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Online EasyAce

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Missing Mr. Yogi
« on: December 31, 2018, 10:44:21 PM »
Three years later it still seems as though it got late too early with Yogi Berra not among us.
By Yours Truly
https://throneberryfields.com/2018/12/31/missing-mr-yogi/


Yogi and Carmen Berra, early 1950s. Asked his greatest
achievement, Yogi didn't miss: "Getting her to marry me.
Who'd have thought?"


“Talking baseball with Yogi Berra,” A. Bartlett Giamatti once said, “is like talking to Homer about the gods.” See and raise: Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist and free market champion, was once arranged to have breakfast with Berra. They hit it off, apparently. Berra biographer Allen Barra related him admitting Friedman “is not a baseball fan, and I am not as much a money fan as most people think I am.”

According to Barra, Berra said Friedman told him he’d have gotten a good grade if he’d been in Friedman’s class. “It’s probably true,” Friedman said before his 2006 death. “I think he had a good grasp of basic economic principles, apparently better than some of the better educated people in the Yankee front office that he used to negotiate salaries with. One thing he said that I have always remembered is, ‘A nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore.’ He was right.”

Berra even caught Friedman in the kind of malaprop for which the Hall of Fame catcher was intergalactically famous: they talked a little literature at their breakfast, and Berra—who never minded when the joke was on him—mentioned having met Ernest Hemingway during his playing days and asking what paper he worked for. Friedman stopped laughing long enough to say one of his two favourite Hemingway novels was, quote, The Fisherman and the Sea.

“He meant The Old Man and the Sea,” Berra would say. “Do you suppose anyone called him on it? No. Suppose I had said the same thing.” Small wonder that nobody really believed him when he said he hadn’t said half of ninety percent of what he said. Or, however he said it.

It’s been three years since he went to his reward eighteen months after his beloved wife did. But it still feels as though something is missing from America because Yogi Berra doesn’t walk among us anymore. You might call it something on the silly side to mourn a man who lived 90 years, but it always seemed as though among baseball’s actual or alleged immortals Berra really was immortal, in more ways than one. Even people to whom baseball was about as relevant as life on Atlantis felt a quiet comfort that someone like him happened to be around.

Maybe it was because as accomplished as he really was in the game—he’s the arguable greatest all-around catcher who ever played major league baseball (Johnny Bench is his very close second); he was genuinely respected for his game knowledge and loved as a teammate, coach, and manager; he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer against whom everyone to play his position to follow would be judged; he played on more pennant winners and World Series champions than any player, ever—Berra was one of America’s most famous men while remaining as often as not “blissful(ly) unaware of his own celebrity,” as Barra phrased it.

After friends and family built and opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in his longtime Montclair, New Jersey neighbourhood (“Every museum I ever went to as a kid was named after somebody who was dead,” he cracked), a woman from his native St. Louis visited and was surprised to see him there. “Mr. Berra, could you make up a Yogiism for me?” she asked, referring to the malaprops that were more famous than Berra’s staggering ability to hit out-of-the-zone pitches. “Ma’am,” he replied, “if I could do that, I’d be famous.”

He may be the baseball figure most frequently found in the pages of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, but if you asked him about it he was liable to reply something like, “I wish I could say them when I wanted to because I would have made a fortune by now.”

Berra was a tough customer talking contract with the Yankees every winter and prudent with his money as it was. Savvy enough to spot opportunity’s earliest knock, he and his wife, Carmen, earned a fortune through their association with the old Yoo-Hoo chocolate soft drink, first by his endorsements, then earning a vice presidency when he lured other investors to the company, and finally by holding considerable stock the couple unloaded only when the company changed hands and flavour too often for their taste.

This son of an immigrant Italian brickyardsman who once admitted that in his boyhood the only way he liked school was “closed!” survived D-Day; he was a Navy seaman and gunner who was one of six aboard a 36-foot rocket boat on the waters of Normandy as the invasion began and stayed two weeks. (“You ever try shooting a machine gun on a 36-footer? You could shoot yourself.”) Before his Navy service was over, Berra actually qualified for a Purple Heart—but refused to accept it because he didn’t want to give his mother a heart attack.

(Decades later, when the Mets first hired Berra as a full-time coach and part-time catcher/pinch-hitter, they also had as a pitcher-coach Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, who earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart himself for service that included the Battle of the Bulge. Asked whether they’d make baseball’s oldest battery, the prankish Spahn shrugged. “We’d be the ugliest by far,” he cracked.)

His unawareness of his own celebrity was real nevertheless. “It’s not that hard to get inside his inner circle,” his oldest son, Larry, once said. “Basically, he loves everybody as long as you’re trustworthy and loyal.” If they’re not, look out. When George Steinbrenner fired him through an intermediary as the Yankees’ manager in 1985, after having promised he’d have the job for the full season, Berra famously refused to return to Yankee Stadium or to any Yankee function as long as Steinbrenner owned the team.

It took a Thanksgiving-sized helping of crow, not to mention the insistence of Mrs. Berra and their youngest son, Dale, for Steinbrenner to patch it up. It happened in time for Berra to bring his grandchildren to the Stadium on Yogi Berra Day. Before the game, Berra took a ceremonial first pitch from Don Larsen, whose perfect game in the 1956 World Series Berra caught. Then, after catcher Joe Girardi asked Berra to bless his glove, Yankee pitcher David Cone pitched his own perfect game against the Montreal Expos in an interleague game.

