Yankee Stadium Yogi

Returning to my blog after a long absence, but I’ll keep it short and sweet – on this day of memorials to the great Yogi Berra, a few rare photos of him at Yankee Stadium in the 1950’s, from various sources. Above, Yogi dons the tools of ignorance before a game against the White Sox in 1956.

 

 

Opening weekend, April 1956, either Saturday the 21th or Sunday the 22nd, Ted Williams steps to the plate in a pinch-hitting appearance. Yogi knocked in 5 over that weekend as the Yankees swept the series from the Red Sox to go to 5-1 on the short season.

 

 

Wednesday, June 6, 1956. Yanks beat the K.C. A’s 10-5 to improve to an MLB best 30-17, as Yogi goes 2-4 with a 2B and HR. Losing pitcher for the Athletics? Tommy Lasorda, who would only have 7 more appearances that season to close out his short playing career.

 

 

Friday, May 2, 1958, Moose Skowron looks on as Yogi catches a foul pop to help secure a CG 4-hitter for Bob Turley over the A’s, 8-1, as the Yankees improve to an MLB best 10-4.

 

 

Saturday, October 4, 1958, World Series Game 3, Don Larsen and on-deck batter Red Schoendienst watch Yogi gun out the Milwaukee Braves’ Bill Bruton on a bunt attempt for the first play of the game. Yankees would shut out Milwaukee 4-0 to get their first win in the Series, and would go on to win the crown in 7 games.

 

 

Nice shot of Yogi and Roy Campanella in action.

 

 
Yogi Berra Day, Saturday, September 19, 1959:




Yogi went 0-4 but caught Whitey Ford’s CG 4-hitter against the Red Sox. Likely unwillingly, Yogi would have more time to relax in that lounge chair that October, as it was a rare season in the Bronx with the Bombers missing the postseason for only the fourth time in his Yankee career.

That’s it for now, but to borrow from a classic Yogi-ism, thanks Yogi, for making this all necessary.

Hal Smith: Bucs Bridesmaid, World Series Hero

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What a moment! Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat celebrate as the Pirates’ Hal Smith hits an unbelievably clutch 2-strike, 2-out, 3-run blast off the Yankees’ Jim Coates in the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, to put the Bucs up 9-7, and to put them only 3 outs away from their third championship. Certainly the biggest HR in the history of venerable Forbes Field, and for the Pittsburgh franchise for that matter, and Hal Smith went down as one of the biggest Pirate heroes of all time, and it is often cited as one of the most memorable performances in a World Series. Or at least that’s the way it should have played out.

Hal Smith was signed by the Yankees as a catching prospect in 1949, and while he was a pretty fair hitter for a few years in the minors (albeit with limited power), someone named Berra was to be behind the plate for the Bombers for quite a while, so Smith was eventually packaging up in a staggering 10 player-for 7-player trade with the Orioles. The trade turned out to be a shrewd one for New York, acquiring two very good pitchers, Bob Turley, who would be a strong starter for the Yanks and eventually win the Cy Young in 1958, and another gentleman by the name of Don Larsen.

halsmith55_zps75fb32eaHal would eventually get his big league chance with the Orioles, as their starting catcher in 1955, and had a fair season, batting .271, but with little pop, and also unfortunately led the league with 14 passed balls. With the emergence of slugging catcher Gus Triandos, Smith was relegated to part-time status for most of 1956, until he was sent to Kansas City in August, swapped for the left-handed hitting catcher Joe Ginsberg.

Hal returned to the starting catcher role in 1957 and batted .303, with new found power, hitting a career-high 13 home runes, but the passed balls got him again, leading the league with 16 this time, so his future was as a utility man, splitting time between C, 1B and 3B for the Athletics in 1958, and 1959. And then, as luck would have it, he was traded to the Pirates for the 1960 season.

The Pirates were already set at starting catcher, with lefty Smoky Burgess coming over from Cincinnati and having a strong 1959 season, batting .297 and making the All-Star team, and would go on to have very good years for Pittsburgh well into the 1960’s. But for 1960, the Pirates would looking to upgrade in the backup catcher’s spot, and Smith, who could play other positions as well (although he only caught on the field in 1960), got the nod.

halsmith60_zps18b6486fAnd this time, he flourished as a backup, hitting .295 with 11 HRs and 45 RBIs in only 77 games, and even cut his passed balls down a bit. Also, his appearances were not based on a strict lefty-righty platoon, but mostly to give Burgess breaks along the way, and Smith performed equally well against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. And as the Pirates marched to the NL pennant, Hal Smith was one of the “steady performers” that made the 1960 NL pennant drive a “solid team victory” (NYT).

