You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1925, Yogi Berra was born.
There is some truth to the story that before the 1947 season, Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankees owner Dan Topping at least considered a trade of Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio. The owners decided to sleep on the possibility but made no progress the next day, especially when Yawkey, said, in essence, “and maybe you could throw in that little catcher.”
That little catcher was Yogi Berra. He became, in my mind, the second-best catcher ever, after Johnny Bench. Berra won more rings as a player –10 — than anyone else in baseball history. He won three MVP awards and finished second in the voting two other times. He was a tremendous clutch hitter and one of the best power/contact hitters ever: He hit 358 homers and struck out 414 times. In 1950, Berra hit 28 homers and struck out 12 times.
And, in the minor leagues, he had 23 RBIs in a doubleheader.
“With only one home run,” he told me. “But, every time I came up, the bases were loaded.”
Berra is one of the most huggable characters in baseball history. He fractured the language, and said things that didn’t make sense but actually did, such as, of a popular restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Former Yankees manager Buck Showalter said, “Yogi was such a good man, everyone loved him, but he was tough. He hated to lose. Some people make him out to be a cartoon character, but he had backbone. A real backbone.”
Indeed, when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner wanted one of the Yankees replaced, he screamed at his manager, Yogi Berra, who took his cigarettes, which were rolled up in his sleeve, and threw them at Steinbrenner. The owner backed down. The guy was not replaced. Not all the things Berra supposedly said were true, but most were. He roomed with third baseman Bobby Brown, who, while playing for the Yankees, was studying to become a heart surgeon. Brown told me this story: One night, Brown was reading his medical books. Berra was reading a comic book.
At bedtime, Berra looked at his roommate and said, “How did yours turn out?”
Other baseball notes for May 12
In 1962, Mets pitcher Craig Anderson improved his season record to 3-1 by being the winning pitcher in both games of a doubleheader. He would never win another game in his career. He went 0-16 the rest of that season, 0-2 the next year, 0-1 the next.
In 1970, Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run. He hit it off the Braves’ Pat Jarvis, who was a sheriff in Georgia in the offseason. “I used to kid Ernie that Jarvis was going to arrest him,” teammate Billy Williams said. “Ernie would laugh and laugh. Ernie loved to laugh.”
In 1935, Felipe Alou was born. He was such a good player, such a good manager. I recently interviewed him, and, without advance notice, he went pitch-by-pitch of his at-bat in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. He didn’t get a bunt down and wound up striking out. His team, the Giants, lost that game to the Yankees. “I still have trouble sleeping some nights thinking about not getting that bunt down,” Alou said.
In 1950, Pat Darcy was born. He threw the pitch that Carlton Fisk hit off the foul pole to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
In 2001, A.J. Burnett threw a no-hitter despite walking nine. That’s one short of Jim Maloney’s record for walks in a no-hitter.
In 1976, Wes Helms was born. Ten years ago, he hit a long home run. Steve Berthiaume and I were doing the late Baseball Tonight highlights. I called the home run “Helms Deep.” I looked at Bert, a movie buff, to see if he got the stupid reference to “Lord of the Rings.” Insulted, he reeled off three famous lines from that movie, looked at me on national TV and said, “Who do you think you’re talking to?!”