Always a crowd favorite in New York, Cerone, a New Jersey native, was able to play near home when the Yankees acquired him from the Blue Jays after 1979. Cerone’s finest season was 1980, when he finished seventh in AL MVP voting and had career highs in batting average (.277), home runs (14), and RBI (85).
Cerone earned the respect of his teammates by talking back to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after the boss chewed out his team before the decisive Game 5 of the 1981 Divisional Playoffs. Cerone homered in that game, a 7-3 Yankees win.
Injuries hampered Cerone in 1982-84, and he was traded to Atlanta, where he played a year before being traded to Milwaukee. The Yankees signed him as a free agent before 1987, and he played in over 100 games for the first time since 1981. Twice he pitched, allowing no hits and only one walk in two innings, including a strikeout of Texas pitcher Bobby Witt, who was pinch-hitting in a blowout. Let go by the Yankees in 1987, Cerone was picked up by the Red Sox and had renewed success sharing catching duties with Rich Gedman. In his final seasons, Cerone saw action with both New York teams before closing out his career with 33 games for the Expos in 1992.