houk played in only 31 regular-season games, made 30 total plate appearances, and caught 83 innings.[3] But by 1953 he had transitioned to becoming the Yankees' full-time bullpen coach, effectively beginning his managerial apprenticeship.

In 1955 he was named manager of the Yanks' Triple-A affiliate, the Denver Bears of the American Association. Following three highly successful seasons at Denver, culminating with the 1957 league playoff and Junior World Series championships, Houk returned to the Bronx as Stengel's first-base coach from 1958–60. From late May through early June 1960, Houk served as acting manager of the Yanks for 13 games while Stengel, 70, was sidelined by illness. (The team won 7 and lost 6.) Then, after the Yanks lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates—and with Houk one of the hottest managerial candidates in baseball—the Yankees "discharged" Stengel (to use Stengel's own words) and promoted Houk.

A player's manager

Houk was known as a "player's manager"—albeit one with a quick temper. Future Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda briefly played for Houk at Denver and called Houk the best handler of men he ever played for, and modeled his managerial style on him.[4] The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, of which Houk is a member, describes Houk as "rough, blunt and decisive" and his tantrums in arguments with umpires earned him 45 ejections as a manager in the majors. Houk is tied with Billy Martin for fourteenth place on baseball's "most ejected" list.[5]

The early 1960s Yankees responded to Houk's leadership; the 1961 team led by Roger Maris (61 home runs), Mickey Mantle (54 homers) and Whitey Ford (25 victories) won 109 games and beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games in the World Series. His 1962 club won 96 games, and were victorious over the San Francisco Giants in seven games in the Fall Classic. In 1963, the Yanks won 104 games and rolled to the pennant, but were swept in four games by the Dodgers in the Series.

In the Yankees front office

Houk moved into the Yankees' front office as general manager on October 23, 1963,[6] replacing Roy Hamey, and Berra, at the end of his playing career, became the Yanks' new manager. Yogi would win the 1964 pennant after a summer-long struggle with the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox, but Houk and the Yankee ownership quickly became disenchanted with Berra's work and in late August they made up their mind to fire him regardless of how the season turned out. After the Yankees' seven-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, Houk sacked Berra. Later, Houk said that the Yankee brain trust had concluded Berra wasn't ready to be a manager, though he didn't elaborate on the reasoning.[7]

To succeed Berra, he then hired Johnny Keane, who had just resigned as manager of the champion Cardinals. Houk had admired Keane as a competitor in the American Association from almost a decade before and, according to author David Halberstam, the Yankees had made overtures to Keane during the 1964 regular season about becoming their manager for 1965.[8] But the great postwar Yankee dynasty was aged and crumbling, the farm system had seriously deteriorated, and the Kansas City Athletics were no longer a reliable source for Major League talent. Keane, a longtime minor league manager, was better suited by temperament for managing young players than established and aging superstars, and his hiring was a failure. The team fell to sixth in 1965—their first losing record since 1925, and only their second since 1918. When they won only four of the first 20 games of 1966, Houk fired Keane on May 7 and named himself manager, assuming that job for the second time.

Back to the bench

Second term with Yankees

Houk (eventually succeeded as general manager by Lee MacPhail) thus began a second, and far less successful, term as Yankee manager, finishing the 1966 season. Their talent and farm system both depleted, the Yankees finished in last place for the first time since 1912. A long rebuilding process followed, including Bobby Richardson's retirement (Richardson's roommate, Tony Kubek, had retired because a bad back after the 1965 season) and the trading away of Maris, Clete Boyer and, during the 1967 season, Elston Howard.

Houk would continue to manage the Yankees from 1967 until 1973. His best season was 1970, when the Yanks won 93 games, but finished 15 games behind the eventual World Series champion Baltimore Orioles. He worked for George Steinbrenner for one season, in 1973, and was the Bombers' manager during their final game in 1973 at the "original" Yankee Stadium prior to its closure for two years for renovation.

After the final game of 1973, he resigned as manager. While Steinbrenner's commanding style has led some to think the new owner influenced Houk's departure, he told Bill Madden of the New York Daily News it was the constant booing of Yankee fans that pushed him. Houk even said that Steinbrenner insisted he'd get some new players to restore the team's greatness. "And he did, bringing in Catfish and Reggie, " Houk told Madden in the sportswriter's book Pride of October. "That'll make you good in a hurry!" Apart from a brief stint with the Detroit Tigers' Class B affiliate in Augusta, Georgia; he had spent the first 35 years of his adult life on the Yankees' payroll.

