LOS ANGELES — Norm Sherry, whose suggestion to Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Sandy Koufax helped the future Hall of Fame pitcher reach his potential, has died. He was 89.
Sherry died Monday of natural causes at an assisted living facility in San Juan Capistrano, California, his son Mike told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
He played just five years in the majors, hitting .215 with 18 home runs and 69 RBIs. He was with the Dodgers from 1959-62 and finished his career with the Mets in 1963.
But it was Sherry’s contributions without a bat that helped along the careers of Koufax and Don Sutton, another Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers who died in January.
In 1961, Koufax was pitching and Sherry was catching against the Minnesota Twins in a spring training game in Florida. Koufax was struggling with his control, something that had plagued the left-hander up to that point.
Koufax walked his first three hitters, prompting Sherry to visit the mound. He suggested Koufax take some speed off his fastball to gain better control. The advice helped contribute to Koufax’s turnaround, and he went on to be hailed as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball.
“He had a good eye for people’s talent and what they were doing wrong,” Mike Sherry told the AP by phone. “He helped them with some subtle direction. He was really low-key and unassuming.”
Born Norman Burt Sherry on July 16, 1931 in New York City, he moved with his family to Southern California as a youngster. He attended Fairfax High in Los Angeles.
Sherry first signed with the Dodgers after a tryout while they were still in Brooklyn in 1950. He spent seven years in the team’s farm system. His career was interrupted while serving two years in the U.S. Army based in Germany.
Sherry’s brother, Larry, also made it to the majors as a relief pitcher for 11 seasons. He was the Most Valuable Player in the 1959 World Series, when he and Norm were teammates on the Dodgers. Norm didn’t play in that series.
On May 7, 1960, the brothers became the first all-Jewish battery in MLB history.
In 1965, Sherry began his managerial career in the Dodgers minor league system. He scouted for a year with the New York Yankees, and returned to managing in the California Angels’ system in 1969.
He managed the Angels to a combined record of 76-71 in 1976 and ’77 before being fired. He was one of the small number of Jewish managers in MLB history.
Sherry then returned to the coaching ranks, where he worked for the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
Mike Sherry recalled his father was coaching a minor league game in the South one summer when all the available catchers were injured.
“He had to activate himself and this was way past when he had been playing,” said the younger Sherry, who served as a batboy. “He hit a double and he was on second and the guy had a base hit, so he had to round third and go home. He was so gassed, but I was so impressed. That was a cool memory because I didn’t remember him playing.”
Besides his son, Sherry is survived by daughters Cyndi and Pam from his first marriage to wife Marty. He was predeceased by his second wife Linda.