Yankees' 'Super-Sub' Blanchard dies

Yankees' 'Super-Sub' Blanchard dies

Johnny Blanchard, a member of five New York Yankees World Series clubs, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Robbinsdale, Minn. He was 76.

Nicknamed "Super-Sub," Blanchard spent most of his career as a backup catcher, debuting with the Yankees in 1955 at age 22 and serving as a regular member of New York's roster from 1959 into 1965.

"This is a sad day," said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. "Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We'll miss him."

Blanchard's best season came with the 1961 World Series championship team, when Blanchard hit .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs in 93 games. On July 21-26 of that season, Blanchard hit four straight home runs over a three-game period, tying a Major League record.

He was also a presence in October, holding a World Series record with 10 pinch-hitting appearances. He hit .345 in the Yankees' five straight Fall Classic appearances from 1960-64, including slugging two home runs in the Yankees' victory over the Cincinnati Reds -- an eighth-inning game-tying solo homer in Game 3 and a two-run homer in the Game 5 Series clincher.

"He was a great guy.  He loved people and did a lot for charity," Moose Skowron said. "I'll never forget the year Yogi, Elston [Howard] and Blanch all hit over 20 homers.  He was a key member of that 1961 team and had two clutch homers for us against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.  I remember we were both signed by the same scout, Joe McDermott.  I felt a lot of pride knowing that.  He will be missed."

Of Blanchard's 516 Major League games, 454 came in pinstripes, seeing time as a catcher, first baseman and outfielder. In a career that spanned eight seasons, Blanchard hit .239 with 67 home runs and 200 RBIs. His Yankees tenure came to a close on May 3, 1965, when he was traded with Rollie Sheldon to the Kansas City Athletics for Doc Edwards.

"Johnny was a true Yankee, there's no doubt about that," said Ralph Houk, Blanchard's manager from 1961-63. "Everyone liked him.  He would do anything it took to help win a ballgame.  He would catch, pinch-hit or go play the outfield if it meant the team had a better chance to win."

Blanchard played in 52 games for the A's before finishing the 1965 season with the Milwaukee Braves, retiring after the conclusion of the campaign. He resided in Minnetonka, Minn., and was a regular presence at Yankee Stadium for Old Timers Days in recent seasons.

"He was a great teammate, friend and a true gentleman," Bobby Richardson said. "He loved the game.  Tony Kubek and I were just in New York and spent some time with Johnny.  He was a great friend and I'll miss him tremendously."

Blanchard was also a frequent guest instructor at the twice-annual Yankees Fantasy Camps in Tampa, Fla., known to pepper his own team's players with his sarcastic wit and playful banter.

"Johnny was a funny guy and a great storyteller," Bob Turley said. "He was always happy.  Everyone loved him and loved being around him.  He was one heck of a hitter, too."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.