The Pop History Dig

“The Mazeroski Moment”
1960 World Series

It was the ultimate in baseball – the final, showdown Game 7 of a World Series. The place was Forbes Field, a classic baseball park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was October 13th, 1960, that time of year when the last warm days of summer begin to meet crisper fall afternoons. Excitement was already in the air generally, both in Pittsburgh and throughout the nation, as a presidential election race was underway and a young man named John F. Kennedy was offering the country something new. Later that evening, in fact, Kennedy and his Republican opponent, vice president Richard Nixon, would debate on national television for the third time. But the business at hand in Pittsburgh that afternoon wasn’t politics; it was baseball.

October 1960; Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: No. 9 of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bill Mazeroski, has just hit a pitch that is heading for the trees beyond the left field wall. It is an historic home run, occurring in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7, a walk-off home run that wins the Wold Series, beating the favored New York Yankees. Photo, Marvin E. Newman
October 1960; Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: No. 9 of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bill Mazeroski, has just hit a pitch that is heading for the trees beyond the left field wall. It is an historic home run, occurring in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7, a walk-off home run that wins the Wold Series, beating the favored New York Yankees. Photo, Marvin E. Newman

The New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates were tied in this World Series, each having won 3 games. Now, in the bottom of the ninth inning of their showdown Game 7 the score was tied, 9-to-9, as the numerals on the Forbes Field hand-operated scoreboard would reflect. However, a magical moment was about to unfold – “the Mazeroski moment” – shown above and named for Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, No. 9, who was then batting. “Maz,” as he was called, had just hit a baseball that would leave the confines of Forbes Field, marking him in that instant, and for the ages, a baseball hero for hitting one of the most famous home runs in history – as it still stands today as the only World Series-winning walk-off home run in a game 7. On some versions of the above photo, just above and right of the scoreboard clock, the feint outlines of the ball in flight can be seen, on a path to clear the left field wall where Yankee player, Yogi Berra, seen distantly in the outfield, is already reacting. (A colorized painting of this same scene in included at the very bottom of this story).

Oct 14, 1960: Headlines from the New York Daily News delivers the bad news to New York Yankee fans, showing Bill Mazeroski making his jubilant run to home plate.
Oct 14, 1960: Headlines from the New York Daily News delivers the bad news to New York Yankee fans, showing Bill Mazeroski making his jubilant run to home plate.
Mazeroski’s home run was that dream heroic moment that every kid who loves baseball fantasizes about. A bottom-of-the ninth, game-winning home run – and more. But this was much more than your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning home run since it came in the World Series. And yet it was even more than that – a home run of “David-vs.-Goliath” proportion, in fact, since it had toppled the powerhouse New York Yankees – make that the “dynasty” Yankees, a team filled with superstars such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and others.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, of course, had good players of their own that year – among them Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Don Hoak, and pitchers Bob Friend, Vernon Law, and Elroy Face, among others. But the Yankees were still heavily favored to win. Few, if any bookies placing odds on the Series that fall had picked the Pirates to win. And for Pittsburgh, when it came to the New York Yankees, there were some long-lingering bad memories from the last time the Pirates and the Yankees faced off in a World Series. That was 1927, when the Yankees had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, both of whom proceeded to put on a home run clinic that intimidated and humiliated Pittsburgh, as the Yankees swept the Pirates in four straight games.

Pittsburgh in 1960 was also city that had a very long drought when it came to winning baseball titles. The Pirates had not won a World Series since 1925 and for much of the 1950s had been one of the worst teams in the majors. In fact, a particularly bad run of nine consecutive losing seasons was fresh in memory. Pittsburgh, in short, was then a city starved for baseball glory – and for that matter – sports glory of almost any kind. The Pittsburgh Steelers football team was then a dozen years away from winning their first playoff game. The Penguins ice hockey team was seven years away from being born. So, when the 1960 World Series came to town, there was a lot of pent-up hope and expectation – not only in Pittsburgh, but throughout the entire Western Pennsylvania region as well. What follows here is a recounting of some of that World Series, which had drama throughout and beyond “The Mazeroski Moment” – and there’s also a Bing Crosby connection. More on that later.


Time & Place

Pittsburgh’s “Point Park,” circa 1957, at the juncture of the Allegheny & Monongahela Rivers, forming the Ohio R.
Pittsburgh’s “Point Park,” circa 1957, at the juncture of the Allegheny & Monongahela Rivers, forming the Ohio R.
October 1960 was both a tense and exciting time for Pittsburgh and America. It was the height of the Cold War and the space race with the Soviet Union. Months earlier, in May, an American Lockheed U-2 spy plane operated by the CIA pilot was shot down in Russia and its pilot captured. The Soviet Union that month had also launched its fourth Sputnik satellite into earth orbit. Dwight D. Eisenhower was then president of the U.S., facing off in those times with Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev.

In literature, Harper Lee had published her novel To Kill a Mockingbird in July, a book which would later win the Pulitzer Prize for the best American novel of 1960. And as already mentioned, the 1960 presidential election campaign was underway, with U.S. Vice-President Richard M. Nixon (R) running against U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts. At the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in September, a young boxer named Cassius Clay had won the gold medal in light-heavyweight boxing. This was also prime time for Frank Sinatra and his Las Vegas “Rat Pack” – the cool guys of that era – Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. At the box office in mid-October, Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas as the slave-turned-gladiator rebel in ancient Rome, was the No. 1 movie. On the Billboard music charts that fall, “Save The Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters, “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley were among the top hits.

Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, PA, circa 1950s-1960s.
Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, PA, circa 1950s-1960s.
Another shot of Forbes Field, which is located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, with the University of Pittsburgh’s “Cathedral of Learning” tower seen in this photo.
Another shot of Forbes Field, which is located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, with the University of Pittsburgh’s “Cathedral of Learning” tower seen in this photo.
Sample Pittsburgh Pirates “official program” guide for the 1960 World Series games played at Forbes Field.
Sample Pittsburgh Pirates “official program” guide for the 1960 World Series games played at Forbes Field.

The city of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was remaking itself from its gritty, grimy past. Pittsburgh had risen as a 19th century industrial powerhouse on the avenues of commerce that were the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, transporting coal and iron ore to the steel mills that helped build America. Following World War II, Pittsburgh launched civic revitalization and clean air projects known as the “Renaissance,” aimed at cleaning up the city’s sooty image. But Pittsburgh in 1960 was still very much that broad-shouldered, working-class city of coal, iron and steel. It was the town of Jones and Laughlin Steel, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Alcoa, U.S. Steel, and Westinghouse. Pittsburgh, in short, was still very much a blue-collar town – capital of Western Pennsylvania, a region brimming full of loyal sports fans.

Then there was the beloved baseball park, Forbes Field. In 1908, city leaders approved plans for a baseball park in the Oakland section of the city. About a years later, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss opened a stadium at Forbes Field, which was the world’s first three-tiered steel and concrete stadium. The ball park was sited near the hills and trees of Schenley Park, and brought notice for its setting and design. Fittingly, the Prates played in the 1909 World Series there, with Honus Wagner among Pirate stars of that day, doing battle with the Detroit Tigers and Ty Cobb. The Pirates won that Series, besting Detroit 4 games to 3. Forbes Field, in fact, hosted two more World Series in 1925 and 1927, winning the 1925 Series by beating the Washington Senators 4 games to 3, and losing the 1927 Series to the Yankees, as already mentioned in a four game sweep. There were also two All-Star games played at Forbes, in 1944 and 1959.

Forbes Field was known for its ivy-covered outfield wall in left and left center field. It also had a hand-operated scoreboard topped with a large clock. The scoreboard was part of the left field wall. Lights were added later for night games.

In 1947, when the Pirates acquired slugger Hank Greenberg, the left field wall was moved in thirty feet and the bullpens located in the space between the wall and the scoreboard. This area this area then became known as “Greenberg Gardens.” Later, when Ralph Kiner joined the team, the Gardens became known as “Kiner’s Korner.”

Forbes Field also had claim to a share of baseball’s iconic moments, including Babe Ruth’s last game, played as a Boston Brave in 1935 – a game in which he hit his last three career home runs – #’s 712, 713 & 714 — the 3rd of which cleared the right field roof and traveled some distance beyond the park.

Forbes Field was the first home stadium of the Pittsburgh Steelers and was also used for football by the University of Pittsburgh “Pitt” Panthers. The Homstead Grays of the Negro Baseball League also played at Forbes. Boxing matches and political rallies were held there as well. On October 2, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a crowd of 60,000 at Forbes Field during a campaign stop, defending his New Deal programs. Forbes Field was demolished in July 1971, as the Pirates used the newly-built Three Rivers Stadium as their home park until 2001, when the team moved to their present home field, PNC Park. But for the 1960 World Series, the first two games were played at Forbes Field, and the attendance for Game 1 on October 5th, 1960 was 36,676, filling the park.

1960 New York Yankee All Stars, from left: Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Bill “Moose” Skowron.
1960 New York Yankee All Stars, from left: Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Bill “Moose” Skowron.
Pittsburgh Pirates from the 1960 team shown a few years later, from left: Bill Mazeroski, Vernon Law, Roberto Clemente and Elroy Face.
Pittsburgh Pirates from the 1960 team shown a few years later, from left: Bill Mazeroski, Vernon Law, Roberto Clemente and Elroy Face.