In the World Series, with the Yankees going with two right-handed pitchers in the first two games at Forbes Field, lefty Burgess would catch both games, but with lefty Whitey Ford going in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Smith got the start. Unfortunately, Hal would go 0-3 as the Yanks drubbed Vinegar Bend Mizell and the Pirates, 10-0. With two more rightys going in Games 4 and 5, Smith was back for Game 6, again against Ford, again a Yankee laugher, but Hal managed two hits off Whitey.

Game 7 saw rightly Bob Turley take the mound for the Yanks, so Smith started the game on the bench. Burgess was having a good game, and led off the bottom of the 7th inning with his second hit of the contest. But Smoky being slow afoot allowed fate to intervene for the first time, and with the Pirates down by a run, the catcher was pulled for a pinchrunner. The Pirates didn’t score in the frame, and when Smith took over the catching duties as the Yankees tallied two more in the top of the 8th to go up 7-4, it looked bleak for the locals. But fate was not nearly done this October day in Pittsburgh, PA.

In the bottom of the 8th, Gino Cimoli, pinch-hitting for Elroy Face, led off with a single. Bill Virdon then hit the perfect double play ball to Tony Kubek at short, but as many of us know, the ball hit the most intrusive pebble in MLB history, and smacked Kubek in the throat, and there was no play. As Kubek left the game due to injury, Yankee pitcher Bobby Shantz was rattled, and instead of going for the third out of the inning with the bases cleared, allowed a single to Dick Groat with two men on and still no one out, to score the first run of the inning, and he was done.

Enter Jim Coates. Coates was a very good young hurler for the Yanks, and had a stellar year in 1960 as a spot starter, going 13-3 and being selected as an All-Star. Coates had appeared in two games in the Series already, and was less than stellar; after Art Ditmar got knocked out in the 1st inning of Game 1 at Forbes, Coates came in to put out the fire, and did for a while – until a fellow by the name of Mazeroski hit a 2-run shot off him in the 4th inning to give the Pirates a healthy lead that they would not relinquish. He fared better in Game 4, pitching the final two innings at Yankee Stadium and only allowing 1 hit, but the Yankees could not muster anything off of Elroy Face, who allowed no hits after coming in in the 7th, and the Yankees lost 3-2. Speaking of fate, had the Yanks pushed across a run or two against Face in this pivotal Game 4, the Bombers could’ve went up 3 games to 1 in the Series, and may never have had to even return to Pittsburgh to win the Series. But, such is fate.

Coates again had a chance to be a hero, but had his work cut out for him. With the score now 7-5 Bob Skinner sacrificed the runners to second and third, but now there was one away. He then got Rocky Nelson to fly to Roger Maris in medium right field, and Bill Virdon had to hold third as Maris fired a perfect no-bounce throw to Johnny Blanchard at the plate. Two out. Again, fate would lend a hand.

Roberto Clemente was up next, and it looked like Coates gave him a pretty good pitch – with Clemente almost bailing out, he hit a slow dribbler to the right side, and with no one getting to the first base bag soon enough, Clemente was safe at first, and another run had scored, making it 7-6. Coates has been blamed throughout history for failing to cover first on this play, but as one can see (below), Coates did made a quick jaunt to first – it appeared no one would have been able to catch the speedy Clemente in that footrace.


First and third, still two outs. Up stepped Hal Smith. While he had some pop this year, he was .222 in the Series, with only a pair of singles. Although Ralph Terry was warmed up, he had started and lost Game 4 (all hands on deck for Game 7), and the Yankees felt Coates had a good of a chance as any to get the Yanks out of the inning with the lead.

But on a 2-2 count, what happened should have been a highlight that any baseball fan would have committed to memory all these years, and maybe even had known Mel Allen’s call word for word:


As Terry then did come in, and got Don Hoak on a fly to left, all that was needed for the Pirates was to retire the Yanks in the 9th, and the Bucs even had an insurance run in their pocket thanks to Hal’s homer. Bob Friend, the Pirates’ All-Star ace, with a stellar return to form for the 1960 regular season with 18 victories, and a red hot September, with 3 complete games and winning 4 out of 5 decisions, was called upon to finish the game and secure the crown for the locals. Unfortunately, Manager Danny Murtaugh may not have checked the stat sheet before calling on Friend – he had had an absolutely awful Series, losing Game 2 after lasting only 4 innings, then being positively tattooed in Game 6 (just the day before), allowing 5 runs in 2+ innings.

