Ralph Houk was one impressive man.
He was a national hero, entering the service during World War 2 as he was making his way through the Yankees farm system as a backstop. He made his way to the rank of Major as an Army Ranger, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and Bastogne. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star (with oak leaf clusters) for his service.
He then returned to baseball, playing for the Yankees in a limited role as a backup catcher behind the likes of Yogi Berra. He only played in 91 games from '47 to '54 but finished with a respectable .270 batting average.
Major Houk is best known for his success as a manager. Tommy Lasorda played for Houk at the Yank's AAA affiliate in Denver and would later describe Ralph as the finest 'leader of men' he ever knew. Lasorda would, in fact, style his own managerial style after him - and we know what that garnered.
Houk would bring titles to the Bronx during their epic seasons in '61 and '62. They would fall just short tot he Dodgers in '63 before Houk made the move to the front office, replaced by Yogi Berra as the Yankee skipper.
From there, Houk would end up firing Berra in '64 and taking over as the Yankee Manager again from '66 to '73. Like so many others, Major Houk butted heads with The Boss towards the end of his time in New York. His time int he game was not finished, however - he would go on to assist with team building efforts in both Detroit and Boston (nobody's perfect) before retiring from managing in 1984. His influence in both of those towns ushered in the eras of Whitaker/Trammell/Morris and Boggs/Clemens/Hurst, respectively.
I was able to snag this '71 card of Houk for about the price of a coke. I have always loved the '71 design and will one day try to build the complete set. I don't own very many of them but you can bet there's one in particular that is HIGH on this Yankees fan's list! Any vintage card is a great addition, though, and for now, this card will hold a special place in my Yankee collection - my first card of Ralph Houk.
Would you mess with this guy?
Any shot of Yankee Stadium is always a plus! As always, here's the back of the card. Were you expecting a smile?
|Lasorda confirmed: Leader of Men|
Thanks for reading!