Girardi was far from the only one who believed good fortune came to those within Berra’s reach. “He could fall in a sewer,” his longtime Yankee manager Casey Stengel once said, “and come up with a gold watch.”

It must have shocked those who remembered the squat, plain, awkward-looking kid in his first spring training to discover he’d become the subject of a serious 1997 monograph, The Jurisprudence of Yogi Berra, published by Santa Clara University School of Law professor Gerald F. Uelmen. No Berraism went unanalysed for its legal significance, including and especially what I usually call Berra’s Law: it ain’t over until it’s over:

Quote
Much of the stability and certainty of our legal system rely upon the essence of this Berraism and are in fact contained in the Constitution of the United States. Where would our entire system of jurisprudence be without the concept of appellate review? Indeed, if “it was over when it was over” at the trial or legislative level, much of the work of the Supreme Court would cease to exist, and then so much for our system of checks and balances.
That about the man who once signed an anniversary card with, “Love, Yogi Berra.” Mrs. Berra never let him live that one down, either: “I was actually glad he thought to sign it that way,” she loved to say. “I wouldn’t have wanted to confuse him with all the other Yogis I know.”

As a manager he won two pennants the hard way, with the 1964 Yankees (who needed a stretch drive surge to take the pennant, after being bedeviled earlier in the season by a lack of bullpen consistency until late-season acquisition Pedro Ramos delivered nine key saves) and the 1973 Mets (dead last in the National League East to start September; division and pennant winners to finish the season before losing a seven-game World Series to the Athletics). The latter may have been his managerial masterpiece.

Between and after, until he retired as the Astros’ bench coach in 1989, Berra enhanced a reputation he began earning in his latter Yankee playing seasons, for helping younger players without thinking twice. His personal popularity didn’t hurt at the turnstiles, but team administrators also savoured the prospect of their players and even their managers picking his brain while enjoying his company.

“Yogi was always with the catchers, going through the drills, blocking balls, watching us, laughing with us,” remembered longtime Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. “It was amazing. You could tell how much he was enjoying it. I mean, we’re thinking, this is Yogi Berra. We should be honoured to be in his presence. But the way he acted, it almost was like it was the other way around.”

It’s rare to find people who achieve greatness in the public eye and remain decent people in and out of it. Decent, if imperfect. But even people with renowned senses of humour sometimes find those senses compromised.

Berra took some of baseball’s most merciless ribbing over his looks, the plain face atop a body that looked six parts wrestler and half a dozen parts simian. (Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout, learning of his marriage to the stunning-looking Carmen in 1949, cracked, “Hey, Yogi, I hear ya got married. How does your wife like living in a tree?”) Having the guts to smile through the insults won him as much admiration as his baseball ability and knowledge. (“All you have to do is hit the ball, and I never saw anybody hit one with his face,” he once said.)

He was not amused, though, when animators Hanna-Barbera created Yogi Bear in the 1950s, after a neighbourhood kid hailed him by calling him Yogi Bear. The name nagged him enough to make him wonder whether H-B chose it mockingly. He pondered litigation for defamation of character until he was advised that it wouldn’t hold. Especially since Yogi the bear sounded more like The Honeymooners‘ halfwit sewer worker Ed Norton and behaved more like scheming Sgt. Bilko, two characters for whom Yogi the Berra would never be mistaken.

That was nothing compared to the Yogasm flap five decades later. That’s when TBS ran billboards promoting their syndication of the execrable Sex in the City, the billboards asking the definition of “Yogasm,” with one of the multiple choice answers being “Sex with Yogi Berra.” Berra sued for $10 million because he feared the ads compromised his clean living reputation. (He also hadn’t given the network permission to use his name.)

Some may have thought the very thought of Yogi as a sex symbol even in the breach was, shall we say, the most unheard-of thing they never heard of. The network ended up settling with Berra for an undisclosed amount. Even the most approachable guy in the neighbourhood had his limits. Unless his ever-loving, ever-needling wife couldn’t resist during their pillow talk, and we’ll never know (appropriately), thou shalt not take the name of the Berra thy Yogi in vain.

Harvey Araton, writing of the sweet friendship between Berra and former Yankee pitching star Ron Guidry as spring training coaches in Driving Mr. Yogi, remembered an Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium, during which the scoreboard listed those in the Yankee orbit who’d passed on that year. Guidry and the Yankees’ Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford were made melancholy by the roll, but Berra standing next to Ford turned to him and said, “Boy, I hope I never see my name up there.”

Mrs. Berra once asked her husband, “Yogi, you were born in St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I go, where do you want me to have you buried?” Her husband replied, “Surprise me.” It seemed to surprise as well as sadden America when it saw his name up there, even knowing that when one half of a great love story passes the other isn’t long for this island earth. He finally came to that fork in the road and took it. On his wife’s birthday. Said his granddaughter, Lindsay, herself a sportswriter, “Grandpa wanted spend her birthday with her.”

A lot of us wish Mr. Yogi didn’t have to just yet. But we were sure that Mrs Berra was ready to show him around, advising one and all that they wouldn’t want to confuse him with all the other Yogis they knew. No worries there, this Yogi was one of a kind.


Yogi with Sandy Koufax, at the announcement
of their election to the Hall of Fame.

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« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 12:40:20 PM by EasyAce »

Online Cyber Liberty

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2018, 10:58:32 PM »
We have some balls and mitts from Yogi.  Stuff is in boxes for the move, can't wait to get them set out somewhere.  We have a room for it, much, much bigger than we had. 

