Norm Sherry, whose suggestion to the future Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax when they were teammates helped Koufax reach his potential and become one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, died on Monday in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. He was 89.
His death, at an assisted living facility, was confirmed by his son, Mike.
Sherry, a catcher, played just five years in the majors, hitting .215 with 18 home runs and 69 runs batted in. He was with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1959 to 1962 and finished his career with the Mets in 1963.
But it was his contributions without a bat that helped along Koufax’s career. He also offered guidance to 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.
After Koufax walked his first three hitters, Sherry visited the mound. He suggested that Koufax take some speed off his fastball to gain better control. Koufax, who had been plagued with control problems before then, went on to be cement his name in baseball history.
“He had a good eye for people’s talent and what they were doing wrong,” Mike Sherry said.
Norman Burt Sherry was born on July 16, 1931, in New York City and moved with his family to Southern California as a boy. He attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles.
Sherry signed with the Dodgers in 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn, and spent seven years in their farm system. His career was interrupted for two years of Army service in Germany.
Sherry’s brother, Larry, a relief pitcher, spent 11 seasons in the major leagues. He was the Most Valuable Player in the 1959 World Series, when he and Norm were teammates on the Dodgers (although Norm didn’t play).
On May 7, 1960, the brothers became the first all-Jewish battery in Major League Baseball history.
Sherry began his managerial career in the Dodgers’ minor league system in 1965. He scouted for a year with the Yankees before returning to managing in the California Angels’ system in 1969.
He managed the Angels to a combined record of 76-71 in 1976 and 1977 before being fired. He was one of the few Jewish managers in major league history.
He later coached for the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
Besides his son, Sherry is survived by two daughters, Cyndi and Pam, from his first marriage. His second wife, Linda, died before him.
Mike Sherry recalled that his father was once coaching a minor league game 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.”