Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Berra blasts two home runs in '56 World Series, Game 7.
By Nick Acocella
Special to ESPN.com
Oct. 10, 1956 - The 1956 World Series is best remembered for Don Larsen's perfect performance in Game 5. But when the Dodgers won the next day, 1-0 in 10 innings, it all came down to today's seventh game. The Yankees sent second-year righthander Johnny Kucks, who had gone 18-9 during the season but was making his first Series start, against 27-game winner and Cy Young Award winner Don Newcombe.
What appeared to be a match in Brooklyn's favor took a decided turn for the Bronx Bombers when Kucks' batterymate, Yogi Berra, homered over the rightfield scoreboard at Ebbets Field in the top of the first with Hank Bauer on base. Then, with Billy Martin on first in the third, Newcombe appeared to have Berra struck out to end the inning, but Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella failed to hold onto a foul-tip third strike, giving Berra a second life. The Yankees catcher took advantage and put another Newcombe pitch over the rightfield screen to double the Yankees' lead to 4-0.
Berra's blasts were more than enough for Kucks, though Elston Howard hit a solo homer and Moose Skorown a grand slam following an intentional walk to Berra. Kucks finished with a three-hitter as the Yankees won, 9-0, for their 17th world championship.
Odds 'n' Ends
Berra was rejected by the hometown St. Louis Browns and Cardinals. Branch Rickey, the Cards' general manager, offered him a $250 bonus, half of what he gave Joe Garagiola, Berra's neighborhood buddy.
Rickey's assessment of Berra was that he would never rise above Triple A.
In 1945, while Berra was playing for a Navy team in Connecticut, Giants manager Mel Ott offered the Yankees $50,000 for Berra. The offer convinced Yankees executive Larry MacPhail of Yogi's worth.
When Berra first came up to the Yankees, he was the subject of some abuse by other players for both his appearance and his verbal inadequacies.
As a rookie in 1947, he hit the first pinch-hit homer in World Series history. It was off Brooklyn's Ralph Branca.
Berra's 116 runs in 1950 were the only time he scored 100 runs, although he bettered 90 three other times.
In 1950, his homer in Game 4 of the World Series helped Whitey Ford to his first Series victory as the Yankees completed their sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.
In Game 3 of the 1952 Series, Berra deflected criticism from rookie pitcher Tom Gorman, who had crossed him up on a pitch, by telling both the press and manager Casey Stengel that a passed ball charged to him was his fault.
In Game 6 that year, with the Yankees losing 3-2 in games and 1-0 in the seventh inning, Berra homered to tie the contest. The Yankees went on to win, 3-2, and the next day took the Series.
On Sept. 16, 1955, a homer by Berra gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox and put the team in first place by a half-game, a lead it never relinquished.
The most enduring image of Berra is him with wrapped around Don Larsen after having called the pitches in the only perfect game in Series history, in 1956.
In the seventh game in 1960, he hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and drove in another run before watching Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning homer sail over his head in leftfield to decide the Series. The film of Berra starting to chase Mazeroski's shot then veering away is among the most famous in sports history.
On June 24, 1962 - when he was 37 - Berra caught all 22 innings of a seven-hour marathon game against the Detroit Tigers. It was one of only 31 games he caught that season.
He tied a major league record for catchers by recording two unassisted double plays (in 1947 and 1962).
Described by longtime American League manager Paul Richards as the "toughest man in the league in the last three innings," Berra was sometimes walked in extra innings even though he represented the winning run.
Berra struck out only 415 times in 7,555 at-bats.
His 36 assists in the World Series are a record for catchers.
His 10 Series doubles are tied for the most with Frankie Frisch.
Berra and Mickey Mantle share the record for most Series hitting a home run (nine).
In his 75 Series games, Berra batted .274 with 12 homers, 39 RBI and 41 runs.
One of Berra's four games for the Mets in 1965 was a nine-inning complete game by Warren Spahn; at the time Berra was 40 and Spahn 44.
Berra wore the uniforms of 20 pennant-winning teams as a player (14),
manager (2) and coach (4).
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Berra shares a retired number - 8 - with Bill Dickey, his backstopping mentor.
Berra's record as a manager was 484-444 (.522). He was 192-148 (.565) with the Yankees and 292-296 (.497) with the Mets.
Berra's son Dale was a major league infielder for 11 seasons, but only three as a regular (with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1982-84). He had a .236 lifetime average.
Yogi married his wife Carmen in 1950. Besides Dale, they also had two other sons, Larry and Tim.
Yogi and Carmen live in Montclair, N.J., where he and his sons run a company that sells Yogi memorabilia.
Montclair State opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in 1998.
In 1997, he published a collection of his memorable quotes under the title The Yogi Book: I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said.
In 2001, he published an autobiography, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It.