Good article!

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Offline Gefn

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2018, 11:45:01 PM »
We have some balls and mitts from Yogi.  Stuff is in boxes for the move, can't wait to get them set out somewhere.  We have a room for it, much, much bigger than we had. 

Good article!

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I like yogi bear
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Online EasyAce

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2018, 11:49:38 PM »
I like yogi bear
@Freya
Oh, I do too---as long as he's not to within ten nautical miles of my pick-a-nick basket!

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2019, 12:09:32 AM »
Don't call it the "Federal Government," that's an insult to the Founders.  It's a "National Government."
I will NOT comply.
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Offline Sanguine

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2019, 12:43:56 AM »
That's great, @EasyAce.  Thanks. 
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Offline GrouchoTex

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2019, 12:51:36 AM »
Nice article, nice memories from a decent soul.

Online Applewood

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2019, 12:54:59 PM »
Many of us know Yogi more for his "Yogi-isms" than his baseball record.  My favorite was in reference to a Steve McQueen movie:  "He must have made that movie before he died." 

This story from Sports Illustrated is kinda cute:

Quote
Yogi told of his meeting with Pope John XXIII in a now-famous interview:
Reporter: “I understand you had an audience with the Pope.”
Yogi: “No, but I saw him.”
Reporter: “Did you get to talk to him?”
Yogi: “I sure did. We had a nice little chat.”
Reporter: “What did he say?”
Yogi: “You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, ‘Hello, Yogi.’ ”
Reporter: “And what did you say?”
Yogi: “I said, ‘Hello, Pope.’ “

Rest in peace, Yogi.  You were the best -- on and off the field.

Online EasyAce

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2019, 02:06:34 PM »
Many of us know Yogi more for his "Yogi-isms" than his baseball record.  My favorite was in reference to a Steve McQueen movie:  "He must have made that movie before he died." 
His baseball record should be impressive. Among other things:

* With Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ regular catcher, Yankee pitchers not named Whitey Ford did better on the mound when throwing to him than they did with anyone else behind the plate, Yankee or otherwise; and, they did better as Yankees with Berra behind the plate than they ever did with any other team for whom they pitched. That group included the one Yankee pitcher not named Ford who was thought to be a Hall of Famer in the making who fell short enough: Allie Reynolds.

(Remember: Before he does anything else on the field or at the plate, unless he's his team's leadoff hitter, the number one job a catcher has is handling his pitching staffs. In one way Berra and Johnny Bench had about an equal chance in that department---Berra's staffs, aside from Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi, were mostly made of one-shots, also-rans, never-weres-otherwise, or flameouts . . . guys like Duke Maas, Tom Sturdivant, Johnny Kucks, Bobby Shantz, Tommy Byrne, Don Larsen, Ryne Duren. But with Berra behind the plate even the marginal relievers did better as Yankees than anywhere else or with any other catcher when Yogi needed a day off. Bench, like Berra, only ever had one bona-fide Hall of Famer to catch, Tom Seaver. Bench's pitching staffs were often talented but bedeviled by injuries or inconsistency, men like Jim Maloney, Sammy Ellis, Mel Queen, Don Gullett, Rawly Eastwick, and Will McEnaney. It'd be a fascinating study to try to figure out why the Reds of the 1960s and 1970s so consistently developed pitchers who were that prone to arm and shoulder miseries.)

* Only two men in major league history have hit 350+ lifetime home runs while striking out less than 500 times: Berra, and Joe DiMaggio. (In case you were wondering, Berra never struck out 40 times or more in any season and, in five of his seasons, his home runs out-numbered his strikeouts. For any hitter that would be an impressive achievement. For a classic bad-ball hitter who’d swing at anything that was anywhere within Yankee Stadium’s ZIP code—oops, Berra played before the ZIP code—that’s an unbelievable achievement.)

* Between Berra’s rookie season (1947) and the first season of expansion (1961, when the American League introduced the Angels and the second Washington Senators), only one man in baseball drove in more runs than Berra: Stan Musial. (Classic Berra: Before one All-Star game, Berra happened upon a meeting of American League pitchers when the subject was pitching to Musial and cracked, “Forget it. You guys are trying to figure out in fifteen minutes what nobody’s figured out in fifteen years.”)

* Berra is compared most often to Johnny Bench, but those who argue for Bench’s superiority must confront the fact that Yogi

a) led his league in putouts eight times, assists five, defensive double plays six, and fielding percentage twice, to Bench leading his in putouts twice, assists once, defensive double plays once, and fielding percentage once.

b) needed 38 fewer total games to drive in 54 more runs, score 83 more, strike out 864 fewer times, ground into 55 fewer double plays, and hit for a higher lifetime slash line.

c) has a higher percentage of successfully throwing out would-be base stealers: 48 percent to Bench's 43 percent.

d) was slightly better at fielding bunts and turning them into outs: Berra was three points above his league's average; Bench, two.

And as his eventual biographer Allen Barra once noted, the fact that Yogi Berra played on more pennant winning teams and in more World Series while winning more World Series rings than anyone who ever played the game just might make him the single greatest team player ever to play any team sport.

Offline goatprairie

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2019, 09:48:44 PM »
Only the Yankees would fire managers for not winning a WS. Stengel after losing in 1960 on Mazeroski's famous ninth inning walk off homer and Berra in '64 in seven games to the Cardinals. I remember the last game of the latter. I think Bob Gibson gave up two or  three dingers and still won.

