Stephen Wayne "Steve" Yeager (born November 24, 1948, in Huntington, West Virginia) is an American right-handed former major league baseball catcher.
Yeager spent 14 of the 15 seasons of his Major League Baseball career, from through , with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His last year, , he played for the Seattle Mariners.
Yeager once hit two grand slams in one high school game at Meadowdale High School (Ohio) in Dayton, Ohio
Minor League career
Yeager was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 6
, , in the 4th round of the amateur draft
. After one game with the rookie
level Ogden Spikers
of the Pioneer League
, Yeager was sent to the Dodgers Single-A
affiliate, the Dubuque Packers
of the Midwest League
. The following season, in , Yeager played 59 games for the Single-A Daytona Beach Dodgers
of the Florida State League
. In , he played 22 games for the Bakersfield Blaze
, the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate in the California League
, where he threw out 26 runners from behind the plate.
Yeager was promoted to Double-A before the end of the 1969 season, playing in 1 game for the Albuquerque Dodgers of the Texas League. He spent the next two-and-2/3 seasons with the Double-A franchise. In 162 games played over the and seasons, he hit .276, with 77 RBIs in 490 at bats. He threw out 84 runners (second in the Texas League) and was named to the Texas League All-Star team as a catcher in 1971.
With the Dukes becoming the new Pacific Coast League Triple-A affiliate for the Dodgers in , Yeager was promoted while remaining in Albuquerque for another season. With the Triple-A Dukes, he played 82 games, batting .280 with 45 RBIs in 257 at bats.
Major League career
Yeager made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on 2 August 1972
. He started 34 games that season, backed up Joe Ferguson
in 1973, and split time with Ferguson for the pennant-winning 1974 club. Thereafter, Yeager was the starting catcher for the Dodgers and became an integral part of the Dodgers' success in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yeager helped the Dodgers to the World Series
, and 1981
. In the '81 Series against the New York Yankees
, he shared the World Series Most Valuable Player
award with teammates Pedro Guerrero
and Ron Cey
. Yeager, who was backing up Mike Scioscia
by that time, did not have overwhelming stats for the Series, as he went 4-for-14 (.286), but three of his hits were a double and two home runs. One of the homers, off Ron Guidry
, turned out to be the game-winner in Game 5.
In , Yeager injured his knee and broke his wrist a year later, severely limiting his playing time. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Ed Vande Berg following the season and retired after hitting only .208 in .
called Yeager "the best-throwing catcher in the game." His specialty was defense and his command of the game on the field. He was very good at managing the game from his position and was even more highly regarded for his abilities with young pitchers. In , he led National League catchers in putouts with 806. This compensated for his overall subpar offense, as illustrated by arguably his best offensive year occurring in 1974 when he batted .266 in fewer than 100 games. Despite this reputation, Yeager was still somewhat of a clutch hitter as he had an average of .321 when hitting with the bases loaded during his career. He also had success hitting off pitcher Ken Forsch
. While never hitting more than two home runs
off any other pitcher, he managed to hit 5 against Forsch in his career.
In , Yeager was injured when a piece of Bill Russell
's bat shattered and hit him in the neck while in the on-deck circle, piercing his esophagus
. He had nine pieces of wood taken out of his neck in 98 minutes of surgery. After the incident, Dodger trainer Bill Buhler invented and patented a throat protector that hangs from the catcher's mask. It was soon worn by most catchers around the Majors and other leagues.
- Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
- Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)
- Batted and Threw: Right
- Uniform number: 7
- World Series: .298 in 21 games, 17 for 57, 10 RBIs
- MLB Career
- Putouts: 6,110
- Assists: 674
- Errors: 88 (catching)
- Double Plays: 75 (catching)
- Fielding Percentage: .987
- Batting average: .228
- Hits: 816
- RBIs: 410
- Home runs: 102
Minor league coaching career
In , Yeager was the hitting coach for the Dodgers’ Single-A San Bernardino Stampede, which won the California League championship. In , he managed the Long Beach Breakers in the independent (now-defunct) Western Baseball League, where the team won the league championship in their inaugural season that year beating the Chico Heat 3 games to 2. He was hitting coach for the Jacksonville Suns in , and in -06 he was the hitting instructor/coach for the Dodgers AAA farm club, the Las Vegas 51s.
Yeager was instrumental in the conversion of Russell Martin from third base to behind the plate.
In , he became the manager for the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League.