The ‘60 Series
Yanks vs. Bucs

The 1960 New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates had comparable records. The Yanks had won the American League pennant by eight games with a 97–57 record for a .630 win-loss average. The Pirates won the National League race by seven games with a 95–59 record and a .617 average.

Still, the Yankees featured raw hitting power on a level just below that of 1927’s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, this time with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris – the “M & M boys” as they would be called in the following year when the two sluggers engaged in a heated race for Babe Ruth’s home run record — which Maris would break hitting 61.

In the 1960 season, however, Maris hit 39 home runs with 112 RBIs and a .283 average. Mantle had 40 home runs that year, 94 RBIs, and a .275 average.

In addition to Maris and Mantle, there was also Yogi Berra (15 HR, 62 RBIs, and.276 avg.) and Bill “Moose” Skowron (26 HR, 91 RBIs, and .309). Catcher Elston Howard, who had not played a full season, could also hit for power. And shortstop Tony Kubeck and third baseman Clete Boyer had more than 100 RBIs between them.

The Yankees’ core pitching staff had no 20 game winners among them, but included – Art Ditmar (15-9), Jim Coates (13-3), Whitey Ford (12-9), and Ralph Terry (10-8). Bobby Shantz was a top reliever, with a 5-4 record, 11 saves and a 2.79 ERA.

Pirate shortstop and NL MVP in 1960, Dick Groat, featured on the August 8th 1960 cover of Sports Illustrated.
Pirate shortstop and NL MVP in 1960, Dick Groat, featured on the August 8th 1960 cover of Sports Illustrated.
The Pirates were no slouches, however. They had scored 734 runs during the regular season to lead the National League.

Strong performances that year had come from Roberto Clemente, Dick Stuart and Dick Groat. Clemente compiled a .314 batting average in 1960 with 16 home runs and a team-leading 94 RBIs.

Dick Stuart, the Bucs’ home run leader that year with 23, also had 83 RBIs. Stuart had once hit 66 home runs in a single season in the minor leagues.

Dick Groat, the Bucs’ 29 year-old shortstop that year, had hit .325 for the year with 189 hits. In August 1960, Groat made the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, with the cover tagline, “Fiery Leader of the Pirates.”

Groat had been a Duke University basketball All-American and had grown up just a few miles from Forbes Field. As a kid, he had always wanted to play for the Pirates. In 1952, he got his wish.

Groat was signed by Branch Rickey, famous Brooklyn Dodger general manager (GM) who had brought Jackie Robinson into Major League baseball to break the “color barrier.” Rickey was then GM with the Pirate organization. After Groat signed with the Pirates, he soon became the team’s regular shortstop. In 1960, he would win the National League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophy.

Promotional photo for the 1960 World Series with Mickey Mantle (L) and Roger Maris (R) flanking the Pirates’ Dick Stuart, who as a minor leaguer in 1956, hit 66 home runs.
Promotional photo for the 1960 World Series with Mickey Mantle (L) and Roger Maris (R) flanking the Pirates’ Dick Stuart, who as a minor leaguer in 1956, hit 66 home runs.
Among other important Pirates was outfielder Bob Skinner who had 15 home runs in 1960 along with 86 RBIs and a .273 average.

Pirate pitching in 1960 finished third in National League Earned Run Average (ERA). The team’s starters that year, led by Cy Young award winner Vernon Law (20-9), also included Bob Friend (18-12), Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell (13-5) [and later member of Congress], and Harvey Haddix (11-10).

“Little guy” Elroy Face (5′-9″) was one of the best reliever/closers then in baseball. Known for his “fork ball,” Face had a 10-8 record in 1960 with 24 saves.

Still, the Yankees were big favorites. On October 4th, a story in the New York Times used the headline: “Yanks 7-5 Choice To Capture Title; Odds Even on Opening Game — Pirates Calmly Study Reports on Bombers.” A second story from the Times that same day focused on Yankee power: “Pirates No Match in the Number of Distance Hitters; Bombers’ Attack Is Strong From Both Sides of Plate,” said the headline. But Pirates had a working-class grit about them, befitting their city, and had the support of those rooting for the underdog.

Pittsburgh ace, Vernon Law, pitched Game 1 of the 1960 World Series, which the Pirates won, 6-to-4.
Pittsburgh ace, Vernon Law, pitched Game 1 of the 1960 World Series, which the Pirates won, 6-to-4.
Pirate victory in Game 1 of the 1960 World Series is front-page news in Pittsburgh on October 6, 1960.
Pirate victory in Game 1 of the 1960 World Series is front-page news in Pittsburgh on October 6, 1960.


Game 1
Pirates, 6-4

In Game 1 of the Series, played at Forbes Field, the Governor of Pennsylvania, David Lawrence, threw out the ceremonial opening pitch, and Billy Eckstine, Pittsburgh native, singer, and a bandleader of the swing era, sang the National Anthem. Vernon Law was the starting pitcher for the Pirates in Game 1, and the Yankees threw Art Ditmar.

In the opening half of the inning, Law retired the first two Yankee batters. Roger Maris, however, unloaded on Law for a home run, making Pirate fans a bit nervous. But the Pirates quickly came back, exhibiting the scrappy style of play that had become their trademark all year, putting together a walk, a double, two singles, and two stolen bases to produce three runs. Hitting by Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente had figured in the scoring, giving the Bucs the lead, 3-to-1.

In the fourth inning, New York cut the lead to 3-2 after Maris singled and then was moved around the bases by a Mantle walk, a fly ball by Yogi Berra, and then scored on a single by Bill Skowron. The Pirates came back again adding two more runs in 4th inning on a Bill Mazeroski two-run homer off Yankee reliever Jim Coates, making the count 5-to-2. The Bucs added another run in the 6th, making it 6-to-2.

In the top of the eighth inning, however, two Yankee singles with no outs were enough to bring in Elroy Face to relieve Vernon Law. Face managed to strike out Mantle and Skowron, with Berra making a fly out. The Yankees’ Elston Howard, however, ripped Face for a two-run homer in the ninth, cutting the score to 6-to-4, which proved to be enough, as the Pirate infield turned a double play to end the game. Still the Yankees collected 13 hits in the game, while the Pirates had eight. The next day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured the home team’s Game 1 victory on the front page, also mentioning the two-run home run by Mazeroski as a key ingredient in the victory.


Oct 1960: Mickey Mantle, surrounded by press, celebrates with an Iron City beer in locker room after hitting two home runs in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series. Art Rickerby /Time-Life
Oct 1960: Mickey Mantle, surrounded by press, celebrates with an Iron City beer in locker room after hitting two home runs in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series. Art Rickerby /Time-Life
Game 2
Yankees, 16-3

Yankee power was on full display in a 16-3 trouncing of the Pirates in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series. Mickey Mantle hit two home runs in the game – a two-run blast in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 7th. Bob Turley was the starting pitcher for the Yankees in that game and Bob Friend for the Pirates.

The Pirates and Friend were still in the ball game through five innings when the score was 5-to-1 Yanks. But the wheels came off in the 6th inning, as the Yankees sent 12 men to the plate scoring 7 runs on seven hits, with one Pirate error and a passed ball adding the woes. After Friend was knocked out, he was followed by five Pirate relievers trying to hold the Yankees down.

For the Yankees, in addition to Mantle’s two home runs, Tony Kubeck had three hits, while McDougald, Skowron and Howard each had two, a few of which went for extra bases. Although the Pirates only managed to score three runs, they had 13 hits as well, with Clemente, Nelson, Cimoli, and Burgess each having two apiece.

With the Series tied at one game each, the scene then shifted to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.


Oct 8th, 1960, Game 3, Yankee Stadium: Bobby Richardson being greeted at home plate by Gil McDougald (12), Elston Howard (32) and Bill Skowron (14) for his first inning Grand Slam home run. Tony Kubeck (10) was on deck.
Oct 8th, 1960, Game 3, Yankee Stadium: Bobby Richardson being greeted at home plate by Gil McDougald (12), Elston Howard (32) and Bill Skowron (14) for his first inning Grand Slam home run. Tony Kubeck (10) was on deck.
Game 3
Yankees, 10-0

On Saturday, October 8th. at about 2:40 pm in the afternoon, some 70,000 fans filled Yankee stadium – nearly twice what the turnout had been for Game 1 at Forbes Field. Yankee pitcher, Whitey Ford, who had been 12-9 that season, was the starting pitcher for the Yanks, while Vinegar Bend Mizell got the nod for the Pirates.

However, another lopsided Yankee affair soon followed, as both Mizell and Pirates reliever, Green were knocked out in the first inning. The Yankees tallied 6 runs on 7 hits in that inning alone, featuring a grand slam home run by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson.

Four more Yankee runs were added in the 4th inning with Mantle contributing a two-run home run and Richardson a two-run single, giving him total of 6 RBIs for Game 3. Mantle went 4-for-5 that game. Whitey Ford pitched the entire nine innings for the Yanks, giving up only four Pirate hits – to Clemente, Stuart, Mazeroski and Virdon. Final score, Yankees 10, Pirates 0. The Yankees were feeling pretty superior by this point.