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2019, 12:11:03 AM »
Only the Yankees would fire managers for not winning a WS. Stengel after losing in 1960 on Mazeroski's famous ninth inning walk off homer and Berra in '64 in seven games to the Cardinals. I remember the last game of the latter. I think Bob Gibson gave up two or  three dingers and still won.
@goatprairie
Berra didn't know it at the time, but his 1964 skids were greased well before that World Series. In fact, it's one of the greatest baseball double-crosses of all time.

The skinny:

1) After the Yankees lost the 1963 Series to the Los Angeles Koufaxes (it was, of course, the first time they were ever swept in a World Series), they were presented with an unexpected quandary when general manager Roy Hamey decided to retire while the retiring was good. That prompted then-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb---who were already contemplating selling the team---to move manager Ralph Houk into the job Hamey vacated.

2) The Yankees couldn't help noticing the Mets' surreal popularity. Assembled from National League and other castoffs, veterans, and washed-ups for 1962, the Mets took hold of New York's heart and wouldn't let go. A lot of it had to do with their manager — Casey Stengel. The man who'd managed the Yankees to a surreal ten pennants and seven World Series rings (including a term-opening streak of five straight rings) in 12 seasons now managed the Mets to ... who knew what, other than the National League's basement?

All anyone knew was that New York (and, in fairness, many National League fans around the country) fell in love with this troupe who proved baseball's greatest traveling comedy show. It never crossed the Yankees' minds that — allowing that the National League hadn't been in business in New York since the end of 1957 — the toddling Mets in their surreal incompetence seemed more human than the smugger-than-thou Yankees.

3) In need of a new manager with Houk kicked upstairs, the number one thing on the Yankees' mind was finding a manager who had any kind of box office appeal even remotely comparable to Stengel's. And their options in-house were limited. Mickey Mantle wasn't quite ready to retire, no matter what his body might have been trying to tell him. (And, in fairness, not even the most cynical Yankee boss would have let Mantle even think about managing a team when he could barely manage himself.) Neither was Whitey Ford, long the brainiest pitcher in the American League, even with injuries beginning to catch up to him, too.

4) Yogi Berra, on the other hand, was ready to retire as a player. He'd been a player-coach for 1963 and figured to become a full-time coach with the Yankees. Except that the Baltimore Orioles made him an offer he almost couldn't refuse---then-Orioles GM Lee MacPhail offered Berra the job. And since Berra had a) baseball smarts to burn (Stengel usually called him "my assistant manager," and he wasn't even close to kidding); and, b) more box-office appeal than any Yankee not named Mantle or Ford; therefore, c) Houk decided as the new GM that Yogi was the man to manage the Yankees.

5) It probably didn't hurt that Topping and Webb needed to make the Yankees just that much more attractive to potential buyers than a measly closet full of pennants and World Series titles and a legendary ballpark could do by themselves. The Yankees were already showing their age. The farm system was parched enough; the few bona fide prospects in the Yankee system by the mid-1960s would prove to be journeyman major leaguers at best for one or another reason. And, the coaching staff suffered a shakeup when respected pitching coach Johnny Sain was fired in favor of making Ford a pitcher-coach.

6) The Yankees struggled in the earlier part of the 1964 season. Part of it was mutual growing pains between the team and their new manager who'd only just been their teammate the previous season. Part of it was also Houk somewhat deviously leaving his door open to any players who wanted to gripe about Berra behind his back. Part of it was Yogi's early inconsistency in handling his bullpen pitchers. Bill Veeck (in The Hustler's Handbook) isolated the issue well enough:

Quote
He was using his long relievers short and his short relievers long, and like all new managers he was waiting too long before he got his starting pitchers out of there. Still, he was operating under a major handicap. The relief pitcher who can come in over the last two innings and get the other side out can cover up a multitude of sins. Yogi didn't have him. Except for one brief period early in the season when Steve Hamilton was stopping them, and the final month of the season when they had [Pedro] Ramos, the Yankee bullpen was useless.

7) By the end of July 1964, the Yankees were sold---to CBS. Who probably knew about as much about running a baseball organisation as the Beatles knew about running a television network. And it didn't help that the sale itself was controversial and could have gotten the Yankees into a lot of trouble under different league leadership, because . . .

a) American League president Joe Cronin (himself a Hall of Fame shortstop) tried to ram the sale through by way of a telephone/telegraph vote—against league rules, which required a vote at an official, formal, in-person meeting unless the vote was known to be unanimous in the making. And this one wasn't, because . . .

b) Two owners—Charlie Finley of the Kansas City Athletics, Arthur Allyn of the Chicago White Sox—were ready to vote no to the sale. Eight teams needed to approve the deal. And Baltimore owner Joe Iglehart, whose employee Berra might have become if Lee MacPhail had had his way, was considered the swing vote who just might join Finley and Allyn. Might.

c) But Iglehart had one whale of a conflict of interest of his own: he not only owned the Orioles, he chaired CBS's Financial Board and owned considerable enough CBS stock. He ended up voting to approve the sale and unloading his Oriole ownership posthaste.

And even that was nothing compared to the devious double switch the Yankees planned to execute at Berra's expense.

