Bob Turley, Cy Young winner and seasonal Marco resident, dies at 82

Bob Turley was a hard-throwing right-hander who called Marco Island his winter home. Turley's best season was 1958, when he won 21 games and lost seven for the Yankees. As a result, he won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year (over candidates such as Wilt Chamerlain and Arnold Palmer), the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, and the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Turley picked up the nickname 'Bullet Bob' in Baltimore, but not because he threw harder than anybody else. Look magazine wanted to time his fastball for a story. They borrowed a bullet timer from Aberdeen Proving Grounds and set it on home plate. Turley fired his fastball through the bullet timer at just over 98. By today's standards, with radar guns aimed at the pitcher's release point, that would be 103. A fastball loses about five mph by the time it reaches the plate.

Courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society

Bob Turley was a hard-throwing right-hander who called Marco Island his winter home. Turley's best season was 1958, when he won 21 games and lost seven for the Yankees. As a result, he won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year (over candidates such as Wilt Chamerlain and Arnold Palmer), the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, and the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Turley picked up the nickname "Bullet Bob" in Baltimore, but not because he threw harder than anybody else. Look magazine wanted to time his fastball for a story. They borrowed a bullet timer from Aberdeen Proving Grounds and set it on home plate. Turley fired his fastball through the bullet timer at just over 98. By today's standards, with radar guns aimed at the pitcher's release point, that would be 103. A fastball loses about five mph by the time it reaches the plate.

Pitching staff for the New York Yakees shown September 5, 1957.  (Left to Right): Bob Turley, Whitey Ford, Tom Sturdivant, Bobby Shantz and Bob Grim. (AP PHoto)

Pitching staff for the New York Yakees shown September 5, 1957. (Left to Right): Bob Turley, Whitey Ford, Tom Sturdivant, Bobby Shantz and Bob Grim. (AP PHoto)

Keynote speaker Bob Turley related his experiences on Marco island in the 1950s and '60s. File

Naples Daily News

Keynote speaker Bob Turley related his experiences on Marco island in the 1950s and '60s. File

Bob Turley made a name for himself in 1958, pitching for the New York Yankees. He made his fortune, which allowed him to build what was once the biggest home on Marco Island, revolutionizing the insurance business.

Turley died of liver cancer Saturday at a hospice in Atlanta. He was 82.

In his 12-year Major League Baseball career, Turley, known as Bullet Bob, compiled a 101-85 record playing for five teams. But the highlight of his career came with the Yankees in 1958 when he went 21-7, was named to the All-Star team, won the Cy Young Award and finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting. He also earned World Series MVP honors after guiding the Bronx Bombers past the Milwaukee Braves. Turley started three games in the World Series, winning two, including Game 7.

To reward him for his accomplishments, the Yankees also gave Turley a $7,000 raise in 1959, bumping his salary to $32,000.

“His highest salary was never more than $35,000,” Turley’s son Terry recalled.

Turley was well known on Marco Island and Naples as someone who made a hobby of buying and selling homes. He built a 13,500 square feet home in 1988 on Copeland Avenue. The Islanders referred to it as the “Turley Mansion” or the “Turley Castle.”

In 1996, Turley put the home up for sale and a Realtor promoted it as the Turley Castle. Tim Ferris purchased it for $3.25 million, according to Collier County Appraiser records. He now has the home for sale for $9.45 million, according to the Marco Area MLS (Marco Listing Service).

The property totals three acres, with lush tropical gardens, having more than 150 specimen of fruit trees and plants. It has 190 feet of water/open views, the listing says.

Turley’s financial windfall didn’t come from striking out baseball players. His son, Terry Turley, said his father always had a mind for business and even worked in the offseason as a financial consultant.

“My dad was never a drinker or smoker,” Terry Turley said. “He loved playing baseball and was business-oriented his entire life.”

In 1977, Bob Turley, along with businessman Art Williams, formed Primerica, a long-term insurance company. The concept came about during a discussion about what they liked and disliked about the insurance business, Terry Turley said.

The idea revolutionized the insurance business and the company had more than 100,000 sale representatives at one time. “Basically, they championed the concept of not buying cash-value insurance, but less costly term insurance,” Terry Turley said.

Lynn Webb, senior national sales director, who was also involved in the early days, said Primerica’s niche was it only sold long-term insurance.

“Their clients had such savings they had additional money to invest,” said Webb, who has been involved with the company since the early days. “Their favorite saying was ‘Buy term and invest the rest.’”

Turley retired 11 years ago, selling his portion of the business to his son Terry and Webb.

Bob Turley came to Marco Island in 1989, buying a condo at Summit House.

“His hobby became buying and selling houses,” Terry Turley said. “His wife Caroline was involved in the decorating. They improved and sold homes about every 18 months. They bought and sold 27 homes, mostly on Marco and some in Naples.”

More than homes, Rob Turley enjoyed his baseball fame.

In 1948, the East St. Louis, Ill., native signed with the St. Louis Browns for $600 as an amateur free agent. He played in just one big league game with the Browns before going into the Army.

He rejoined the Browns in 1954, when the team moved east and became the Baltimore Orioles. He was traded to the Yankees in 1955 in a 17-player deal that included Don Larsen, who also became a Yankee star.

In 2006 Turley went to New York City for an autograph session with former Yankee Cy Young Award winners that included Whitey Ford, Sparky Lyle and Don Guidry. He told a Daily News reporter he would make more money that weekend than from playing baseball.

Today, on the New York Yankees Shop website, his No. 63 jersey sells for $399 and his autographed baseball in a glass container sells for $99.

But money wasn’t the reason he did autographs.

“He couldn’t understand why players wouldn’t do shows, or signs autographs in their playing days (or later),” Terry Turley said. “He didn’t think it was a bother. He used to say, ‘If you don’t want to be bothered then just retire. No one will bother you after you retire.’”

Bob Turley lived his last two years in Alpharetta Ga. He spent much of his time between Marco, Blue Ridge, Ga. and Big Canoe, Ga.

He is predeceased by son Troy, and survived by wife Caroline, sons Terry and Donald, and daughter Roweena.

Terry Turley said his father will be cremated in Duluth, Ga. There will be a private service and later a public memorial service on April 12, with the location to be one of two funeral homes in Duluth.

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