Detroit Tigers

On October 11, 1973—less than two weeks after Houk left the Yankee organization—he became the manager of the rebuilding Detroit Tigers. The veteran club (its 1973 roster averaged 31.8 years of age[9]) had won the AL East in 1972 under Billy Martin, but was in need of replacing its longtime stars, including Hall of Famer Al Kaline, with younger talent. The low point came in 1975, when Houk's team lost 102 games, but the 1976 Tigers improved their record by 14 games behind the heroics of rookie pitcher Mark Fidrych, who won 19 games while becoming a national sensation. By 1978, Houk had restored Detroit to respectability and its first winning record since 1973, bringing to the team future stars of the Sparky Anderson Tigers such as Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris. After an 86–76 season in 1978, and with the roster's average age a youthful 26.3,[10] Houk retired.

Boston Red Sox

Houk's name had been linked by the media with the Boston Red Sox' managerial job since his days as a Yankees' coach. After two years of retirement, in the autumn of 1980, Houk, now 61, was ready to get back into baseball. In late October, when the Red Sox called about their opening (they had fired Don Zimmer), he jumped at the chance.

Although not as daunting as his Detroit assignment, Houk faced another rebuilding job: the powerful Boston team of the 1970s was about to lose marquee players such as Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn and needed to retool its roster. But Houk rose to the challenge, and in four seasons produced three over-.500 teams. On his watch, Boston broke in young players Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst and Marty Barrett. When Houk retired from managing permanently in October 1984, just after his 65th birthday, he bequeathed the core of another pennant winning ballclub (in this case, the 1986 Red Sox) to his successor, John McNamara.

His final record, over 20 years with the Yankees (1961–63, 1966–73), Tigers (1974–78) and Red Sox (1981–84) was 1,619 wins and 1,531 losses (.514), plus eight wins and eight losses in the World Series. After his first three championship seasons, he never appeared in the postseason.[11]

Late career

Houk served with the Minnesota Twins as a special assistant to general manager Andy MacPhail, Lee's son, from 1987–89 before retiring from the game for good.[6] He thus enjoyed one additional world championship season, when the Twins defeated the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series.

Colorful opinions about Houk can be found in Jim Bouton's classic 1970 memoir, Ball Four. Houk was Bouton's first big league manager and sparred with him over contracts when Houk was the Yankees' GM.

Houk was portrayed by Bruce McGill in the 2001 film 61*.

He died on July 21, 2010 in Winter Haven, Florida, just nineteen days before he would have turned 91. At age 90 he was, at the time, the oldest living manager of a World Series-winning, pennant-winning or post-season team. He was survived by a daughter, Donna; a son, Robert; four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

On July 22 the Yankees announced players and coaches would wear a black armband in Houk's memory on the left sleeve of their home and away uniforms for the remainder of the 2010 season.[12]

Managerial record

Team From To Regular season record Post–season record
G W L Win % G W L Win %
New York Yankees 1961 1963 485 309 176 .637 16 8 8 .500
New York Yankees 1966 1973 1,265 635 630 .502 DNQ
Detroit Tigers 1974 1978 806 363 443 .450 DNQ
Boston Red Sox 1981 1984 594 312 282 .525 DNQ
Total 3,150 1619 1531 .514 16 8 8 .500

See also


  1. ^ Anderson, Dave (July 25, 2010). "Lucky to Be Yankee and Lucky to Be Alive". New York Times.
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (July 22, 2010). "Ralph Houk, Yankees Manager, Dies at 90". New York Times.
  3. ^ Retrosheet
  4. ^ Lasorda, Tom; Plaschke, Bill (2007). I Live for This: Baseball's Last True Believer. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. pp. 84–85.
  5. ^ Stark, Jayson (June 14, 2007). "Cox's favorite tune: Take me out of the ballgame!". ESPN.com.
  6. ^ a b "Ralph Houk (front office history)—Baseball America Executive Database".
  7. ^ Reichler, Joe (February 28, 1965). "Notes: His biggest mistake was Yogi, Houk says". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Halberstam, David (1994). October 1964. New York: Random House.
  9. ^ Baseball Reference
  10. ^ Baseball Reference
  11. ^ a b "Ralph Houk". Baseball Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  12. ^ Craig, Marc (July 22, 2010). "Yankees plan to honor late manager Ralph Houk". Newark Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on July 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-23.

External links

1953 New York Yankees season

The 1953 New York Yankees season was the 51st season for the team in New York, and its 53rd season overall. The team finished with a record of 99–52, winning their 20th pennant, finishing 8.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians. New York was managed by Casey Stengel. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in 6 games. This was the Yankees fifth consecutive World Series win, a record that still stands.

1962 New York Yankees season

The 1962 New York Yankees season was the 60th season for the team in New York, and its 62nd season overall. The team finished with a record of 96–66, winning their 27th pennant, finishing 5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they defeated the San Francisco Giants in 7 games. It was their 20th World Championship in franchise history, and their last until 1977.