8) Even as the CBS deal was in the works, Houk decided he was going to dump Berra at season's end no matter how it ended. Veeck swore Houk told CBS the Yankees weren't going to win the pennant and it was all Yogi's fault and everything would be rosy once the Yankees could dump him at season's end. What Houk didn't tell anyone, publicly, anyway, was that he had a potential successor in mind as well.

9) Houk's target was Cardinals manager Johnny Keane, who was being victimised by similar deviousness to that making a chump out of Berra. He had enough trouble keeping the Cardinals in the race without players going behind his back to then-GM Bing Devine. The difference was that Devine might let them air it out, but Devine stood by his man. He knew Keane at the time was a players' manager who was particularly deft with the Cardinals' black players and in knocking down suspicions between them and the team's white players, but he made it plain that Keane was there to stay.

10) But Keane soon learned something Devine didn't know: the Cardinals were greasing his skids, too; particularly, owner Gussie Busch was succumbing to the proddings of Branch Rickey, then an advisor to the team, and of broadcaster Harry Caray. And they were pushing Busch to think about dumping Keane and hiring then-Dodger coach Leo Durocher to succeed him after the season.

11) Somehow, through a back channel (because a public overture would have gotten both men in hot water), Houk learned that Keane would indeed be interested in the Yankee gig if Berra was facing a date with the guillotine. It got even trickier when the Cardinals, for whatever damn fool reason, dumped Devine in August 1964. It now looked as though both the Cardinals and the Yankees had accepted that they were going nowhere but home come October.

What happened next upended everyone in and around baseball:

* The Phillies collapsed spectacularly, thanks to the infamous September ten-game losing streak, going from having the pennant in the bank to a season-ending weekend that in theory could have ended in a three-way tie for the National League pennant.

* The last National League team standing proved to be the Cardinals — and they had to win on the final day of the regular season. The Mets, of all people, beat them in the first two games of that season-ending set, including stout Met left-hander Al Jackson (a Stengel favorite who often pitched in hard luck) out-dueling Bob Gibson to throw a 1-0 shutout in the set opener. (The game's only run came in the third inning, when Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool singled home George Altman.) On the same weekend, the Phillies lost their final two to the Reds, letting both finish tied for second, one game back of the Cardinals.

* The Yankees took over first place in the American League between August and September, aided by two pitchers: rookie call-up Mel Stottlemyre, who went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA down the stretch including a five-game winning streak; and, veteran pickup Pedro Ramos, a journeyman starter who proved lights out out of the bullpen, saving several key September games. They took first place to stay September 17, but still had to ward off continued tight challenges from the White Sox and the Orioles.

* The day after the World Series ended, Keane shocked Busch at the press conference Busch called to announce his re-hiring---by handing Busch his letter of resignation. Berra went to the Yankee offices thinking he'd been called in to start making plans for the 1965 season ... and came out with his head in a guillotine's catch basket. Bless his soul, Yogi probably had no clue at the time to the wheeling and dealing that preceded it, including the prospect of Keane, the man who'd just defeated him in the World Series, becoming his successor, which is exactly what happened a few days after the double switch.

* Publicly, the Yankees let it be circulated that Yogi got his because he hadn't done a good job. What nobody in the Yankee hierarchy ever explained satisfactorily was this: If Berra was such a horrible manager, how the hell did the Yankees manage to win that pennant by winning thirty out of forty-three games, including one eleven-game winning streak and fifteen of their final nineteen games. "Unless I have been sadly misinformed by all those sensation-seeking columnists," Veeck wrote, "the manager during that stretch run was Yogi Berra."

And, as the man used to say on the radio, now you know the rest of the story.

Online EasyAce

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2019, 12:13:06 AM »
Only the Yankees would fire managers for not winning a WS . . .
Try this one on for size: Rogers Hornsby won the 1926 World Series as the Cardinals' player-manager . . . and was traded after the World Series, to the New York Giants, in the deal that made a Cardinal player-manager out of Frankie Frisch.

Offline goatprairie

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2019, 02:37:13 PM »
Try this one on for size: Rogers Hornsby won the 1926 World Series as the Cardinals' player-manager . . . and was traded after the World Series, to the New York Giants, in the deal that made a Cardinal player-manager out of Frankie Frisch.
It's sort of a mystery why more hasn't been written about Hornsby considered by many to be the greatest right-handed hitter in NL history.
A few years ago I read a bio of Hornsby. One story was about when he was near 60 and fat and out of shape as a hitting coach for the Giants in the early fifties.
He was trying to teach a bunch of young Giants  how to hit to the opposite field. One of the young Giants included Alvin Dark.
After taking a considerable amount of strong criticism from Hornsby for failing to do/hit as Hornsby directed, Dark threw his bat down and angrily asked Hornsby if he could do better.
Hornsby told Dark to give him his bat and stepped into the batting cage.
Dark said his jaw dropped in wonder as Hornsby hit ball after ball against the right field wall or into the seats. Then Hornsby threw the bat down saying "that's how you do it."
Hornsby wasn't generally liked by most of the people he played with or managed. Not the most loving personality.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 02:37:44 PM by goatprairie »

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2019, 03:22:24 PM »
It's sort of a mystery why more hasn't been written about Hornsby considered by many to be the greatest right-handed hitter in NL history.
Those who consider him the greatest righthanded hitter in National League history didn't really see Willie Mays play and forget that Hornsby played in an era far more conducive to fat batting statistics than Mays did. (Bank on it: if Hornsby and his generation including Babe Ruth had played in the night ball era, their fat batting stats wouldn't have been quite that fat. It's probably more fair to say Hornsby was the National League's best right-handed hitter of the pre-World War II/pre-night ball era.)

