Blue Bios: Steve Yeager

Stephen Wayne Yeager     7
Batted: Right Threw: Right   6’0″ 190 lbs.
Born: November 24, 1948 in Huntington, WV

Career highlights and awards
  • World Series champion (1981)
  • 1981 World Series MVP

 

We continue to pay tribute to the toughest position on the field: the catcher. One of the best catchers of the 1970′s was Steve “Yang” Yeager. Yeager was drafted by the Dodgers on June 6, 1967 in the 4th round of the amateur draft. He made his MLB debut on August 29, 1972. He would go on to play in 15 Major League seasons. All would be in Dodger Blue except for his last 50 games in 1986 after he was traded to Seattle.
 

 

Source: The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers www. bb_catchers.tripod.com


Steve Yeager played in four World Series (1974, 1977, 1978, & 1981). In the 1981 Fall Classic the Dodgers came back to defeat the New York Yankees after being down two games to none and won their first championship in 16 years. During that series, Yeager hit .286 and hit two home runs, including a homerun in the 7th inning that broke a 1-1 tie in the Dodgers’ 2-1 Game 5 victory. Steve Yeager was named the World Series MVP along with teammates Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero. In 21 World Series games, Yeager batted .316 with four homeruns and 10 RBI.

Yeager played on four pennant winning teams and on two other division championship squads (1983 and 1985) with the Dodgers and five division runner-ups. He ranks third on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-time list in games caught with 1,230.

Steve Yeager was a superb defensive catcher. He was well-respected behind the plate, and he worked well with young pitchers.

Lou Brock called him

the best-throwing catcher in the game.”

During one game the radar clocked his throw from a crouch to second base at 98 mph!

Another interesting fact was when Yeager caught knuckleballer Charlie Hough, he would use a special extra large catcher’s mitt. He would hold it palm facing upwards like a cup instead of in the normal target position.

In 848 games caught in his career, he only made 88 errors. He had a 38% caught stealing percentage with a career best 47% in 1978.

In an extra-inning game on August 8, 1972, Yeager tied a NL record for catchers with 22 putouts. In 1974 the Dodgers won their first 24 games in which Yeager started behind the plate. In 1974 he led NL catchers in putouts with 806. He wasn’t a spectacular hitter and never batted more than .256 as a regular, but he reached double figures in home runs six times with a career high of 16 homeruns in 1977.  Although he did hit .321 as a clutch hitter when batting with the bases loaded in his career.

After a freak accident in 1976, Yeager introduced the neck protector (aka. billygoat), the flap attached to the catcher’s mask.  He was hit with the jagged end of a broken bat from teammate Bill Russell’s bat while in the on-deck circle which pierced his esophagus. He had nine splinters removed from his neck in surgery. Dodger trainer Bill Buhler invented and patented the throat protector that hangs from the catcher’s mask which was subsequently used by most catchers thereafter in the Majors and other leagues.

1979 Catcher's Mask with Throat Protector Source: Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers

On June 27, 1980 Yeager caught Jerry Reuss’ no-hitter.

In 1982 Steve injured his knee and then broke his wrist the next year. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Ed Vande Berg after the 1985 season. He retired after 1986 after only hitting .208. His final game was on August 29, 1986.

The nephew of legendary pilot Chuck Yeager, Steve had a flashy lifestyle as a player. He gained attention by posing for a Playgirl centerfold.

In the late 1990′s Yeager began a coaching career in the Dodgers farm system, and helped convert Russell Martin from third base to catcher. In 2007 he became the manager of the Long Beach Armada, part of the Independent Golden Baseball League. He is also part owner in the Jersey Mike’s Subs franchise.

Steve Yeager will be making an appearance in Long Beach on Saturday, January 14th. Check out the flyer at http://www.vinscullyismyhomeboy.com/2012/01/upcoming-appearance-steve-yeager.html 

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