1963 New York Yankees season

The 1963 New York Yankees season was the 61st season for the team in New York, and its 63rd season overall. The team finished with a record of 104–57, winning their 28th pennant, finishing 10½ games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. New York was managed by Ralph Houk.

The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 4 games, the first time the Yankees had ever been swept in the World Series (they had lost 4 games to none with one tied game in 1922).

1964 New York Yankees season

The 1964 New York Yankees season was the 62nd season for the Yankees. The team finished with a record of 99–63, winning their 29th pennant, finishing 1 game ahead of the Chicago White Sox. New York was managed by Yogi Berra. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they were defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. It would also be their last playoff appearance until 1976.

Yogi Berra, taking over as manager from Ralph Houk, who in turn moved up to general manager, had a difficult early season, with many veterans missing games due to injury. Doubts about his ability to manage his former teammates were brought into the open with the Harmonica Incident in late August, in which he clashed with utility infielder Phil Linz on the team bus following a sweep by the Chicago White Sox that appeared to have removed the Yankees from pennant contention. The team rallied behind Berra afterwards, and won the pennant. However the incident may have convinced the team's executives to replace Berra with Johnny Keane, manager of the victorious Cardinals, after the season.

This season is considered to be the endpoint of the "Old Yankees" dynasty that had begun with the Ruppert–Huston partnership and then continued with the Topping–Webb partnership. The Yankees would soon undergo ownership changes and front office turmoil, and would not be a serious factor in the pennant chase again until the mid 1970s. For television viewers and radio listeners, the sudden removal of Mel Allen following that season marked the end of an era of Yankees television and radio broadcasts.

1966 New York Yankees season

The 1966 New York Yankees season was the 64th season for the Yankees. The team finished with a record of 70–89, finishing 26.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Johnny Keane and Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. Keane managed his final MLB game in early-May, and died the following January at the age of 55.

The Yankees finished in 10th place, although arguably a "strong" tenth. It was the first time they had finished in last place since 1912, their last year at the Hilltop.

On September 22, paid attendance of 413 was announced at the 65,000-seat Yankee Stadium. WPIX announcer Red Barber asked the TV cameras to pan the empty stands as he commented on the low attendance. Although denied the camera shots on orders from the Yankees' head of media relations, he said, "I don't know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game." By a horrible stroke of luck, that game was the first for CBS executive Mike Burke as team president. A week later, Barber was invited to breakfast where Burke told him that his contract wouldn't be renewed.

1967 New York Yankees season

The 1967 New York Yankees season was the 67th season for the Yankees franchise, 65th in New York. The team finished ahead of only the Kansas City Athletics (who moved to Oakland after the season ended) in the American League final standings, with a record of 72–90, finishing 20 games behind the Boston Red Sox. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.

1968 New York Yankees season

The 1968 New York Yankees season was the 66th season for the team in New York, and its 68th season overall. The team finished above .500 for the first time since 1964, with a record of 83–79, finishing 20 games behind the Detroit Tigers. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. The 1968 season was notable for being Mickey Mantle's final season before he announced his retirement the following spring. The Yankees batted .214 as a team, the lowest total ever for the live-ball era (as of 2017).

1969 New York Yankees season

The 1969 New York Yankees season was the 67th season for the team in New York, and its 69th season overall. The team finished in fifth-place in the newly established American League East with a record of 80–81, 28½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.

1970 New York Yankees season

The 1970 New York Yankees season was the 68th season for the franchise in New York, and its 70th season overall. The team finished in second place in the American League East with a record of 93–69, 15 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. The 93 wins were the most for the Yankees since 1964. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees had the lowest payroll in MLB from 1943 till 1993

1971 New York Yankees season

The 1971 New York Yankees season was the 69th season for the franchise in New York, and its 71st season overall. The team finished fourth in the American League East with a record of 82–80, 21 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium.

1972 New York Yankees season

The 1972 New York Yankees season was the 70th season for the Yankees in New York, and the 72nd season overall. The team finished with a record of 79–76, finishing 6½ games behind the Detroit Tigers. New York was managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.

1973 New York Yankees season

The 1973 New York Yankees season was the 71st season for the team in New York, and its 73rd season overall. The Yankees finished with a record of 80–82, finishing 17 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees were managed by Ralph Houk. The Yankees played at old Yankee Stadium, on the south side of 161st Street. This would be the last year in the "old" Yankee Stadium, which was targeted for major reconstruction in 1974–1975. During this period, the Yankees would share a home field with a National League team for the third time in their history, moving into Shea Stadium for two years.