A few years ago I read a bio of Hornsby. One story was about when he was near 60 and fat and out of shape as a hitting coach for the Giants in the early fifties.
He was trying to teach a bunch of young Giants  how to hit to the opposite field. One of the young Giants included Alvin Dark.
After taking a considerable amount of strong criticism from Hornsby for failing to do/hit as Hornsby directed, Dark threw his bat down and angrily asked Hornsby if he could do better.
Hornsby told Dark to give him his bat and stepped into the batting cage.
Dark said his jaw dropped in wonder as Hornsby hit ball after ball against the right field wall or into the seats. Then Hornsby threw the bat down saying "that's how you do it."
Hornsby wasn't generally liked by most of the people he played with or managed. Not the most loving personality.
Hornsby was actually one of the most hated men in baseball going back to his playing days---his teams tended to look for the earliest feasible excuse to be rid of him no matter how well he hit. The Cardinals actually tried trading him to the Giants for Frisch a couple of years before they actually got the deal, but at that time the Giants weren't ready to lose Frisch---only when Frisch fell out with manager John McGraw were the Giants willing to make the deal. Hornsby probably only lasted as long as he did as a player because he could flat out hit. His penchant for playing the horses at every known opportunity also tended to rub teammates, managers, and owners the wrong way, too; he had a reputation as a man who'd be willing to be late for even a World Series game if he thought he might make a score at the track.

As a manager, he was respected for his game knowledge and despised for, well, just about everything else, including and especially his contempt for pitchers no matter how good they were. When Bill Veeck hired him back to the St. Louis Browns to manage them for 1952, Hornsby didn't last past 51 games. His players came to hate him so much than when Veeck canned Hornsby, they presented Veeck with a trophy engraved: TO BILL VEECK: FOR THE GREATEST PLAY SINCE THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. NED GARVER AND THE PLAYERS OF THE ST. LOUIS BROWNS. Hornsby tried to claim the trophy was a stunt dreamed up by a Veeck underling, but Veeck himself (in his memoir Veeck: As in Wreck) said he was surprised completely by the trophy.

(Ned Garver, of course, was the Browns pitcher who was a 20-game winner for the dead-last 1951 Browns and is still the only pitcher in history to win 20 or more with a team losing 100 or more games in a season. He was one of six 20-game winners in the American League that year, along with Bob Feller, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Mike Garcia, and Early Wynn. Garver's place in major league history rests on that season not just for his 20 wins but because he was part of the only three-way tie for first-place American League Most Valuable Player Award votes ever---Garver and two Yankees, Yogi Berra and Allie Reynolds, tied with six first place votes each. Berra won the award, his first of three MVPs, by way of his showing in the second-through-tenth-place votes, and Yogi was actually surprised to win the award: he though Reynolds was likely to bag it thanks to his two no-hitters that season, both of which Berra caught. Garver ultimately finished second in the MVP voting and Reynolds, third. The other first-place votes, by the way, went to Red Sox pitcher Ellis Kinder, Yankee pitcher Eddie Lopat and shortstop Phil Rizzuto, White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, and Athletics outfielder Ferris Fain, with Kinder getting two such votes and the others, one each. Hornsby infuriated Garver after the skipper chewed Garver out loudly for walking the opposing pitcher---which Garver actually hadn't done in the game in question. The culprit was actually Cliff Fannin.)
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 03:31:26 PM by EasyAce »

Offline goatprairie

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2019, 11:20:12 PM »
Those who consider him the greatest righthanded hitter in National League history didn't really see Willie Mays play and forget that Hornsby played in an era far more conducive to fat batting statistics than Mays did. (Bank on it: if Hornsby and his generation including Babe Ruth had played in the night ball era, their fat batting stats wouldn't have been quite that fat. It's probably more fair to say Hornsby was the National League's best right-handed hitter of the pre-World War II/pre-night ball era.)
Hornsby was actually one of the most hated men in baseball going back to his playing days---his teams tended to look for the earliest feasible excuse to be rid of him no matter how well he hit. The Cardinals actually tried trading him to the Giants for Frisch a couple of years before they actually got the deal, but at that time the Giants weren't ready to lose Frisch---only when Frisch fell out with manager John McGraw were the Giants willing to make the deal. Hornsby probably only lasted as long as he did as a player because he could flat out hit. His penchant for playing the horses at every known opportunity also tended to rub teammates, managers, and owners the wrong way, too; he had a reputation as a man who'd be willing to be late for even a World Series game if he thought he might make a score at the track.

As a manager, he was respected for his game knowledge and despised for, well, just about everything else, including and especially his contempt for pitchers no matter how good they were. When Bill Veeck hired him back to the St. Louis Browns to manage them for 1952, Hornsby didn't last past 51 games. His players came to hate him so much than when Veeck canned Hornsby, they presented Veeck with a trophy engraved: TO BILL VEECK: FOR THE GREATEST PLAY SINCE THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. NED GARVER AND THE PLAYERS OF THE ST. LOUIS BROWNS. Hornsby tried to claim the trophy was a stunt dreamed up by a Veeck underling, but Veeck himself (in his memoir Veeck: As in Wreck) said he was surprised completely by the trophy.