Oct 8th: A wire service photo showing the route of Bobby Richardson’s Grand Slam home run in the 1st inning of Game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, with identifying labels provided for Yankee and Pirate players.
Oct 8th: A wire service photo showing the route of Bobby Richardson’s Grand Slam home run in the 1st inning of Game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, with identifying labels provided for Yankee and Pirate players.


The Oct 10th, 1960 edition of Sports Illustrated featured Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Vernon Law on its cover.
The Oct 10th, 1960 edition of Sports Illustrated featured Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Vernon Law on its cover.
Game 4
Pirates, 3-2

On Sunday, October 9th at Yankee Stadium, at about 2:30pm in the afternoon with some 67,000 fans attending, Game 4 of the 1960 World Series began. Pirate pitcher Vernon Law started his second game for the Pirates, while the Yankees went with Ralph Terry.

Law held the Yankees to two runs – one, a Bill Skowron home run in the 4th, and a second on an infield double-play that scored Elston Howard in the bottom of the 7th.

The Pirates, however, didn’t get a hit until the fifth inning, when Gino Cimoli singled and Smoky Burgess got on with a ground ball. Two outs followed, but thanks to Law, the runners moved along when he doubled to left, scoring Cimoli. Law, in fact, had two hits that game. Virdon then singled, which sent Burgess and Law in to score, making the count 3-to-1 Pirates.

After the Yanks collared a few hits in the seventh scoring one run and leaving runners on base with one out, Elroy Face was called in to relieve Vernon Law. The Yankees’s Bob Cerv then hit a long drive off of Face to right center field that looked like certain trouble until sprinting centerfielder Bill Virdon made a spectacular one-hand catch, falling down at the wall as he did. Face retired the next batter for the final out in the 7th, and also the next three Yankees in order in the 8th inning. In the ninth, Bill Skowron gave the Pirate a scare when he hit a ball that had home run distance, but went foul. Don Hoak then made a good defensive play on Skowron’s next hard hit ground ball to third for one out, while Face retired the next two Yankees in order to preserve the Pirate win, 3-to-2. The Series was now tied at two wins each.


Harvey Haddix was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the 1960 World Series.
Harvey Haddix was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the 1960 World Series.
Game 5
Pirates, 5-2

On Monday, October 10, 1960, also at Yankee Stadium, the Pirates managed another victory, 5-to-2, as Pirate pitcher Harvey Haddix shut down the Yankees for the most part. The Pirates had a three-run second inning capitalizing in part on a Yankee error on the base paths.

Here’s how that play went down: the Pirate’s Dick Stuart had singled, but was forced out on a Clemente grounder. Smoky Burgess then doubled sending Clemente to third. Don Hoak hit a grounder to short, which Yankee shortstop Tony Kubeck fielded and threw to McDouglad at third, attempting to get Burgess out as he tried to reach third. Clemente, meanwhile, had already scored. Kubeck’s throw to third for Burgess got away from McDouglad and all hands were safe. Mazeroski, next up, doubled, sending in two more runs.

Harvey Haddix generally pitched a good game for the Bucs, recording six strikeouts and giving up just two runs — one in the second and a home run to Roger Maris in the 3rd. He kept Yanks tied up through 6 and one-third innings and left with a 4-2 Pirate lead. The Pirates added a run in the top of the 9th, giving them a 5-to-2 lead. Elroy Face, who had already relieved Haddix, then closed out the game. The Pirates now had a 3-2 lead in the Series and were heading home for Game 6, and if needed, Game 7.


Yankee Whitey Ford in the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field, with scoreboard telling the tale. Yanks 12, Pirates 0.  Photo, N. Leifer
Yankee Whitey Ford in the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field, with scoreboard telling the tale. Yanks 12, Pirates 0. Photo, N. Leifer
Game 6
Yankees, 12-0

Back at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh for Game 6, Whitey Ford made his second Series start for the Yankees, and he didn’t disappoint. Ford shut out the Pirates, going the distance over nine innings allowing 7 hits but no runs.

Whitey’s teammates, meanwhile, pounded out 17 hits and 12 runs to take Game 6 by a count of 12-0. Although no Yankee homers figured in the final math, Berra, Mantle, Maris, and Skowron all collected hits. Bobby Richardson enjoyed another big game, with a pair of triples and three RBIs.

The Series was now tied 3-to-3, heading into the decisive Game 7.


Game 7
Pirates, 10-9

In the winner-take-all showdown game of the 1960 World Series, some 36,680 fans were on hand at Forbes Field. Yankees’ manager Casey Stengel went with Bob Turley as his team’s starting pitcher. Turley was the winning pitcher in Game 2. The Pirates employed their ace, Vernon Law, the winning pitcher in Games 1 and 4.

The Pirates struck first, knocking out Turley in the first inning as Rocky Nelson homered with Skinner on base, giving the Pirates an early 2–0 lead. The Pirates then added two more runs in the next inning, extending their lead to 4-0. Things were looking promising in Steel Town. Yankee power, meanwhile, had been shut down until the 5th inning when Bill Skowron hit a lead-off home run. But it was still 4-to-1, Pirates. Bobby Shantz began pitching for the Yankees in the third inning, and the Bucs were held scoreless through the seventh, during which time the Yankees had pulled ahead.

In the 6th inning the Yankees scored four runs to take the lead at 5-to-4. Bobby Richardson led off the inning with a single, followed by a walk to Tony Kubek. Roger Maris popped out but Mantle hit a single driving in one run. With Kubek and Mantle on base, Yogi Berra then ripped a three-run homer, a key blow, giving the Yanks a 5-4 edge.

Yogi Berra hitting a 3-run home run for the NY Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, giving the Yanks a 5-4 lead. Photo: N. Leifer / Sports Illustrated.
Yogi Berra hitting a 3-run home run for the NY Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, giving the Yanks a 5-4 lead. Photo: N. Leifer / Sports Illustrated.

The 7th inning of Game 7 was scoreless for both sides. However, in that inning, the Pirates had a chance for some runs. Smoky Burgess led off with a base hit, and Murtaugh sent in a faster pinch runner for Burgess who would then be replaced in the lineup by back-up catcher Hal Smith. Burgess was a good hitter, so it was a tough decision for Murtaugh to take him out. But the gamble fizzled as the next two batters came up empty: Don Hoak lined out and Mazeroski hit into a double play. It was still 5-to-4 Yanks. Then came the 8th inning with Yankee power again coming to plate – Maris, Mantle and Berra. However, this time Maris and Mantle both made infield outs while Berra walked. But then other Yankees stepped up… – two singles and a double followed, adding two more runs, putting the Yanks still further ahead, 7-to-4.

By the bottom of the eighth inning, things were not looking good in Pirate town. Down by three big runs, there were only six outs remaining. But the Pirate hitters went to work. They opened the inning with a single by Gino Cimoli, who had pinch-hit for Face. Virdon was next, and he hit a sharp ground ball to short for what appeared to a double-play ball. Instead, the ball took a bad hop on the rough infield and hit Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat, sending Kubeck to the turf and stopping the game. It was later reported that Kubek had blood in his throat and having trouble breathing as his windpipe swelled . A conclave of Yankees, and manager Casey Stengel, came on the field to Kubeck’s aide, and he was taken out of the game.

8th inning, Game 7, 1960 World Series, manager Casey Stengel (37), coming to see injured Yankee shortstop, Tony Kubeck, hit in the Adams Apple of his throat after a ground ball took a bad hop, swelling his wind pipe.
8th inning, Game 7, 1960 World Series, manager Casey Stengel (37), coming to see injured Yankee shortstop, Tony Kubeck, hit in the Adams Apple of his throat after a ground ball took a bad hop, swelling his wind pipe.

As play resumed, the Pirate batter, Bob Skinner, was called upon to bunt, which he did, moving the runners to second and third. Nelson came up next, and flied out to shallow right field, with no runners moving. Clemente came to the plate next, fighting off a series of pitches with foul balls, and breaking his bat at one point. He then hit a ground ball chopper that went wide of first base, which Skowron fielded. Yankee pitcher, Coates, was supposed to cover first base, but had initially gone for the ball too, and was unable to recover quickly enough to beat Clemente to the bag, who was safe at first. A run? had scored… The score was now 7-6.


Roberto Clemente, with Dick Groat behind him, gives Hal Smith a celebratory lift for hitting a 3-run home run giving the Pirates a 9-to-7 lead over the NY Yankees in the bottom of 8th inning, Game 7, 1960 World Series.
Roberto Clemente, with Dick Groat behind him, gives Hal Smith a celebratory lift for hitting a 3-run home run giving the Pirates a 9-to-7 lead over the NY Yankees in the bottom of 8th inning, Game 7, 1960 World Series.
Hal Smith’s Homer

Next up was back-up Pirate catcher, Hal Smith, who had been sharing catching duty during the season with starter Smoky Burgess, and had come into the game after Burgess was lifted for a pinch runner earlier. Yankee pitcher Jim Coates took Smith to a 2-and 2 count, and then threw a him a low fastball. Smith connected with the pitch solidly, sending it soaring to left field, over the head of left fielder Yogi Berra and over the wall – a three-run homer scoring himself, Groat and Clemente.

TV announcer Mel Allen was astonished, saying that Smith’s 2-strikes- 2-outs home run “will be one of the most dramatic base hits in the history of the World Series” – a hit that “will long be remembered.” Smith’s homer proved to be a very big deal – at least for the moment – but would be soon be overshadowed and historically buried by what was yet to come. Yet, for the moment, the Pirates now led by a score of 9-to-7 thanks to Smith’s heroics.