Bruce McGill

Bruce Travis McGill (born July 11, 1950) is an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his work with director Michael Mann in the movies The Insider (1999), Ali (2001), and Collateral (2004). McGill's other notable film roles include Daniel Simpson "D-Day" Day in John Landis' Animal House, Com. Matuzak in Timecop, Reverend Larson in Shallow Hal, Gene Revell in The Sum of All Fears, and Lt. Brooks in Ride Along and its sequel Ride Along 2.

Bruce McGill's television roles include Jack Dalton on MacGyver (1985–1992) and Det. Vince Korsak on Rizzoli & Isles (2010–2016). He also had recurring roles as Captain Braxton on Star Trek Voyager (1999) and voicing Lloyd Waterman, the owner of Waterman cable, on The Cleveland Show (2012–2014). He played Ralph Houk in Billy Crystal's made-for-television film 61* (2001).

During the 2016 presidential election, McGill narrated a number of commercials promoting Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Dan Topping Jr.

Daniel Reid Topping Jr. (born February 1, 1938) is a former executive with the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB).

The son of New York Yankees co-owner Dan Topping and actress Arline Judge, Topping joined the Yankees organization in 1961. In his first season, he worked on the grounds crew, in the ticket office, and in publicity. In 1962 he became general manager of the Yankees' minor league team in Fort Lauderdale.

Topping was the assistant general manager of the MLB Yankees for two seasons before becoming a vice president in 1965, after controlling interest in the team was sold to CBS. On May 8, 1966, he was named general manager after Ralph Houk returned to uniform as the team's field manager. Topping's father sold his remaining interests in the club to CBS on September 19, 1966 and 24 days later Lee MacPhail was named the club's new general manager. Topping remained a Yankees' vice president until his resignation in June 1967.

Fred Gladding

Fred Earl Gladding (June 28, 1936 – May 21, 2015) was an American professional baseball player and coach. He was a right-handed pitcher over all or parts of thirteen seasons (1961–1973) with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros. Born in Flat Rock, Michigan, he was listed as 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and 220 pounds (100 kg).

For his career, he compiled a 48–34 record and 109 saves in 450 appearances, all but one as a relief pitcher, with a 3.13 earned run average and 394 strikeouts in 601 innings pitched. Gladding led the National League in saves with Houston in 1969, the first season the statistic was recognized.In seven seasons with the Tigers, Gladding compiled a record of 26–11 and a 2.70 ERA in 217 games. His .703 winning percentage with the Tigers is the highest in the franchise's history for a pitcher appearing in at least 200 games for the team. He returned to Detroit in 1976 as pitching coach and served three seasons on the staff of manager Ralph Houk.

Gladding also has the distinction of having the lowest non-zero lifetime batting average in major league history. For his career he batted .016 (1 for 63).Gladding died May 21, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina.


Houk is a surname, and may refer to

George W. Houk (1825–1894), American lawyer and politician

John C. Houk (1860–1923), American politician

Keith Houk, American airline executive

Kendall Newcomb Houk (born 1943) American chemist

Leonidas C. Houk (1836–1891), American politician

Ralph Houk (1919–2010), American baseball player and manager

Theodore W. Houk, American physician

List of Major League Baseball All-Star Game managers

The following is a list of individuals who have managed the Major League Baseball All-Star Game over the years (except 1945), since its inauguration in 1933. Chosen managers and winning pennant managers manage teams including American and National Leagues.

No official MLB All-Star Game was held in 1945 (cancelled April 24, 1945) including the official MLB selection of that season's All-Stars (Associated Press All-Star Game; game was not played). MLB played two All-Star Games from 1959 through 1962.

List of New York Yankees managers

The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in New York City, New York in the borough of The Bronx. The New York Yankees are members of the American League (AL) East Division in Major League Baseball (MLB). The Yankees have won the World Series 27 times, more than any other MLB team. In baseball, the head coach of a team is called the manager, or more formally, the field manager. The duties of the team manager include team strategy and leadership on and off the field. Since starting to play as the Baltimore Orioles (no relationship to the current Baltimore Orioles team) in 1901, the team has employed 35 managers. The current manager is Aaron Boone, the current general manager is Brian Cashman and the current owners are Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, who are sons of George Steinbrenner, who first bought the Yankees in 1973.

Safe at Home!

Safe at Home! is a 1962 sports comedy film starring Major League Baseball players Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris of the New York Yankees. The film also stars William Frawley (in his final film appearance) and Don Collier, with appearances by New York Yankees Whitey Ford and Ralph Houk.

The film is about a young Florida boy who lies to his Little League teammates, telling them he knows Mantle and Maris and will bring them to their team banquet. His attempts to meet his heroes during spring training by sneaking into the stadium and into their hotel room at the Yankee Clipper Hotel result in chaos, and he learns an important lesson about honesty. Filmed in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, Florida.


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