Jerry McNertney’s long and fruitful baseball career, one that included over 30 years in the professional ranks, ended where it started: as a Cyclone. McNertney was a standout player for Iowa State on some of its best teams in school history in the late 1950s and he came back to his alma mater to assist the Cyclones in the early 1990s.
McNertney, a native of Gilbert, Iowa, was a three-year starter at first base for the Cyclones from 1956-58. In McNertney’s junior season (1957), he was a key component on one of the greatest teams in school history. McNertney played in all 27 games that season, batting .302 while driving in 20 runs to pace the Cyclones to their first ever College World Series appearance. The 1957 Big Seven Champions (17-10, 12-7) finished third in the CWS, as the Cyclones posted their best national finish in school history.
The first baseman batted .315 and cranked out three homers in his senior season in 1958, as ISU went 8-15 overall. After his senior campaign, McNertney signed with the Chicago White Sox organization, where the Sox switched McNertney to catcher a couple of years later when the club had low numbers of quality backstops. He spent seven years in the minors, winning two league championships. McNertney made his major league debut in 1964, splitting time at catcher for the White Sox.
He played four seasons with the White Sox until getting selected in the 1969 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots. He hit .241 and had career highs of eight home runs and 55 runs batted in while appearing in a career-best 128 games in Seattle. While with the Pilots, McNertney was the starting catcher for a little-known pitcher named Jim Bouton. Bouton would later become world-famous, writing a tell-all behind-the-scenes baseball book “Ball Four.” McNertney’s name was referenced several times in the best-seller. The Pilots moved to Milwaukee the next year, where McNertney again spent time behind the plate. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 and batted a career-high .289. He was dubbed the “Weekend Warrior” during his time with the Cardinals because he was the starting catcher for all weekend games while subbing for regular starter Ted Simmons, who spent the weekends fulfilling his U.S. Army Reserve obligations.
In all, McNertney played in 10 major league seasons for five different teams (Chicago White Sox, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates). McNertney finished his major league career appearing in 590 games while recording, 1,423 at bats, 27 home runs, 163 RBI, a .237 batting average and a career fielding percentage of .987. His career 337 hits and 163 RBI are the most-ever produced by a former Cyclone hardballer.
After his pro career, McNertney came back to Ames to finish up his bachelor’s degree, graduating in 1975. Soon after, McNertney received a phone call from a former White Sox friend, Pete Ward, who encouraged him to accept a job with the Yankees AAA team in Syracuse. He coached there for 10 years, winning the league championship and the Governor’s Cup three-straight times from 1979-81. In a seven-year period, the team won five league championships. McNertney coached in the major leagues for both the Yankees and the Red Sox, working as the bullpen coach. In his entire professional career, McNertney had the opportunity to coach with such names as Lou Piniella, Bucky Dent, Buck Showalter, Charlie Lau, Jeff Torborg and Yogi Berra.
McNertney left professional baseball following the 1988 season, spending his last season as an assistant with Joe Morgan’s 1988 Boston Red Sox American League Eastern Division champion team. He once again returned to Ames, this time to assist the Cyclone baseball program. He spent eight years as an assistant (1989-96), working primarily with the catchers. The Cyclones twice advanced to the championship game of the Big Eight Conference baseball tournament during his coaching tenure with the Cyclones. The McNertney legacy continued to thrive at Iowa State with both of his children playing for the Cyclones. His son, Jason, was a member of the ISU baseball team from 1998-2001 and his daughter, Molly, competed for the Cyclone softball team from 2000-03.