Out on the pitching mound, meanwhile, the Yanks replaced Coates with Ralph Terry, who then recorded the third out in the Pirates big 8th inning by getting Don Hoak to fly out to left. But the damage had been done. Now, heading into the top of the 9th inning, it was the Yankees under the gun with only three outs remaining and the Pirates up by two runs, 9-to-7.

Game 7: Mickey Mantle’s single scored Richardson and moved McDougald to third, who later scored, tying the game, 9-to-9.
Game 7: Mickey Mantle’s single scored Richardson and moved McDougald to third, who later scored, tying the game, 9-to-9.
Pirate manager, Danny Murtaugh decided to bring in pitcher Bob Friend, normally a starting pitcher. But in this case, he needed him as a reliever, in hopes of protecting the Pirate’s 9-7 lead and securing the World Series title. Friend was an eighteen game winner for the Pirates that year, who had also started Game 2 and Game 6. But after Yankee hitters Bobby Richardson and pinch-hitter Dale Long both singled off Friend, Murtaugh again turned to his bull pen, this time bringing in Harvey Haddix. Up next was power hitter Roger Maris with two men on base – as McDougald entered the game as a pinch runner for Long. One good home run swing by Maris could put the Yankees back on top. But Haddix managed to have Maris foul out. More Yankee power was next. Mickey Mantle. Mantle hit a hard single to right that scored Richardson and moved McDougald to third. It was now 9-to-8.

With two outs, Yogi Berra was next up, and hit a short grounder to first snared by Pirate first baseman Rocky Nelson, who stepped on the bag for the second out. Mickey Mantle, who was on first base, had started for second on Berra’s grounder, but saw he had no chance to make it there, and quickly reversed course back to first base, adroitly avoiding a tag by Nelson. Had Mantle been caught, it would have been the third out. Meanwhile, McDougald, who had been on third base, had scored, tying the game, 9-to-9. The next batter, Bill Skowron, grounded to short, which forced Mantle out at second base to end the inning.

October 13th, 1960: Students at the University of Pittsburgh’s  Cathedral of Learning had a special perspective on  Forbes Field below as they cheered the Pirates during Game 7 of the World Series. Photo, George Silk/Life.
October 13th, 1960: Students at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning had a special perspective on Forbes Field below as they cheered the Pirates during Game 7 of the World Series. Photo, George Silk/Life.

Now it was the bottom of the ninth inning, with home team Pittsburgh coming to bat. One run, scored at any time that inning, was all the Pirates needed to win the World Series. Yankee pitcher, Ralph Terry, who had made the final Pirate out in the eighth inning, returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth. His job was to hold the line, keep the Pirates off the bases, and maintain the 9-to-9 tie score so the Yanks could hit again in the top of the 10th inning. The first man he faced was Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski. Maz was having a pretty decent Series (in fact, he would go 8-for-25 over the seven games and bat .320 for the Series ), and although he had hit one home run earlier in the Series, in Game 1, he was still not regarded as a home run threat. During the 1960 season Maz had hit 11 home runs.

October 13th, 1960: Pittsburgh Pirate, Bill Mazeroski, just after hitting a Ralph Terry pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning at Forbes Field in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that would sail over the left field wall to win the Series.
October 13th, 1960: Pittsburgh Pirate, Bill Mazeroski, just after hitting a Ralph Terry pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning at Forbes Field in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that would sail over the left field wall to win the Series.

Terry’s first pitch to Mazeroski was a fast ball down the middle but high, for a ball. Next came a pitch lower in the hitting zone which Mazeroski unloaded on with a good swing. The ball popped off the bat and soared high into the afternoon sky heading toward and then over the left field wall. Bill Mazeroski had just made his Pittsburgh Pirates the 1960 champions of baseball. As NBC’s TV announcer, Mel Allen, called Mazeroski’s historic hit that afternoon:

Yankee Yogi Berra watched two late-inning Game 7 Pirate home runs go over the Forbes Field left field wall: one to tie the game by Hal Smith and one to win it by Bill Mazeroski.
Yankee Yogi Berra watched two late-inning Game 7 Pirate home runs go over the Forbes Field left field wall: one to tie the game by Hal Smith and one to win it by Bill Mazeroski.

…There’s a drive into deep left field, look out now… that ball is going, going, gone! And the World Series is over! Mazeroski… hits it over the left field fence, and the Pirates win it 10–9 and win the World Series!

Chuck Thompson, a local radio announcer, also captured some of the action in his call:

,,,[H]ere’s a swing and a high fly ball going deep to left, this may do it!… Back to the wall goes Berra, it is…over the fence, home run, the Pirates win!… (long pause for crowd noise)… Ladies and gentlemen, Mazeroski has hit a one-nothing pitch over the left field fence at Forbes Field to win the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates…

Forbes Field was a ballpark with fairly deep outfield fences, and where Mazeroski hit the ball to left-center field, it went over the 18-foot ivy-covered brick wall near the 406 marker, with estimates that it likely traveled 430 feet or so – a very respectable World Series-winning clout.

As the Pirates bench and Forbes Field erupted, Mazeroski, running hard to first base, came around the bag and realized his hit had left the yard and what he had just done. By the time he reached second base, fans began running onto the field, some coming toward him, trying to greet him and/or run the bases with him. In order to make the Pirate victory official, it was imperative that Mazeroski touch each bag and reach home plate for that final 10th run to be tallied.

Bill Mazeroski, on his home run trot, begins celebrating in earnest between 2nd and 3rd base on his way home.
Bill Mazeroski, on his home run trot, begins celebrating in earnest between 2nd and 3rd base on his way home.
At 3rd base, well-wishing fans begin to greet Maz as Pirate third base coach, Frank Oceak, joins the party.
At 3rd base, well-wishing fans begin to greet Maz as Pirate third base coach, Frank Oceak, joins the party.
Bill Mazeroski, on the final leg of his home run trot, is pursued by fans as he makes his way to home plate where his teammates await.
Bill Mazeroski, on the final leg of his home run trot, is pursued by fans as he makes his way to home plate where his teammates await.

Continuing his run around the bases midway between second and third, Mazeroski began waving with one arm and holding his batting helmet in the air with the other. Approaching third base, a couple of kids and a few other fans came alongside him, trying to offer their congratulatory pat-on-the-back or run along with him.

As he made the turn at third base there were a few more fans and some security guards and police were coming onto the field to help control the crowd and protect the players. In the stadium, the crowd was screaming wildly, with fans hugging one another, some crying with joy. As Mazeroski came down the third base line toward home plate, a mob of his teammates and some fans awaited him. There as well was home plate umpire Bill Jakowski, positioned between a couple of the waiting Pirates to make sure Mazeroski touched the plate. By then the field began to fill up with fans, along with state and local police, as the ballplayers tried to make their way to the clubhouse.

The Yankees. After Mazeroski’s homer, the Yankees stood around their dugout in stunned disbelief. The Pirates had been outscored, outhit, and outplayed by the Yankees, but had managed to emerge with the victory.

The Yankees, in fact, were the winners of the Series, statistically. They had out-scored the Pirates 55–27, out-hit them 91–60 with a better batting average, .338 to .256; out-homered them 10-to-4; and out-pitched them, led by Whitey Ford’s two complete-game shutouts and a team composite ERA of 3.54- to-7.11. Despite their statistically superior performance, the Yanks still lost.

Years later, Mickey Mantle was quoted as saying that losing the 1960 World Series was the biggest disappointment of his career, the only loss, amateur or professional, over which he cried actual tears.

Photographers. The Pittsburgh Post- Gazette had an enterprising photographer in 1960 named Jim Klingensmith who managed to capture Mazeroski’s home run and also the sequence of shots of Mazeroski bounding around the bases after he realized what he had done.

Sometime before Game 7, Klingensmith had scouted out the best spot in Forbes Field for taking what he hoped would be some good shots of the final World Series game that year. On game day, with help from his son and a friend, he used a ladder and climbed atop the grandstand rooftop behind home plate. Once there, he kept the ladder with him to make sure he could get back down, and also to prevent competitors from encroaching on his territory. From this perch, Klingensmith had a great perspective on the park that enabled him to make some priceless shots, a few of which now reside in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Also at the ball park that day was photographer Marvin E. Newman, who captured the Mazeroski moment in a classic shot of the field, scoreboard, and Longines clock that appears at the top of this story. Life magazine photographer George Silk, meanwhile, was on the roof of the nearby Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh where he recorded his classic photo shown earlier of Pitt students cheering the Pirates on.


Bill Mazeroski
Pittsburgh Hero

Bill Mazeroski, circa 1960s.
Bill Mazeroski, circa 1960s.
A coal miner’s son who grew up in the rural Ohio-West Virginia border town of Witch Hazel, Ohio, Bill Mazeroski faced tough conditions as a young boy in the 1940s, living in a small home without electricity or indoor plumbing. His father encouraged him toward sports, and young Bill excelled in high school baseball and basketball. In fact, he was offered basketball scholarships to several colleges.

