Lenny YochimBaseball Player/Administrator
His daughter-in-law Linda Yochim confirmed that he died of complications from congestive heart failure.
Yochim, a native of New Orleans, leaves behind a long legacy in baseball first as a player starting in 1947 and then later as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Best known for his screwball and curveball, Yochim was a highly touted prospect when he was signed by the Pirates organization in 1947 out of Holy Cross High School. Circumstances and a sore arm limited him to just two short stints with the big league club in 1951 and 1954.
His major league career consisted of 28.1 innings, a 1-2 record, 12 strikeouts and a 7.62 ERA.
The bulk of Yochim’s playing career was spent bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A ball, with a good amount of time spent with his hometown club, the New Orleans Pelicans. He pitched 862 innings, winning 60 games and losing 48 during all or parts of nine seasons with the Pelicans from 1948-1956.
But his greatest career highlight came Dec. 8, 1955 when he earned the distinction of being the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a professional game in Venezuela while pitching for the Caracas Lions. The Lions won that game 3-0.
If there was one regret Yochim may have had during his playing career is that he didn’t get the opportunity he had hoped for with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I didn’t like the way things transpired sometimes, but I figured if you want to be in baseball this is what you have to do,” Yochim said recently to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. “You go all the way out to Hollywood, California for spring training and you think you are going to be with the Triple-A club but 25 days later when it comes down to cut down the general manager comes out there and says, `send Lenny home. Send him back to New Orleans.
“But I just packed up my wife and two kids at that time and drove back to New Orleans. I’m satisfied with the career that I had.”
After his sore arm finally forced him to retire from playing baseball in 1956 following a 19-game stint with the Atlanta Braves organization, Yochim became a scout for the Pirates and also worked in their front office. He was a senior adviser for player personnel from 1997 until his retirement in 2002.
In 1996, Yochim received the Pride of Pirates Award for his 30 years of dedicated service to the Pirates organization.
But there is no question that Yochim’s fondest years in baseball came on the mound with his hometown club. The Pelicans never won the Southern Association during his time there but they were usually competitive.
“We had some good players here in New Orleans,” Yochim said. “We should have done a lot better than we did. We came close a couple of times but we just didn’t have the final touch to do it.”
Yochim, who remained well known in New Orleans circles and had been active in the baseball community, felt a connection with the Pelicans as an organization though the minor league squad and team name had been gone from New Orleans since 1960.
Recently, owner Tom Benson decided to rebrand the city’s NBA team as the Pelicans. That news did not sit well with Yochim though he seemed at peace with the decision.
“It doesn’t bother me. I’m not pissed off, I’m not mad,” Yochim said of Benson’s decision to rename the basketball franchise the Pelicans. “Hell, he owns it (the Pelicans name) so it’s his prerogative to do whatever he wants with it. If that was what he sees fit I wish him well.
“I don’t want everything to go sour. It will be successful because he will wind up with a good ballclub and people like good ballclubs here. It won’t have any real drawback on them being Pelicans. Pelicans is just a name to people. The only people that affects are baseball people and older fans who went out to Pelican Stadium in street cars.”
Ultimately, Yochim was a big part of baseball and the sport was a big part of his life, which was evident by the office in his River Ridge home that was basically a enshrinement to his career in baseball.
“I had a good life doing something I love,” Yochim said.