(Ned Garver, of course, was the Browns pitcher who was a 20-game winner for the dead-last 1951 Browns and is still the only pitcher in history to win 20 or more with a team losing 100 or more games in a season. He was one of six 20-game winners in the American League that year, along with Bob Feller, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Mike Garcia, and Early Wynn. Garver's place in major league history rests on that season not just for his 20 wins but because he was part of the only three-way tie for first-place American League Most Valuable Player Award votes ever---Garver and two Yankees, Yogi Berra and Allie Reynolds, tied with six first place votes each. Berra won the award, his first of three MVPs, by way of his showing in the second-through-tenth-place votes, and Yogi was actually surprised to win the award: he though Reynolds was likely to bag it thanks to his two no-hitters that season, both of which Berra caught. Garver ultimately finished second in the MVP voting and Reynolds, third. The other first-place votes, by the way, went to Red Sox pitcher Ellis Kinder, Yankee pitcher Eddie Lopat and shortstop Phil Rizzuto, White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, and Athletics outfielder Ferris Fain, with Kinder getting two such votes and the others, one each. Hornsby infuriated Garver after the skipper chewed Garver out loudly for walking the opposing pitcher---which Garver actually hadn't done in the game in question. The culprit was actually Cliff Fannin.)
The subject of how well old time players would do today and how modern players (post WWII)would do pre-war has been around for many decades.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties I remember reading numerous stories by "experts" who dismissed modern players because their stats didn't match those of the old timers.
For many years I believed the experts who included among others Mike Royko. I remember reading a quote from Jumpin' Joe Dugan that no modern Yankee could have played in his era.
It was only until I got older into my late teens and early twenties that I realized many modern players would indeed have done very well in the old days and most old time greats would not be able to match their incredible stats in the modern era.
The  introduction of bigger gloves, the improvement of pitchers,  night baseball, and in some cases bigger ball parks would guarantee that many old time players would not duplicate their stupendous stats today.
Nevertheless, I believe a number of old timers would do very well today. A great athlete in the old days would still be a good athlete today.
It is interesting that both Ty Cobb, who was very fast, and Rogers Hornsby who was considered by many to be the fastest player in the NL were also the top hitters for average.
They maybe wouldn't stand out so much today for their speed, but they were undoubtedly excellent athletes.
I don't think Babe Ruth would hit homers and for average like he did. But he might hit more homers considering the pitchers are faster today. Ruth, despite his bulk later in his career, was a superb athlete.  If you've read Bill Jenkinson's "The Year Ruth Hit 104 Homeruns" you know that as yet nobody has hit balls as far as Ruth. He had tremendous power and great reflexes.
I suspect today Ruth would hit a lot of homers, strike out more, and hit about around .300 rather than .340-.350.
I believe Cobb and Hornsby would still hit for average (and Hornsby for power) but assuredly not near the incredible stats they generated in their day.

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2019, 01:05:41 AM »
I don't think Babe Ruth would hit homers and for average like he did. But he might hit more homers considering the pitchers are faster today. Ruth, despite his bulk later in his career, was a superb athlete.  If you've read Bill Jenkinson's "The Year Ruth Hit 104 Homeruns" you know that as yet nobody has hit balls as far as Ruth. He had tremendous power and great reflexes.
He had power, no doubt about it. But he wasn't that great an athlete. As an outfielder, he was about league average with about an average throwing arm. He was a none-too-great baserunner who still insisted on trying to steal bases but usually hurt his teams with it, and not just by running himself into the final out of the 1926 World Series. He's thought to be some great athlete because he was picking up all those triples, but look more closely---as a full-time Yankee, he played in a pair of home parks (the Polo Grounds from 1920-23; then, the first Yankee Stadium) with ridiculously cavernous-enough left center fields (and it was equally cavernous in right center field in the Polo Grounds; only four men ever hit home runs over the straightaway center field bleachers on either side, 468 feet from the plate, and none of them was Ruth), enough that anything he hit to the opposite drive anyone could have run into triples. Those parks also had extremely short right field lines, with Yankee Stadium being built and arrayed specifically to accommodate his lefthanded power.

Concerning Ruth in the night-ball era, I've seen calculations that have him hitting maybe 20 less home runs lifetime and batting lifetime in a range of .295-.305. Which would make him a Hall of Famer anyway. He might strike out a little more in the night ball era but then he might not (he did have a good eye at the plate even if he didn't face as many superspeed pitchers in his day as he might have faced in, say, the 1950s and 1960s), but since he was at best a league-average defender he might shake out slightly worse in the night ball era.

On the other hand, if Babe Ruth had begun his career as a pitcher in the night ball era . . . he might never have been taken off the mound no matter how well he could hit. He might not have become what Sandy Koufax became when Koufax became Koufax, but he might been pitcher enough and maybe among his league's top ten. His actual career pitching averages include 107 strikeouts per 162 games and 97 walks per 162; in the night ball era, he might have hiked the strikeout average to about 175 per 162. From the look of it he worked to his defenses as much as anything else, and with the kind of superior fielding that began to emerge with the advent of larger gloves and fielders more attuned to the returning running game of the 1950s and 1960s, Ruth as a regular pitcher in the night ball era might have had a career comparable to Whitey Ford's, assuming he pitched on the kind of teams Ford did. As a Yankee, Ruth would have been an ideal pitcher since he was lefthanded and Yankee Stadium was very friendly to lefthanded pitching, especially against righthanded hitters who insisted that the only legitimate hitting was pull hitting.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2019, 01:08:34 AM by EasyAce »

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2019, 08:25:24 AM »
"He had power, no doubt about it. But he wasn't that great an athlete. As an outfielder, he was about league average with about an average throwing arm"

He had more power than anybody in ML history. Read Jenkinson's book.
As for his throwing arm, one baseball expert, Rick Weiner, picked Ruth as the 15th best arm in ML history. Ruth threw out 204 runners in the course of his career. Of course, after a while many runners didn't try to test his arm.
He still pitched games for the Yankees well into his thirties when the club was short arms. He pitched a complete game in 1930 at age 35 and in 1933 at age 38 winning both games.
He remains the greatest player in ML history.