But Bill opted instead for minor league baseball, signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates and rising in their farm system to the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Midway through the 1956 season with the Stars and batting .306, the Pirates brought Bill Mazeroski up to the majors. He was 19 years old.

In the 1960 World Series, as a 23 year-old second baseman, Bill Mazeroski was something of the unexpected and improbable hero. A second baseman and a .250 average as a hitter, Mazeroski was not your everyday, big-guy power hitter – not the Babe Ruth type expected to hit the ball out of the park. That year, in fact, Bill Mazeroski had 11 home runs – not bad for a second baseman, yet still not a total that would put fear into opposing pitchers.

Bill Mazeroski on his 74th birthday at September 2010 dedication of his statue at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA.
Bill Mazeroski on his 74th birthday at September 2010 dedication of his statue at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA.
Bill Mazeroski was a great infielder, with a number of Gold Glove awards to his credit, and a key player for Pittsburgh. But he wasn’t the “go to” guy expected to deliver clutch home runs – especially in a Game 7, bottom-of-the-9th situation. So when he did knock the ball out of the park in one of the most clutch moments in baseball – and against one of game’s most powerful opponents – he became, with one swing of the bat, a baseball hero, a giant slayer, and champion of the underdog.

When his 17-year career ended in 1972, Bill Mazeroski held the major league records for most double plays in a season and most double plays in a career. His Pirate numeral, No. 9, was retired in 1987. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. A street outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh is named Mazeroski Way, and a statue commemorating his famous 1960 World Series home run, was installed outside the Park in early September 2010. Mazeroski, then 74, spoke at the unveiling. His statue joined three others arrayed around the outside of the Pittsburgh ball park – one each for Pirate greats Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.


The Celebration

October 13, 1960: Downtown Pittsburgh, PA erupted in a prolonged celebration after Pirates won the World Series.
October 13, 1960: Downtown Pittsburgh, PA erupted in a prolonged celebration after Pirates won the World Series.
Back at Forbes Field on the afternoon of October 13, 1960, pandemonium ensued with the Mazeroski homer, and a giant celebration began throughout the city and beyond. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would report on the front page the following day: “At 3:36:30 yesterday, all hell broke loose…” This particular front-page story – one of several devoted to the victory – was headlined “Our Town Goes Wild Over Pirate Victory,” explaining in an auxiliary line above the story: “Crowds Yell, Firecrackers Boom, Air Raid Sirens Shriek, Confetti Rains, Church Bells Ring.” The Series-winning Mazeroski homer had touched off one of the city’s wildest celebrations in its history. “The bedlam – and there is no other way to describe the scene downtown after the game–,” explained the Post-Gazette, “continued on and on and on into the night.”

Life magazine, reporting on the celebration in a later edition, also noted the action following the victory: “… For the next 12 hours, Pittsburgh seethed in celebration for the team that should have lost but wouldn’t. The people felt and uncontrollable urge to let go – and loud. Automobile horns began a non-stop honking and attics were ransacked for whistles, tubas, and Halloween noisemakers. The hordes converged on downtown Pittsburgh where paper hurled from office windows had bogged down trolley cars. Snake dancers bearing sings torn from Forbes Field and beer bottled added to the traffic snarl….” By 9.pm. that evening, bridges and tunnels leading into the city had been closed, and downtown hotels were barring those without a room key from entering their lobbies.

October 14th, 1960: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a “souvenir edition” with its comprehensive coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirate victory in the 1960 World Series.
October 14th, 1960: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a “souvenir edition” with its comprehensive coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirate victory in the 1960 World Series.
Amidst the dominating “Bucs Are The Champs” newspaper headlines and stories that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the next day, the editors managed to squeeze in some other news of the day.

Also in the newspaper that day, for example, was one front-page story on the Kennedy-Nixon presidential TV debate from the previous night, as well as another on the bellicose departing words of visiting Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev still upset over the U-2 spying incident, calling Eisenhower a liar and saying, “If you want war, you’ll get war.”

Still, in Pittsburgh at least, the main topic of the day on the 14th of October 1960 was that the Pittsburgh Pirates were the world champions of baseball. And as another Post-Gazette header and part “dig line” put it – meant no doubt to press salt into the wounds of those who thought the Pirates had no chance against the high-and-mighty Yankees – “We Had ‘Em All The Way.”

Bill Mazeroski had his own headline that day, of course. But also, further down in the sub-headline reporting, there was also mention of the Pirate’s Hal Smith as a key player in the team’s come-from-behind rally: “Five Run Rally in Eighth Inning Breaks Yank Lead as Smith Brings in 3 Runs With 4-Bagger.” The front-page photos featured Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh celebrating with hero Mazeroski and another with Pirates owner John W. Galbreath and general manager Joe L. Brown in a happy embrace.

Oct 1960: Pennsylvania Governor and former Pittsburgh mayor David Lawrence reads the good news about the World Series.
Oct 1960: Pennsylvania Governor and former Pittsburgh mayor David Lawrence reads the good news about the World Series.
Other photos of happy fans basking in the moment of Pirate glory included Pennsylvania Governor, Democrat David L. Lawrence smiling and holding one of the Post-Gazette’s big headline editions proclaiming the Pirate championship.

Lawrence, who served as the 37th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1963, was also mayor of Pittsburgh from 1946 through 1959. Lawrence was born into a working-class Irish-Catholic family in the Golden Triangle neighborhood of Pittsburgh and worked his way up the ladder in Pennsylvania politics. As of this writing, he is the only mayor of Pittsburgh to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania. He was a life-long Pirate fan and holder of a 1960 season ticket.


Bill Mazeroski at his 2nd base position in a later 1970 photo with the Forbes Fields outfield wall behind him.
Bill Mazeroski at his 2nd base position in a later 1970 photo with the Forbes Fields outfield wall behind him.
Series of Distinction

The 1960 World Series, meanwhile, left behind a few distinctions and records that still stand today. First, the Mazeroski home run is one of a kind – so far. As of this writing, it is the only walk-off, World Series winning, Game 7 home run in baseball history. Another World Series winning home run occurred in the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays hit one to end the Series, beating the Philadelphia Phillies. But that one came in a Game 6. In terms of championship home runs generally, there is only one other home run in 20th century baseball history that might be considered in a comparable dramatic vein to Mazeroski’s – that being the famous Bobby Thompson home run of October 3rd, 1951. Thomson’s homer came in the decisive Game 3 of a three-game playoff series that year to decide the National League pennant winner. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants finished in a tie that year, and played at the Polo Grounds in New York for their decisive Game 3. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two out and two Giant runners on base and Brooklyn leading 4-to-2, the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit a 3-run home run to left field that won the game and the pennant for the Giants, 5-to-4. And a wild hysteria at the Polo Grounds then followed.

Another anomaly of the 1960 World Series is that the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award went to a player from the losing team — second baseman Bobby Richardson of the New York Yankees. Richardson had a good series — 11 hits for 30 at bats, hitting at .367, with 2 doubles, 2 triples, a grand slam home run, 8 runs scored, and 12 RBIs. Still, it’s the only time that a World Series MVP award has gone to a player on the losing team. And finally, in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series – that wild game with 19 total runs, 23 hits, four lead changes and five home runs – there were no strikeouts; not one, also a record for World Series play that still stands. Some fans and sportswriters mark Game 7 as one of the greatest World Series games ever.

Mickey Mantle – #7, “safe” at first  – was said to have made a nifty move to avoid the tag of Rocky Nelson on a key 9th inning play when Yogi Berra, #8, grounded out.
Mickey Mantle – #7, “safe” at first – was said to have made a nifty move to avoid the tag of Rocky Nelson on a key 9th inning play when Yogi Berra, #8, grounded out.

What Ifs? The lore of the 1960 World Series lives on, in any case. As with all of baseball, when great games and great plays are recalled, there are always varied opinions, second guesses, and “what ifs.” And so it is with the 1960 World Series: “What if Whitey Ford had been the Yankee starter in Game 1 and had a chance for three wins in the Series?” Or – “What if Mantle had been tagged out by Nelson at first base in the top of the 9th when there were two outs with the Pirates ahead, 9-8?” Or – “What if that ground ball to Tony Kubek hadn’t taken a bad hop, with him making a double play instead of being injured and leaving two Pirates on base with no outs?” Some of those who played the game remember it too, and also have their opinions. “I still think we outplayed them,” said the Yankees’ Whitey Ford in a 2008 New York Times article on the 1960 Series. “We just felt we were a better team. And then to get beat by a second baseman who didn’t hit many home runs? I still can’t believe it.” Yet, in the World Series arithmetic that matters, the Pittsburgh Pirates won 4 games and the New York Yankees won 3 games. Casey Stengel, meanwhile, 70 years old that fall, was relieved of his command by Yankee management. Though in baseball history, Stengel remains one of the all-time best managers in terms of win-loss record.

