Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Len Yochim: The Kid From New Orleans

 Len Yochim was a big left-handed pitcher signed out of New Orleans by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. His brother Ray had signed with the Cardinals back in 1941 and had already experienced some success in the minor leagues.

Success came quickly to Len in the minors. In 1947 he went 20-6 with a 3.25 ERA for Iberia in the D level Evangeline League. From 1948 until 1954, Yochim pitched all or part of each season with his hometown New Orleans Pelicans. In the midst of this he had two brief appearances in the Majors with the Pirates.

In 1951 Yochim made two starts in September with Pittsburgh, including beating Jim Wilson and the Boston Braves 6-5 in his debut, despite issuing eight walks. Unfortunately he did not make it out of the second inning in his final start of the season against Cincinnati.

During the next two seasons, Yochim won a total of 25 games with New Orleans, but did not reach the Majors again until 1954, when he pitched in a total of 10 games with the Pirates, all but one in relief. His last appearance came on June 19th, when he allowed three runs over three innings of relief in a mop-up role in an 11-2 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. His performance was further marred by four wild pitches, including three in the 7th inning, which tied a National League record.

Over his brief Major League career, Yochim posted a 1-2 record and 7.62 ERA in 12 games, including three starts. In 28.1 career innings he had a 12/19 strikeout/walk ration and gave up two home runs, including one to Willie Mays. Yochim experienced much more success in the minors, with 109 career wins and a 3.79 ERA.

Despite not sticking in the Major Leagues, a highlight for Yochim came on December 8, 1955 when he threw the first no-hitter in the history of the Winter League, guiding his Caracas team to a 3-0 victory over Ramon Monzant and the Magallanes Navigators. He was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates for his efforts.

Yochim went on to a lengthy stint as a scout with the Pirates, He still loves to talk about baseball and was gracious enough to answer some of my questions. Below is a conversation we had this past year.

Growing up, who was your favorite player?: Ted Williams. New Orleans Pelicans had a working agreement with the Red Sox in 1946 and 1947.

Who did you first tell that you were going to the Major Leagues?: My wife and then my family; mother, dad, brothers, and sisters.

Who was your favorite manager or coach?: I got along with all my coaches and managers. I was not a troublemaker. I was always ready to pitch or play. I signed with my home team Pelicans after being courted by scouts from the Boston Braves and Cincinnati. They made offers and then reversed them.

Did any players take you under their wing when you reached the Majors?: In my time it wasn’t likely a veteran would take a rookie under his wing, you made it on your own.

What is your favorite hobby?: Doing what needs to be done around the house, that keeps me busy. Also I have a group of former players who meet every Thursday for lunch. With our ages we are losing too many.

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