BOSTON — Ralph Houk, who managed the powerhouse New York Yankees of the early 1960s to two World Series championships during a 20-year career, died Wednesday. He was 90.
Houk also skippered the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox in a managerial career that spanned three decades.
Houk, who was born in Lawrence, was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.
Before reaching the big leagues with the Yankees in 1947, Houk served in the Army in World War II and rose to the rank of major — a moniker that stuck even when he returned to baseball.
Houk spent parts of eight seasons as a backup catcher for New York, appearing in just 91 games. Former Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek, who played for Houk in the minors and majors with New York, said Houk learned a lot about handling a pitching staff from working with Hall of Famer catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey in the bullpen.
"He had the Yankees' spirit, the Yankees' winning attitude," Kubek said. "He had all the qualities that make a special manager."
Houk managed 3,157 games and won 1,619 with a winning percentage of .514. After leaving the Yankees in 1973, he went to Detroit and managed the Tigers from 1974-78. His final stint in the dugout came with Boston from 1981-84.
Houk's best seasons as a manager were his first three in New York. He took over the Yankees in 1961 and behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris the team won 109 games and a World Series championship.
The Yankees repeated as champions in 1962 and won the AL pennant in 1963, but were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
Houk is survived by his daughter, Donna Houk Slaboden, his son Robert Houk and four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.