Memory & Place. The 1960 surprise World Series win by the Pittsburgh Pirates has become more than merely one of baseball’s most famed moments. It is iconic, to be sure. But it is also of another time and place, and of a more innocent era. And for Pittsburgh fans who grew up in that time, and even those who watched the game on television in October of 1960, there is still a nostalgia and an attachment associated with that Series. For those who were alive at the moment, or even those schooled in the moment at countless American dinner tables, something about the photos of Maz running the bases – or even the stored memory of that image – just automatically brings up a feeling for that other time. “Somehow, it just did something to the city,” Mazeroski has said in recent years, “and they just can’t forget it.” And for natives of Pittsburgh – even if they’ve left town over the years for career or family reasons – there is also a special “sense of place” wrapped up in the memory – that of Forbes Field; a place that is partially there and not there, but still lingers in memory for tens of thousands still alive who had gone there as fans. And although Forbes Field was demolished in the 1970s, a portion of its left field wall has been preserved in the city. And importantly, at least part of the actual World Series action also exists – by fluke, it turns out – a film of Game 7.


In 2010, Major League Baseball released the “Crosby Tapes” of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series as a DVD.
In 2010, Major League Baseball released the “Crosby Tapes” of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series as a DVD.
Crosby Treasure

In 1960, neither the major TV networks nor local TV stations generally preserved telecasts of sporting events. In most cases, these telecasts were taped over and used for other shows and broadcasts. As a result, no TV film of the first six games of the 1960 world Series is known to exist. However, one happy exception is a remaining black-and-white “kinescope” of the entire telecast of Game 7 (kinescopes were tapes that were filmed from a video monitor, a common practice in the 1950s). The Game 7 kinescope was discovered nearly fifty years after the fact, in December 2009, quite by accident. The film was found in a wine cellar in the Hillsborough, California home of famous singer and Pittsburgh Pirate part owner, Bing Crosby.

Crosby became a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 and remained an owner until his death in 1977. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the team, and also figured in the recruitment of one the team’s 1960 stars – pitcher Vernon Law. In 1948, Crosby made a telephone call to Law’s mother saying “I’d like you know, Mrs. Law, that we’d like to have your son, Vernon, pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates.” And that call apparently made the difference, as Vernon, who had been more of a football prospect in the Boise area of Idaho as a high school athlete, signed with Pirates. “I guess you could say that Crosby’s telephone call was the final straw in our family decision that I’d sign with the Pirates,” he later explained to a reporter. “It sure thrilled my mother.”

1948: Bing Crosby at right with Pittsburgh Pirate manager Billy Meyer.
1948: Bing Crosby at right with Pittsburgh Pirate manager Billy Meyer.
But when it came to the 1960 World Series, Crosby was reportedly superstitious about watching the games live, fearing he would jinx the Pirates’ chances. By the time of Game 7, he was in Paris where he listened to the game with his wife Kathryn and two friends on a shortwave radio. But he had made plans for watching Game 7 at a later date – but only if the Pirates won. He had arranged that the NBC telecast of the game be recorded on kinescope. Upon his return from Paris, Crosby watched the game. The film was then placed in his wine cellar and film vault where it remained for the next 49 years. In December 2009, while an archivist was looking for footage of old Crosby television specials for DVD conversion, he found some dusty film canisters marked “1960 World Series.” First he found two reels, and later three more, and after viewing them, realized what he had found. The five-reel set is the only known complete copy of the historic game. For fans and baseball historians, it was an important find.

The Crosby estate negotiated a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) for the use of the film for broadcast and conversion to DVDs. In November 2010, an exclusive screening of the film was held in Pittsburgh with some of the game’s participants in attendance. An audience of some 1,300 came out for premiere at the Byham Theater in downtown Pittsburgh – including eight members of the Pirates’ championship team and Bobby Richardson of the Yankees. (Mazeroski , however, was ill at the time).


Hal Smith being greeted by Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente for his 3-run home run, Game 7, 1960 World Series.
Hal Smith being greeted by Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente for his 3-run home run, Game 7, 1960 World Series.
Hal Smith’s Moment

One poignant moment during the MLB screening of the Game 7 film occurred when the film showed Hal Smith’s key 8th inning, 3-run home run, as Smith, then 79, was in attendance. Smith – whose World Series homer gave the Bucs a 9-to-7 lead at the time but has always been overshadowed by the more dramatic Mazeroski homer – was given a standing ovation at the screening, not only from the fans in attendance, but from his fellow teammates as well.

Some baseball statisticians, meanwhile, have crunched the numbers on famous World Series home runs, and they conclude that Smith’s is one of the most important of all World Series homers, and statistically more important that Mazeroski’s in that it gave the Pirates an edge to win the game and the Series.

As ESPN’s Alok Pattani has reported, Smith’s home run “took the Pirates from having a 30 percent chance to win the game before the home run to being more than 90 percent favorites” to win the game (and the Series) after his home run — which they did.

Still, “the Mazeroski moment” carried the day in that October of 1960, and it lives on for the ages. For it was Mazeroski’s winning run that crossed the plate in the final Game 7 tally of 10-to-9, sending Pittsburgh into a frenzy. Yet Mazeroski himself – always humble in his much-feted heroic moment – has said many times, that his contribution was only one of many others in that game and in the 1960 World Series that resulted in Pittsburgh’s victory.

New Eras Ahead. The year 1960 was also something of a demarcation year – in sport, culture, and politics. In baseball, this was the last season of the 16-team professional structure – when the National and American baseball leagues each had eight teams. Expansion teams began to be added in 1961 and 1962. Nor were there Divisional or Championship Series playoffs in baseball then, only the regular season pennant races in each league and the World Series itself. And beyond baseball, a few weeks following the 1960 World Series, the nation elected a new president, John F. Kennedy, who promised “a new frontier” and changes ahead. And so began not only a more modern era of government and politics, but also culture-wide changes in thinking, business, and personal style.

For additional stories on baseball at this website, please visit the “Baseball Stories” topics page or go to the “Annals of Sports” page for sports stories generally. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 20 October 2014
Last Update: 23 October 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Mazeroski Moment: 1960 World Series,”
PopHistoryDig.com, October 20, 2014.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1960 Topps trading card for Vernon Law, an ordained Mormon minister at 17, nicknamed the “Deacon;” won 2 World Series games and the 1960 Cy Young Award.
1960 Topps trading card for Vernon Law, an ordained Mormon minister at 17, nicknamed the “Deacon;” won 2 World Series games and the 1960 Cy Young Award.
1960 Topps trading card for Mickey Mantle who hit a torrid .400 in the 1960 World Series, going 10 for 25 with 1 double, 3 homers, 8 runs scored, and 11 RBIs.
1960 Topps trading card for Mickey Mantle who hit a torrid .400 in the 1960 World Series, going 10 for 25 with 1 double, 3 homers, 8 runs scored, and 11 RBIs.
Pirate foursome of Burgess, Stuart, Clemente and Skinner shown on a 1963 Topps trading card, played in the 1960 World Series. In 1962 they combined for 274 RBIs.
Pirate foursome of Burgess, Stuart, Clemente and Skinner shown on a 1963 Topps trading card, played in the 1960 World Series. In 1962 they combined for 274 RBIs.
NY Daily News front-page headline for October 14, 1960, featured Kennedy-Nixon TV debate differences along with photo of Mazeroski home run celebration.
NY Daily News front-page headline for October 14, 1960, featured Kennedy-Nixon TV debate differences along with photo of Mazeroski home run celebration.
Historic marker at the former site of Forbes Field in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Historic marker at the former site of Forbes Field in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Bill Mazeroski World Series statue shown against Pittsburgh skyline along the Allegheny River at PNC Park.
Bill Mazeroski World Series statue shown against Pittsburgh skyline along the Allegheny River at PNC Park.

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Alan Robinson, Associated Press, “Pirates Honor Mazeroski With Statue of Famous HR Against Yankees,” New York Post, September 5, 2010.

Richard Sandomir, “In Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar, Vintage Baseball,” New York Times, September 23, 2010.

Richard Sandomir, “50 Years Later, a Slide Still Confounds” [re: Mickey Mantle on first base], New York Times, September 30, 2010.

David Schoenfield, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” ESPN.com, October 13, 2010.

Alok Pattani, “Ranking Most Valuable World Series HRs,” ESPN.com, October, 29, 2010.

Mike Dodd, “Pirates Heroes Dust off Reel Classic Game 7 of the 1960 Series,” USA Today, Updated November 16,2010.

Ray Kienzl, “Maz Hoped It Would Go for HR; Sock Touches Off Long Celebration,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 13, 2010.

Al Gioia, “Our Town Goes Wild Over Pirate Victory; Crowds Yell, Firecrackers Boom, Air Raid Sirens Shriek, Confetti Rains, Church Bells Ring,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 13, 2010.

Clifton Blue Parker and Bill Nowlin (eds), Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, Society for American Baseball Research, 2013.

Tom Conmy, “Hal Smith: Bucs Bridesmaid, World Series Hero,” BehindTheBag.net, February 17, 2013.

Mila Sanina, “1960: ‘Dreaming of the World Series…Too Soon, You Say?’,” The Digs: Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 9, 2013.

Bob Hurte, “Bill Mazeroski,” SABR.org (Society for American Baseball Research), September 2014.

Mel Allen Call & TV Video of 1960 Bill Mazeroski Home Run, PittsburghPost-Gazette.com.