After Friend let the first two Yankees on with singles, and lefty Maris was coming up, Friend was done for 1960 and Harvey Haddix came in, in a tough spot. He got Maris to foul out, but when Mickey Mantle dunked one into short right, and Yogi Berra grounded a slow roller to first, the game was tied 9-9, and Smith’s heroics were quickly buried into the narrative of the game, instead of being its ultimate moment.

Of course, Ralph Terry, who came in the 8th, would have an even worse day than Friend and Coates, as he took the mound in the bottom of the 9th – and on his second pitch of the inning became part of the memory of Mazeroski’s historic blast over a drifting Yogi Berra to win the 1960 World Series, to the same spot where Hal Smith’s shot went. And Mazeroski became the hometown hero, complete with a nice statue, and a place in the MLB Hall Of Fame. And Hal Smith was largely forgotten, except to a few diehards in the Steel City.

But then fate intervened again.

In late 2009, in Bing Crosby’s old wine cellar in Hillsborough, CA, while an archivist was looking for footage of old holiday specials, he stumbled upon two dusty film canisters marked “1960 World Series”. And with that, the video of this long lost 7th game was available for the first time since it’s original TV broadcast, and legions of baseball fans and scholars could again revisit this classic contest, culminating in an exclusive screening of the game in Pittsburgh in November 2010, with many participants in attendance, including 79-year old Hal Smith himself. And as USA Today reported it, when his homer flashed on the screen, Hal Smith was given a standing ovation, not only from the fans in attendance, but from his fellow teammates as well, a gesture that brought Hal to near tears. And as fate would have it, Bill Mazeroski could not attend due to a short illness, so Smith, in effect, had the spotlight pretty much all to himself, at least for that day.

Catcher Hal Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate Game 7 heroics 50 years later

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So, as Mel Allen said on TV that day in 1960, Hal Smith’s home run will be “one of the most dramatic base hits in the history of the World Series…that base hit will long be remembered”. After a 50-year hiatus, and with a late-inning save from Der Bingle, I trust Mel was right, after all.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

With the earlier Mantle post regarding a Yankees legend’s at-bats at Shea, it made sense to also check the final playing days of another Yankee immortal, Yogi Berra. Unlike the Mick, Yogi actually went on to don the Mets’ uniform and become an Amazins icon himself. But among his last few at-bats in baseball are some interesting stories indeed.

Most die-hard fans are aware that Yogi’s official Yankee playing days ended with the 1963 World Series, after which he was named the Yankees manager for the 1964 season, after Ralph Houk was summarily dismissed following the WS loss. But although he never had an official game at-bat for the Bombers in 1964, he did step up to the plate to face major league competion once – August 24, 1964, at Shea Stadium, in the Mayor’s Trophy Game vs. the Mets, the first one in the Amazins’ new park, and the last time he stepped to the plate in an actual game in a Yankees uniform.

Ticket stub (was rained out at least once), program, and rare photo of ’64 MTG info on Shea scoreboard

 

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Skipper Berra was already in a bit of hot water with the Yankee brass and the team themselves after a very recent incident regarding Yankee Phil Linz playing a harmonica in the back of the team bus after a loss. Per Wikipedia:

Much was made of an incident on board the team bus in August 1964. Following a loss, infielder Phil Linz was playing his harmonica, and Berra ordered him to stop. Seated on the other end of the bus, Linz couldn’t hear what Berra had said, and Mickey Mantle impishly informed Linz, “He said to play it louder.” When Linz did so, an angry Berra slapped the harmonica out of his hands. All was apparently forgotten when Berra’s Yankees rode a September surge to return to the World Series. But the team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, after which Berra was fired. It was later learned that general manager Ralph Houk had been ready to discharge Berra since midseason, apparently for a perceived loss of control over the team.

This game was soon after that incident, and Yogi, either looking to reassert control over the team, or just pull a grandstand play to loosen everyone up, found his chance in the top of the 7th inning. With two men on and one out, the score 4-3 and the pitcher Jim Brenneman due up, the time was ripe for a big slugger to pinch hit and put the game away. Yogi’s choice: Himself. As described below within the Times article the next day (which also had a heavy and unusual harmonica-incident theme), Yogi grounded into a double play to end the inning, and his Yankee playing career.

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Herewith, the last box score with Yogi Berra as a Yankee:

 

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An interesting followup to the above article is Casey Stengel’s insistence on Berra coming over to catch for the Mets, with Casey’s humorous asking price of a then-exorbitant $200,000. Yogi did indeed come to the Mets in 1965 after he was let go by the Steinbrenner-esque Yankee front office, but for the far more reasonable salary of $35,000, as a unique “catcher-coach”. Yogi’s beautiful last player baseball card from the 1965 Topps set says it all (albeit in a Yankee uniform sans cap):

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In 1965, while Casey must have been thrilled, as it turns out, Yogi was much more coach than catcher, but did play in 4 games for the Mets that year, 3 at Shea Stadium:

First game (on the road), 5/1/65 at Cincinnati, 0-1 as a pinch hitter.

