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Joe Pignatano, last living coach of 1969 Miracle Mets, dies at 92

Joe PIgnatano
Joe Pignatano (left) with 1969 Mets coaches Eddie Yost (center) and Yogi Berra (right).
Wikimedia Commons

New York baseball icon Joe Pignatano, an original member of the 1962 Mets and the last living member of the team’s 1969 World Series coaching staff, died on Monday morning in Florida at the age of 92.

Pignatano had been battling dementia. 

The Brooklyn native dedicated his life to baseball and never strayed too far from home to do so. 

After attending Westinghouse High School, he made his MLB debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957 — the final season the team played in New York before jettisoning out west for Los Angeles. 

It was Pignatano who caught the final outs ever thrown at Ebbets Field in the team’s 2-0 home finale that season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

He moved with the Dodgers out West where he spent three more seasons — winning a World Series in 1959 though never playing in more than 92 games in a campaign — before spending the 1961 season with the Kansas City Athletics. 

After starting the 1962 season with the San Francisco Giants, Pignatano had his homecoming when he was purchased by the expansion Mets. He played just 27 games for Casey Stengal’s men, which would be the last time he played in the majors.

He batted .234 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI over his six-year playing career. 

In 1965, he joined the Washington Senators as a coach alongside manager Gil Hodges, who also just so happened to be a Brooklyn icon and a former teammate with the Dodgers.

The two stuck together and moved back to Queens in 1968 when Hodges was named manager of the Mets while Pignatano settled into his now-famous role as bullpen coach. 

On a coaching staff that also included Yogi Berra and Eddie Yost, Pignatano helped steer the Mets under Hodges to one of the most improbable World Series titles ever in 1969 when the 100-win club — which hadn’t won more than 73 games in a season — upset the Baltimore Orioles in five games. 

Pignatano stayed with the Mets after Hodges’ unexpected death in 1972, performing as bullpen coach until 1981.

In the meantime, he famously cultivated a vegetable garden near the practice mounds in the pen, was a mainstay during pregame batting practice where he often socialized with fans, and was the cousin of Mets legend John Franco. 

His loss comes just four months after learning that his best friend, Hodges, was finally elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pignatano is survived by his two children, Neil and Frank, and two grandchildren. 

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