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This is a painting of the black-and-white photograph used at the top of this article.  It is the work of Graig Kreindler, and there are more of these “golden era” baseball paintings at his website, http://graigkreindler.com/
This is a painting of the black-and-white photograph used at the top of this article. It is the work of Graig Kreindler, and there are more of these “golden era” baseball paintings at his website, http://graigkreindler.com/

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“The Yogi Chronicles”
1940s-2012

Artist Earl Mayan’s cover illustration of New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra in action for the April 20, 1957 Saturday Evening Post is based in part on a sketching session Mayan had with Berra.
Artist Earl Mayan’s cover illustration of New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra in action for the April 20, 1957 Saturday Evening Post is based in part on a sketching session Mayan had with Berra.
     “Yogi” Berra, the Hall of Fame baseball catcher who played with the New York Yankees during the 1950s and early 1960s, is shown at right on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine – the April 20th, 1957 edition.  Berra is shown here in his catcher’s regalia, going for a foul ball. 

     In 1957, baseball and Yogi Berra were both in prime time, also a golden age for large-format magazines; a time when illustration was still a popular cover art style.  In this case, the artist was Earl Mayan, whose rendering features Berra in action, with fans looking on and rival Red Sox players in their dugout also watching. 

     Mayan, who had separately sketched Berra for the illustration and traveled to Boston for a Yankees-Red Sox game, did other Saturday Evening Post covers in that era, as well as work for other magazines.  The Post was then one of the nation’s most widely read weekly magazines, with a circulation then exceeding 2-to-3 million copies per week.

     At the time this cover appeared, the 1957 baseball season was just beginning; only a few games had been played.  Yogi Berra and the Yankees, in any case, were the sports celebrities of their day.  Berra in 1957 was in the prime of his career, having won the Most Valuable Player award in 1954 and 1955.  The Yankees had won the previous year’s World Series, besting the Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games, with Don Larsen in game six of that series pitching an historic perfect game with Yogi Berra behind the plate.

Yogi Berra, New York Yankee, March 1953.
Yogi Berra, New York Yankee, March 1953.
     What follows here is a story about Yogi Berra; a story about his baseball career and also about how sports celebrity was then taking form in the culture of that era.  For Berra’s story is not only of interest as baseball history, since Yogi, a Hall-of-Famer, became one of the game’s better players who made solid contributions as a hitter, catcher and manager.  It is also a story about what Berra (and his family) did off the field, both during his baseball career and after, parlaying his celebrity into multiple business ventures.  Some of these were fortuitous and had to do with happenstance and luck, with Berra’s sports celebrity seeping into popular culture in a novel way that presented him with even further opportunities.  Yet Yogi Berra’s celebrity is now in its eighth decade – something of a record in itself – having served him well in sport,  publishing, business and advertising, leaving a distinctive mark both on baseball and the larger culture.

Yogi Berra on cover of Sport, magazine, August 1951.
Yogi Berra on cover of Sport, magazine, August 1951.
Yogi Berra on cover of Sport magazine, October 1955.
Yogi Berra on cover of Sport magazine, October 1955.

     Perhaps most famously, Yogi Berra became known for his comic fracturing of the English language – or what is called “malapropism,” the usually unintentional misuse or distortion of words or phrases, or the wrongful use of similar-sounding words – which in Yogi’s case, led to humorous effect.  During his baseball career and after, Berra would become known for a selection of phrases – such as: “It ain’t over till it’s over” and “It’s déj vu all over again,” or, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”  These “Yogi-isms,” as they came to be called – a few with an element of truth to them – have entered the culture as universally recognized phrases and are widely quoted in a veriety of contexts.  In fact, something of a small cottage industry grew up around Yogi’s sayings, as books and advertising helped to make him a “malaprop celebrity” – which would lead to additional advertising opportunities in his later years.  Yogi Berra, it turns out, may have the last laugh in all of this – all the way to the bank.  More on that part of Berra’s career later; first, the baseball.

July 1950: Yankee All-Stars, from left: Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Gerry Coleman.
July 1950: Yankee All-Stars, from left: Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Gerry Coleman.
     Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was born in the Hill district of St. Louis, Missouri in 1925.  His parents and two older brothers were born in Italy and his father, who worked in a brickyard, had little use for sports.  In the neighborhood, Bera played sandlot baseball, football, and something they called “cartball,” which was a kind of baseball played with bottlecaps and broomsticks.  They also played a lot of soccer.  Berra grew up in that community with another famous baseball player, Joe Garagiola, who years later would become a noted sports announcer.  By age 14, Berra was forced to quit school after the eighth grade and go to work to help his immigrant parents.  He worked for a time as a time on the assemply line at the Johansson Shoe Company and also in a coal yard.  But he also played American Legion baseball, along with Garagiola, and both were brought to the attention of Branch Rickey, then the general manager of the St Louis Cardinals.  Rickey offered Garagiola $500 a week to sign, but Berra was offered half that amount, which he declined.  Berra later signed with the New York Yankees at age 17, and began play with their farm team in Norfolk.  In one game there, Berra showed signs of a prodigious hitting talent, driving in 23 runs in a single game.

1940s: Yogi Berra in his U.S. Navy uniform during WWII.
1940s: Yogi Berra in his U.S. Navy uniform during WWII.
1947 sports card for “Larry” Berra from TipTop Bread.
1947 sports card for “Larry” Berra from TipTop Bread.

     With World War II, Berra joined the Navy, serving in North Africa and Europe.  He also trained in 38-foot amphibious vehicles armed with rockets and machine guns.  In the D-Day invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944, Berra, then 19, served on a landing craft for a series of days without much sleep.  He was more fortunate than many others in that invasion, as his Navy vessel stayed out on the water shelling the shore from afar.

     After his discharge, he returned to Yankees’ farm system briefly, during which rival New York Giants manager Mel Ott offered the Yankees $50,000 for Berra’s contract.  They declined, and before long, Berra moved up in the Yankees’ farm system and by the fall of 1946 he joined the Yankees’ Major League team.

1954 Topps baseball card – Yogi Berra, catcher, NY Yankees.
1954 Topps baseball card – Yogi Berra, catcher, NY Yankees.
     Once in the majors, Yogi was not regarded as the best defensive man in the business, and was used in various position, mostly in the outfield.  Then there was also the matter of his looks, with some New York reporters complaining he didn’t fit the expected Yankee pedigree; he didn’t “look like a Yankee” or wasn’t “photogenic enough.” 

     Berra, in fact, was given all manner of offensive nicknames, most in fun but still hurtful to be sure.  One biographer, Carlo DeVito, has written: “Berra was first tormented by his own team, then later by other teams, and then by the press. … In his first few years he was called ugly, Neanderthal, caveman, gorilla, ape, nature boy, freak, Quasimodo, and many other names.  Worse yet, was his own manager calling him ‘the ape.'”

     Berra’s rejoinder to the malingers would be that good looks had nothing to do with one’s baseball success.  “You don’t hit with your face,” he is known to have said.  And on the field and at the plate, Berra soon proved his mettle.

Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle with reporters following a game in the 1950s.
Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle with reporters following a game in the 1950s.
     For ten consecutive seasons, 1949 through 1958, he hit 20 or more home runs a year, with at least 80 or more runs batted in each of those years.  One of Berra’s best years was 1950 – compiling a .322 batting average with 28 home runs and 124 runs batted in (RBIs).  He was named the American League’s most valuable player three times – 1951, 1954, and 1955.  In fact, he received MVP votes almost every year he played, from 1947-61. 

     Between 1949 and 1955, on a team filled with stars such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Yogi Berra who led the Yankees in RBIs for seven consecutive seasons.  He was also a 15-time All-Star selection.  Berra played his entire 19-year career (1946–1965) with the Yankees as catcher, outfielder, and manager.  In 1972, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1960 All Stars: From left, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Moose Skowran.
1960 All Stars: From left, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Moose Skowran.
     Berra was known as something of a free-swinging hitter, going after balls outside of the strike zone – and sometimes hitting them for homers.  “If I can see it, I can hit it,” he would say.  Pitchers found him almost impossible to strike out.  Despite being tagged a “wild swinger,” Berra didn’t strike out often.  In 1950 he struck out only 12 times in 597 batting appearances.  Paul Richards, former player and manager of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles during the 1950s and early 1960s, said of Yogi: “He is the toughest man in baseball in the last three innings.”

Yogi Bera, No. 8, having a few words with Boston Red Sox great, Ted Williams.
Yogi Bera, No. 8, having a few words with Boston Red Sox great, Ted Williams.
     Berra also became an outstanding catcher, a skill he credits to the coaching of former Yankee great and Hall of Fame catcher, Bill Dickey.  “I was a lousy catcher ’til they got Bill Dickey there [as coach].  Dickey worked me hard.  And, I liked it though, what he did for me.  I owe everything to Bill Dickey, I really do.”  Behind the plate Berra went on to set his share of records.  He led all American League catchers eight times in games caught and in chances accepted, six times in double plays (a major league record), eight times in putouts, three times in assists, and once in fielding percentage.  Berra left the game with the AL record for catcher putouts at 8,723, and also another for 148 consecutive games without an error. 

     Yogi would often talk to the opposing batters in order to distract them.  Hank Aaron tells the story about the 1958 World Series, with Yogi behind the plate.  Yogi kept telling Aaron to “hit with the label up on the bat.”  Finally, Aaron turned and said, “Yogi, I came up here to hit, not to read.”

