- August 9, 1919
- 5' 11"
- 193 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-26-1947 with NYA
Former catcher Ralph Houk replaced legend Casey Stengel as manager of the Yankees in 1961, in an unpopular move. He guided the team to pennants his first three seasons, winning championships in his first two, before being replaced by Yogi Berra following the 1963 season. He returned to manage the Yankees in 1966, overseeing the team as their 60-year dynasty fell apart. Houk was a second-string catcher for the Yankees after serving as a major in the U.S. Army in World War II. He was a tough, competitive leader, who later mellowed somewhat and became a fine teacher of young players. He never won another pennant after winning three in his first three seasons as a skipper, despite managing for 20 years.
Yogi Berra bumped Houk off the Yankee map in the late 1940s, becoming the teams starting catcher. Houk spent the next seven years getting a cup of coffee with the Bombers in September every year and backing up Yogi when needed, but mostly playing in the minors.
When Houk retired as a player in 1955, he was named manager of the Yanks' Denver minor league team, which he led for three seasons. After three years as a Yankee coach under Casey Stengel, Houk was named to replace his mentor. The Yankees responded with a monster year in '61, and a second straight World Series title in 1962, but after the Dodgers swept them in the 1963 Fall Classic, Houk moved upstairs to become GM and VP, and was replaced on the field by Berra.
Berra wasn't ready to be a major league manager, even though the Yanks won the pennant in '64. After their Series loss to the Cardinals, the team shocked everyone by hiring St. Louis skipper Johnny Keane away from their opponents. Keane failed to post a winning record in New York and Houk was brought back to the dugout early in 1966, after the Yanks had gotten off to a 4-16 start. He managed the team for the next eight seasons, the longest stretch of any Yankee skipper without winning a pennant.
Houk stepped down as Yankee manager following the 1973 season, and the Yankees tried to persuade Dick Williams, manager of the World Champion A's, to join the team. When they failed, the Yankees hired Bill Virdon to lead the team. The Tigers, who had fired Billy Martin late in the '73 season, jumped on Houk. The veteran manager helped rebuild the Tigers, leaving them far better in 1978 than he had found them. He left after the '78 season, saying he wished to "spend time with his grandchildren."
Three years later he was dragged out of retirement by the Red Sox, and he managed them for four full seasons, with mediocre success. He retired again, having never been fired in his two decades in baseball management.
- Ralph Houk