5/4/65: vs Phils, 2-3 (2 singles, a run scored). Caught the whole game.

5/5/65: vs Phils, 0-1, pinch-hitter in 8th.

Sunday, 5/9/65: vs Braves, first game of a doubleheader, caught the entire game, batting 7th, but went 0-4 with 3 K’s against Tony Cloninger (in his 24-11 season with 211 K’s). He came up in the 9th with two on, but grounded into a forceout, and called it a career.

So, the final tally for Yogi at Shea: 2-9 (.222) in 4 games (1 as a Yankee, 3 as a Met), with 2 singles and a run scored. And It was Over. Except…that harmonica would come back to haunt him again in 1967, when still a coach with the Amazins, Linz himself became a New York Met!

PostScript: As for Yankee Jim Brenneman, the pitcher who Yogi pinch hit for in the Mayor’s Trophy Game, and who marvelled at how “beautiful” brand new Shea was on that August night, that game also had special significance – it was his only start on a major league mound in his short career of 5 total games against major league competition. Unfortunately, while he pitched 6 strong innings at Shea that night, surprisingly he did not get the win (the judgment of the official scorer in those days). In his 4 other appearances, 3 were official, and in one he was pinch-hit for again – this time by Mickey Mantle. So he was only pinch-hit for twice: by Berra, and by Mantle.

That 4th game? The Hall Of Fame Game at Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY, on 7/26/65, Yanks vs Phillies, his last MLB appearance. He walked 3, and gave up a HR, but finished the game…and got the only official win of his career against major league competition. He was out of baseball by 1966.

Now, It’s Over.

You Gotta Believe (in YouTube)!!

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Although my first Mets’ game was in 1971 (Mets won 2-0 over the Phillies), and I saw another game at Shea in 1972, I really didn’t become a die hard Amazins’ fan until the 1973 World Series. I remember seeing them on our small TV and thinking that this would be a great team to root for, being in the Fall Classic every year! I also remember being so bitterly disappointed when they lost the 7th game, and especially hated Wayne Garrett, who unforgivingly made the last out (I was just a kid).

Anyway, for some reason, video of the TV broadcast of this series is among the scarcest in the game, whether the master tapes were lost or damaged, or some other mysterious calamity befell the reels; and except for produced highlight films of the series, have not seen any of the original games as they were broadcast in over 40 years. Until now.

Someone wisely made tapes of Game 3 all those years ago, and has recently uploaded them to YT. First game at Shea, on NBC, with Curt Gowdy, Lindsey Nelson and Tony Kubek. Seaver vs Hunter. Four videos in all, of four different half-innings – the entire 1st, top of the 5th, and some of the top of the 9th. No other videos from the source yet, but more to come, see below.

Retrosheet box score: http://tinyurl.com/8ujxlkn

Top of the first. Gowdy PBP. A’s are scoreless, including striking out Reggie Jackson, and a great placard from the Mets’ old sign man, Karl Ehrhardt.

Bottom of the first, Gowdy PBP, Mets go up early 2-0, including a leadoff HR by Wayne Garrett.
Unfortunately, that was the extent of the Mets scoring for the evening.

Top of the 5th. Gowdy PBP. Tom strikes out the side! In case anyone wonders what all the fuss was about regarding Tom Terrific, watch this.

And THIS is what You Gotta Believe! was all about. Top of the 9th, special bonus with Lindsey doing PBP. Tug (You Gotta Believe!) comes in for Sadecki with 2 on and nobody out in a 2-2 game, and shuts the door, for now (and check out what appears to be a “75” type patch on Yogi and Rube’s jackets in the dugout). Complete with great fan shots and Tug pounding his glove and going manic in the dugout. Wow, memories. This was the 1973 magic I remember well.

Mets lost on an unearned run in the 11th inning off Parker (walk, rare passed ball by Grote, Campaneris single). Too bad, a win here would’ve gone a long way towards a ’73 title, since most of us know they won the next two at Shea to take a 3-2 series lead to Oakland, but lost both out west to lose the series in 7 games. This series came to be known by Mets fans as the “Near Miracle”, and has largely faded into the background of Mets’ lore. But, for me, this is the World Series of my youth.

The original uploader says in YT comments that he has almost this entire game, until it cut off in the 10th inning, and also will be posting video from the 1973 NLCS! Can’t wait. So watch this space!