November 23 – Happy Birthday Frank Tepedino
By 1967 it had become clear to most of us Bronx Bomber fans from the baby boom generation that the Yankee dynasty was no more. Mantle’s knees buckled every time he swung his bat. All Star names like Maris, Kubek, Richardson and Boyer no longer appeared in the New York lineup, replaced by the likes of Whitaker, Clarke, Smith and Amaro. We became desperate for talent and hoped that every Yankee prospect who got a cup-of-coffee call-up to 161st street was the answer. Surely a Mike Hegan or a Ross Moschitto would evolve into a 30 home run hitter, or maybe it would be the Brooklyn native with movie star looks named Frank Tepedino. But none of them did.
Tepedino was just 19 years old when he made his pinstriped debut in May of 1967. He was a left-handed hitter who played first base so he was behind both Mickey Mantle and Hegan on that Yankee team’s depth chart and barely saw any action during the three months he was on the Yankee roster. About the only thing he proved he could do at the big league level was drink, and by the time New York sent him back to the minors, Tepedino had become a full fledged alcoholic. He would get three more shots with the Yankees in 1969, ’70 and ’71 before getting traded to the Braves in 1973 for starting pitcher Pat Dobson. He had his best big league season his first year in Atlanta, hitting .304 in 74 games. He remained with the Braves until 1975, which is when his eight-season career in the Majors ended.
Tepedino returned to New York City and became a fireman. On September 11, 2001, he was on his way to the Twin Towers when they collapsed. He stopped drinking years ago and has since made over 60,000 speeches to youth groups and schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He might not have made it big as a Yankee but he certainly made sure his life after baseball has been meaningful.