In baseball, as in all of life, to be in the right place at the right time is a wonderful thing.
So it was with Irv Noren, one of my early Hollywood Stars’ heroes. Generally remembered as a productive if not spectacular outfielder with the New York Yankees, Noren was the Stars’ 1949 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player. That year, the Stars’ finished in first place first with a 109-78 (187 games!) while Noren hit .330 with 29 home runs and 130 RBIs. Noren was also MVP of the Texas League in 1948 when he played for the Ft.Worth Panthers.
Noren still couldn’t crack the lineup of his parent team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Duke Snider, two years younger, had center field sewed up, Carl Furillo was a right field fixture and Gene Hermanski, a proven .290 hitter.
Since the Dodgers had no room for him, Noren’s big league career began with two solid years with the Washington Senators as an outfielder and first baseman. His 1950 stats: .295, 14 HR and 98 RBIs; in 1951, .279, 8 and 86.
Then, good luck struck. In May 1952, the Senators traded Noren along with Tom Upton to the Yankees for Jackie Jensen, Spec Shea, Jerry Snyder and Archie Wilson.
Yankee manager Casey Stengel foretold of Noren, “This fellow is big, smart and has all of the potential.”
Noren donned pinstripes just in time to be part of World Series championship teams in 1952, 1953 and 1956 and the American League title in 1955. For Noren, his trade represented going over night from the bottom of the baseball barrel in Washington to cashing World Series checks.
The trade was a sweet one for the Yankees, too. Not only did Noren provide a solid left handed bat, he platooned at two positions. Stengel juggled Johnny Mize, Joe Collins and Noren at first base. In the outfield, Stengel’s interchangeable players were Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling and Noren.
As recounted in Jane Leavy’s 2010 biography of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy, Noren also figured in Mantle’s historic 1953 home run out of Griffith Stadium. At batting practice that day, April 17, 1953, Noren told Mantle he might be able to hit a ball out of the park. “I played there two years,” Noren told Leavy. “I knew the ballpark pretty good. The wind was blowing out a little–not a gale. And I always thought he had more power right-handed.”
At the end of the 1956 season, the Yankees traded Noren to the Kansas City Athletics with Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Billy Hunter and three others in exchange for Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Clete Boyer and three minor league prospects.
From 1957 to 1960, Noren played infrequently for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring.
But Noren remained in baseball as a minor league manager and major league coach. While piloting the Hawaii Islanders from 1962-1963, then the Los Angeles Angels AAA affiliate, Noren established a rule that any player who reported sunburned at game time would be fined $50.
Although no longer a Yankee, Noren would have one more taste of World Series money. As a coach for the Oakland Athletics from 1972-1974, Noren cashed three more checks.
Noren played in the 1954 All Star Game and in 1946-1947 was a member of the National Basketball League’s Chicago American Gears where he teamed with the great George Mikan. In 1947, the Gears defeated the Rochester Royals to win the NBL Championship.
Now age 86, Noren lives in Pasadena.