Gil McDougald, the Yankees’ versatile All-Star infielder who played on five World Series championship teams but was remembered as well for a single at-bat resulting in one of baseball’s most frightening moments, died Sunday at his home in Wall Township, N.J. He was 82.
The cause was prostate cancer, his son Tod said.
McDougald was the American League’s rookie of the year in 1951, playing third base and second base and hitting .306. He connected for the first World Series grand slam by a rookie, a drive at the Polo Grounds off the New York Giants’ Larry Jansen that helped propel the Yankees to a Game 5 victory.
Playing with the Yankees for 10 seasons, McDougald was a five-time All-Star and a gifted fielder, appearing mostly at second and third but also at shortstop. He helped preserve what became Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers when he threw out Jackie Robinson in the second inning after Robinson’s liner was deflected to him, caroming off third baseman Andy Carey.
The next spring, McDougald was enmeshed in another long-remembered baseball moment, this one bringing sadness. On the night of May 7, 1957, at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, McDougald drilled a line drive off a pitch from the Indians’ brilliant young left-hander Herb Score that struck Score in the face. Only in his third season but seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame, Score remained on the ground for several moments. He was carried off the field, having sustained a severe injury to his right eye and a broken nose.
After the game, McDougald told reporters, “If Herb loses the sight in his eye, I’m going to quit the game.” McDougald went on to finish fifth in the balloting for the A.L.’s most valuable player. Score, the league’s strikeout leader his first two years, regained his vision but was sidelined for the rest of the season. He later developed arm trouble and was never again a successful pitcher.
McDougald, who remembered long afterward being “sick to my stomach” when Score collapsed, remained in touch with him over the years.
A native of San Francisco, Gilbert James McDougald was born on May 19, 1928, and played on eight pennant-winning Yankees teams. A timely hitter despite an unorthodox right-handed open stance he used early in his career, he twice hit better than .300 in a season and had a career batting average of .276.
He led A.L. infielders in double plays at third base (1952), second base (1955) and shortstop (1957). He retired after the 1960 season when it appeared he would be selected in an expansion draft by the newly formed Washington Senators or Los Angeles Angels.
In addition to his son Tod, he is survived by his wife, Lucille; his sons Gil Jr., Matthew and Jon; his daughters, Christine Flynn, Denise Costigan and Courtney Harmon; 14 grandchildren; and 7 great-grandchildren.
After his playing days, McDougald ran a building maintenance company in New Jersey, and he coached baseball at Fordham University from 1970 to 1976. But an old baseball injury overshadowed his life.
Like Score, he had been victimized by a line drive, this one hit by Yankees outfielder Bob Cerv during batting practice before a game in August 1955. McDougald, who was standing near second base, was struck in the ear. He missed only a few games, but he gradually began to lose his hearing.
By the 1980s, he had become almost totally deaf and had withdrawn from baseball old-timers events and other social situations.
His deafness remained unknown to the public until he spoke about it in an interview with Ira Berkow of The New York Times in July 1994. Physicians who read the article told McDougald of a surgical procedure called a cochlear implant, which converts sound to electronic signals.
He underwent the implant in November 1994, and tests the next January confirmed that his hearing was essentially restored.
McDougald later worked to raise awareness of technology to aid the hearing impaired. As he told Sports Illustrated in September 1996: “When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The NY Times:
Posted by BA Haller at 10:52 AM