Ralph Houk, who won the World Series in 1961 and 1962 in his first two seasons as manager of the New York Yankees, died Wednesday in Winter Haven, Fla. He was 90.
Houk went on to lead the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox in a 20-year managerial career. His family told the Red Sox that he died of natural causes after a brief illness.
Called "The Major" by his players, Houk spent eight seasons as the backup to Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra and played on five World Series-winning teams before succeeding Casey Stengel as manager.
As a manager, Houk guided Yankees teams headed by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford to three consecutive American League pennants and a pair of World Series titles. He then moved into the front office for New York for three years before once again taking over in the dugout. He left the Yankees in 1973.
Ralph George Houk was born Aug. 9, 1919, in Lawrence, Kan., and was a catcher in the Yankees' farm system when the U.S. entered World War II. He enlisted and became an Army Ranger, rising to the rank of major — the source of his later nickname — and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart before the war's end.
Houk returned to the Yankees after the war and appeared in 91 games from 1947 to 1954. He managed in the Yankees' minor league system before returning to the major league club as a coach in 1957. He replaced Stengel as manager in 1961.
His first team, led by Maris' 61 home runs and Mantle's 54, won 109 games and beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the World Series.
The Yankees won the World Series again in 1962, winning 96 games during the regular season and beating the San Francisco Giants in seven games.
New York won 104 games the next season to secure a third consecutive pennant before being swept out of the World Series by the Dodgers.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times