Stephen Wayne Yeager
Called "the best-throwing catcher in the game" by Hall of Famer Lou Brock, Yeager converted to Judaism after marrying the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. He had a solid 15-year career as a catcher (1972-86), and shared the 1981 World Series MVP (with Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero). Though never an outstanding hitter -- he compiled a lifetime .228 batting average -- he did have good power, reaching double figures in home runs in six different seasons. A team leader, Steve stepped up his hitting when it was needed most, batting an admirable .298, with 4 home runs, in 21 World Series Games. Steve is the nephew of legendary pilot Chuck Yeager, who was immortalized in the film The Right Stuff.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. November 24, 1948
Known as a strong defensive catcher, Yeager first played in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972, appearing in 35 games that year and hitting .274. On August 8, he tied an NL record for catchers with 22 putouts, and set another with 24 chances accepted in one game. In 1974, the Dodgers played in the World Series against Ken Holtzman and the Oakland A's; Steve played in 4 games and hit a rousing .364 as the A's defeated the Dodgers 4-1. The following year, Yeager became the regular catcher for the Dodgers; and, although he only hit .228, he had a marvelous .992 fielding percentage.
After a freak accident in 1976 in which he was hit with the jagged end of a broken bat while in the on-deck circle (he had nine splinters removed from his neck), Steve introduced the neck protector -- it is the flap attached to the catcher's mask. The following year, Yeager hit a career-high .256 with 16 HR and 55 RBI (also both career-highs) and helped lead the Dodgers back to the World Series. In the Series, Steve hit .316 (6-19) with 2 HR, but the Dodgers lost to the Yankees, 4-2. They returned to the World Series the following year, again losing to the Yankees 4 games to 2; Steve went 3-13 (.231), after hitting .193 during the regular season.
Three years later, Yeager was outstanding in the postseason for the Dodgers. Although he only played 42 games during the season, he had a sparkling .994 fielding percentage -- he committed only 1 error all year. In the playoffs, Steve hit .400 in the NLDS against the Houston Astros, .500 (okay, it was 1-2) in the NLCS against the Montreal Expos, and then .286 in the World Series against the Yankees. The Dodgers won 4 games to 2, and Yeager was named tri-MVP after winning Game 5 with a home run off Ron Guidry! It was Steve's last appearance in the World Series; he finished his career with a fine World Series average of .298 (17-57), with 4 home runs tossed in for good measure.
Steve played four more seasons with the Dodgers, helping lead them to two more Division titles, but they lost in the NL Champioship Series both times (1983 to Philadelphia, and 1985 to St. Louis). During that time, however, Yeager played more than 100 games in only one season (1983). He finished his career with the Seattle Mariners, appearing in 50 games for them in 1986; he only hit .208, but, characteristically, did not commit an error all season. He retired after that campaign, and became a minor league coach. On December 16, 2000, he was named the manager of the Long Beach Breakers, a new team in the independent Western Baseball League.
Yeager played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1972-1985, and the Seattle Mariners, 1986.
6'0", 190 pounds
Batting Avg.: .228
Slugging Avg.: .355
Home Runs: 102
Home Run %: 2.8
Strike Outs: 726
Stolen Bases: 14
Total Chances per Game: 5.6
Fielding Avg: .987
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The Baseball Encyclopedia: Tenth Edition (New York: McMillan, 1996)