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2019, 03:07:59 PM »
As for his throwing arm, one baseball expert, Rick Weiner, picked Ruth as the 15th best arm in ML history. Ruth threw out 204 runners in the course of his career. Of course, after a while many runners didn't try to test his arm.
That would be very impressive until:

a) You notice that playing right field, his primary outfield position, Ruth threw out 113 runners from that position. (He threw out 77 playing left field and five playing center field. Intriguingly, in what some say was his single best all-around season, 1921, Ruth played most of his games in left field, and threw out fifteen runners that season. It was the second-best such seasonal performance of his career as an outfielder. Oops---he played in the Polo Grounds that season, and the Polo Grounds' left field wasn't exactly as deep as Yankee Stadium-to-be's would be.)

b) You meet a gentleman named Roberto Clemente---who threw out 266 runners in his career, playing the same number of seasons in the outfield (18) as Ruth did, and he threw out 254 of them playing right field. (Clemente only got to throw four out in the few games he played center field in his career.) And Clemente played most of his career in a home park with a deeper right field/right center field than the first Yankee Stadium had. (Forbes Field in Clemente's time: 300 feet down the right field line; 408 feet in right center field. Yankee Stadium in Ruth's time: 295 feet down the right field line; 385 feet in right center field.)

c) Hank Aaron, the man who knocked Ruth out of first place on the all-time home run list (and if Willie Mays hadn't lost two seasons to the Army in the early 1950s it's pretty fair to say he would have broken Ruth's record and maybe Aaron would have broken Mays's), also threw out more runners from right field (179) than Ruth did; even playing five more seasons than Ruth that's still pretty impressive.

d) Both Clemente and Aaron played in a tougher era for defenders since a) night ball was well enough in play when they began their major league careers; and, b) speed became a lot more emphasised in the 1950s and 1960s than it was in Ruth's time as a position player.

e) As strange as this may sound considering his career total, and it surprised me to see it, too, Ruth never once led his league in assists from right field. (Neither did Aaron.) Clemente did it six times.

I think it's absolutely fair to say Babe Ruth was the greatest player of the pre-World War II era.

I think it's also absolutely fair to say that, placing him in a time when baseball was allowed to broaden its talent pool and began playing more and more games at night, with far more powerful pitching overall than was present in Ruth's generation, Ruth would still shake out as a bona-fide Hall of Famer, no questions asked. (Wouldn't you just love to see how Ruth might do having to face pitchers like Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Ferguson Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Jack Morris, Goose Gossage, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Dennis Eckersley, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, or Clayton Kershaw? Wouldn't you just love to see Ruth try to do things with a Koufax curve, a Marichal or Martinez changeup---and against Marichal's repertoire of about sixteen different windups and nine different leg kicks in the bargain---a Ryan heater, a Carlton, Johnson, or Kershaw slider, a Morris splitter, or The Mariano's cutter?)

And he'd still make anyone's hypothetical All-Star roster whether or not you'd have him in the starting lineup ahead of Hank Aaron. (I bet a lot of people don't know that Aaron was more difficult to strike out than Ruth. Ruth averaged 86 strikeouts per 162 games . . . and Aaron averaged 68. Aaron also averaged 16 double plays a season yet he was a far faster and better baserunner than Ruth. The double play data actually isn't available for Ruth, strangely enough, other than two into which he hit in his short final season, 1935, but I'd be willing to bet that, considering his lack of speed or at least his lack of intelligent baserunning---how come everyone in today's generations who goes ballistic over bad baserunning damaging teams in postseason play gives Ruth a pass for running, entirely on his own volition, right into the final out of the 1926 World Series with two of the Yankees' best hitters ready to advance or score him: he had Bob Meusel at the plate and Lou Gehrig on deck---he might have gotten caught in about that many double plays a year.)

But place him in the game you and me grew up watching and still watch today---a game played more than half at night, with an available talent pool that's far more broad than the game played before our time---and we would be very hard pressed to say credibly that Ruth was the absolute best player of his time, never mind all time. He'd likely be top ten or top fifteen, and it would still be enough to make him an overwhelming Hall of Famer.

« Last Edit: January 04, 2019, 03:10:23 PM by EasyAce »

Offline goatprairie

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Re: Missing Mr. Yogi
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2019, 07:01:38 PM »
We will have to agree to disagree. My all time favorite ballplayer is Hank Aaron. Aaron was most likely a better fielder than Ruth, but not quite as good a hitter.
But Ruth also gets credit for being a superb pitcher for five or six years. If Ruth had started his career as an outfielder six years later when the dead ball era came to an end, he'd probably have ended up with 900 homers.
Baserunning errors aside, Ruth's overall effect was gigantic.


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