Arthur Richman, who died in his sleep this morning at the age of 83, was the sort of off-field utility man we don’t see very much of any more. In his long career, he was a copy boy, a columnist, a publicist, a traveling secretary, the Yankees’ Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor for media relations, and a general baseball scenester who had George Steinbrenner’s ear and whose lasting influence on Yankee history was his role in making Joe Torre the Yankee manager prior to the 1996 season.
Perry Barber wrote about Richman for Bronx Banter in her contribution to our Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory series:
Until he suffered a debilitating heart attack two years ago at age eighty, Arthur Richman was probably the oldest active man in baseball. He spent more than sixty years total as an award-winning sportswriter and columnist for the Daily Mirror and other New York newspapers, traveling secretary for the Mets, then senior advisor and vice-president of media relations for the Yankees, starting in 1990. I was introduced to him in 1983 by Dennis D’Agostino, the Mets’ assistant P.R. director at the time, now a respected author and sports statistician.
Arthur’s sixteen-year tenure with the Yankees was marked by both elation and turmoil. His showdowns with Steinbrenner were legendary, and he used to regale me with tales of how they would yell and scream at each other over some mishegos, then George would “fire” him and Arthur would just show up at work the next day, both of them acting as if nothing had happened, best friends forever.
Ex-Yankee Johnny Blanchard also passed away today, of a heart attack at age 76. The Minnesota native had the bad timing of joining the Yankees as a catcher in the late 1950s, when the Bombers already had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard on the roster. Still, after a one-game cup of coffee in 1955, he forced his way onto the roster in 1959 and in 1961 the Yankees moved Berra to left field. Blanchard had a tremendous season as Howard’s backup in ’61, bating .305/.382/.613 (168 OPS+) with 21 homers in a mere 243 at-bats as the Yankees set a record with six hitters surpassing 20 home runs (with Blanchard being the tough part of the trivia answer that also includes Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Berra, Howard, and Moose Skowron).
Blanchard never came close to repeating that performance, but he remained a key part of the Yankees’ pennant-winning teams of 1962-1964 and hit .345/.387/.690 in 29 at-bats across five World Series before being flipped in April 1965 at age 32 to the Kansas City A’s (for punchless backup catcher Doc Edwards) and subsequently sold to the Milwaukee Braves that September. Blanchard never returned to the majors after 1965, but he was a constant presence at Old Timers’ Day, and exactly the kind of backup catcher the Yankees could use right about now.