1956: Berra & Don Larsen.
1956: Berra & Don Larsen.
     Among the more famous games that Berra caught, was the only perfect no-hit game in post-season history—catching Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers.  One of the game’s more iconic photos is Berra leaping into the arms of Don Larsen following the final pitch.  In the 1960 World Series, when the underdog Pittsburgh Pirates faced the powerhouse New York Yankees, Berra also was attached to a notable moment in sports history.  With all the sports pundits having forecast an easy Yankee victory over Pittsburgh, the Pirates held their own and battled to the very end, as the series was taken to a surprising 7th game.

1960: Berra at Forbes Field.
1960: Berra at Forbes Field.
     In that famous final game, Berra had hit a 3-run homer in the sixth inning, helping to overcome Pittsburgh’s 4-1 lead as the Yanks then went ahead 5-4, and then 7-4 in the top of the eighth inning.  But Pittsburgh fought back, scoring five runs in the eighth inning, taking a 9-7 lead.  Then the Yankees rallied for two-runs in the top of the ninth, tying the score at 9-9.  But leading off in bottom of the ninth came second baseman Bill Mazeroski, who hit a long drive to left field.  Berra was then playing the outfield, photographed that day watching the ball go over the-ivy covered left field wall at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.  “Yogi Berra backed up in left field,” read one account of the Mazeroski drive, “then he circled away from the wall, watching the ball go over his head and over the wall.  Then Yogi dropped to his knees in despair and anger.”  The Pirates had won the World Series; their first since 1925.

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“Jackie Steals Home”
1955 World Series

 

1955 World Series: Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers charges home plate and catcher Yogi Berra.
1955 World Series: Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers charges home plate and catcher Yogi Berra.
Famous photo of Jackie Robinson stealing home as Yogi Berra applies the tag. Photo, Mark Kauffman.
Famous photo of Jackie Robinson stealing home as Yogi Berra applies the tag. Photo, Mark Kauffman.
Umpire signals "safe" as Berra turns from the play.
Umpire signals "safe" as Berra turns from the play.
1955: Jackie Robinson “safe,” says the umpire, as Yogi Berra argues the call. Photo, Grey Villet.
1955: Jackie Robinson “safe,” says the umpire, as Yogi Berra argues the call. Photo, Grey Villet.
1955: Yogi Berra continues to show his displeasure with Robinson call, pressing his case, but to no avail.
1955: Yogi Berra continues to show his displeasure with Robinson call, pressing his case, but to no avail.

     Perhaps one of the most famous baseball plays with Yogi Berra came when he and Jackie Robinson tangled at home plate in September 1955.  It was Game No. 1 of the 1955 World Series with the Yankees facing the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The afternoon game that September 28th was being played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx before a crowd of some 63,800 fans.  Don Newcombe was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers.  Newcombe had won 20 games that year.  Whitey Ford, with an 18-7 record that year, was pitching for the Yankees.

     In the early innings, the game had see-sawed back and forth with each side taking the lead.  In the top of the 8th inning, with the Yankees ahead, 6-to-4, Carl Furillo came first to bat.  He singled to center field, followed by Gil Hodges who flied out with Furillo remaining at 1st base.  Jackie Robinson came next, and reached base on a ground ball error, sending Furillo to 3rd base and Robinson going to 2nd.  Next up was Don Zimmer who hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Furillo and advancing Robinson to 3rd base.  There were then two outs.

     Jackie Robinson – known for his base running exploits – suddenly takes off from third base as unwary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra was getting set behind the plate with Dodger pinch hitter, Frank Kellert, coming to hit.  Robinson by then was barreling down the third-base line heading for home, as Berra by now saw him coming and was preparing for action, waiting for the ball from pitcher Whitey Ford.  As Berra receives the ball from Ford, Robinson goes into his slide at home plate.  It’s a very close play. 

     The home plate umpire, Bill Summers, calls Robinson safe, and thereupon, Berra jumps up into the umpire’s face complaining about the call.  Berra continues in a rage after the umpire, complaining to no avail as Robinson walks off and the score is recorded at 6-to-5.  The Dodgers are now within one run of tying the game. 

     In the end, the Yankees would win the game.  They had two homers from Joe Collins and one by rookie Elston Howard.  Whitey Ford was the winning pitcher, with relief help in the ninth inning from Bob Grim.  For the Dodgers that game, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider had homered. 

     The Dodgers, however, would win the World Series in Game 7, beating the Yanks, 2-0.  For the first time in Series history, an MVP was selected—Johnny Podres, who won Games 3 and 7, pitching two complete games with a shut out in the latter game, also posting a series ERA of 1.00.  But it is the controversy over the Robinson theft of home that lives in memory from that Series.

     Several photographers captured the action of the game that day, including Robinson stealing home.  Grey Villet captured the scene with a series of photographs, two of which are shown here (#’s 4 & 5).  Mark Kauffman, a photographer with Sports Illustrated magazine also captured the scene in the 2nd photo above.

     Brad Mangin, a San Francisco freelance sports photographer who specializes in shooting baseball with clients such as Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball, rates the Kauffman photo – No. 2 in this sequence – as one of the top all-time World Series photos.  Adds Mangin of the famous Robinson-Berra controversy:

…I have seen the video replay over and over and it is still hard to see if Jackie was safe or out.  The only thing I definitely know about this play is it made a great picture that was captured so beautifully by Mark Kauffman of Sports Illustrated.  One thing that makes this image so special to me is the fact that it is one of the first great telephoto pictures made with a long lens from the field level. Until this time most of the baseball pictures shot during the regular season and World Series with long lenses were made from overhead baskets with Big Bertha cameras.

     Mangin adds that “the great peak action and expression on Jackie’s face, combined with the unique (for the time) low-to-the-ground angle, make this picture special.”

     Yogi Berra, meanwhile, to this day, maintains that Jackie Robinson was “out” at home.

 

*  *  *  *  *

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Yogi Berra hitting a 3-run home run for the New York Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Photo: Neil Leifer / Sports Illustrated.
Yogi Berra hitting a 3-run home run for the New York Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Photo: Neil Leifer / Sports Illustrated.

     Yogi Berra wasn’t a big guy – about 5′-8″ and 185 lbs in his prime – but he played the game with a fierce tenacity and workman’s diligence that won the respect of his opponents and teammates. He had a long and productive career with the Yankees and gave his all on the field. In June 1962, at the age of 37, Berra showed his endurance by catching an entire 22-inning, seven-hour game against the Detroit Tigers.  Berra played on more pennant-winning teams (14), and on more World Series winners (10) than any player in the history of the game.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, and his New York Yankee jersey, No. 8, was also retired that year.

October 1963: Yogi Berra, beaming at news that he will manage the Yankees.
October 1963: Yogi Berra, beaming at news that he will manage the Yankees.
     After his playing days, Yogi became a coach and manager.  “Oh, I think I watched the game pretty good,” Berra would say of his baseball smarts and coaching credentials.  “I watched the pitcher.  You see how many catchers are managers today, don’t you?  They know the game.  They know when the pitchers are a little tired…” 

     Berra was hired to manage the Yankees in 1964, and he took them to the World Series, though losing to the Cardinals in seven games.  Fired by the Yankees after that World Series, Berra then made a brief return to the field as a player-coach for the New York Mets, playing in just a few games in April-May 1965 before becoming a Mets coach and remaining in that position for the next eight years, including the Mets’ 1969 World Championship season.  In 1972, following the sudden death of Mets manager Gil Hodges, Berra became the Mets manager.  Midway through the following 1973 season, the Mets were mired in last place, but still within striking distance.

Yogi Berra as the New York Mets' first base coach, 1969.
Yogi Berra as the New York Mets' first base coach, 1969.
     In July that year, the Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East.  When Berra was quizzed by the press if the season was over for the Mets, Yogi famously replied: ” It ain’t over till it’s over.”  And indeed, it wasn’t over, as the Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season.  Yogi’s Mets went on to defeat the highly favored Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” in five games to capture the National League pennant.  In the 1973 World Series that followed, Berra’s Mets had a 3-games-to-2 lead on the Oakland Athletics, but lost games 6 and 7.  Berra was fired as Mets manager in August 1975. 

     The next year, he rejoined the Yankees as a coach, remaining in that post as the Yankees won three consecutive American League titles as well as the 1977 and 1978 World Series.  He continued as a Yankee coach through 1983, named manager in 1984.  Berra had agreed to stay with the Yankees for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be fired, but owner George Steinbrenner fired Berra early in the 1985 season, the message delivered through a third party, creating a rift between the two men.  Indeed, for what must have been a painful time for Berra, who loved the Yankee organization and its players, he did not set foot in Yankeedom for 14 years. 

Yogi Berra with wife Carmen in Mets attire.
Yogi Berra with wife Carmen in Mets attire.
     In 1986, Berra joined the Houston Astros as bench coach, remaining there until 1989.  Berra is one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series.  As a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series.

     In Berra’s private life, he married his wife, Carmen, in January 1949.  They have three children and have lived in Montclair, New Jersey since Berra’s playing days.  Two of Berra’s sons also played professional sports – Dale played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros, and Tim played pro football for the Baltimore Colts.  Yogi Berra’s life off the field, with his business ventures and through his celebrity, is at least as interesting as his baseball life, and that part of the story is next.


Early Advertising
Brand Berra: Pt. 1

June 1951: Prest-O-Lite ad with Yogi Berra.
June 1951: Prest-O-Lite ad with Yogi Berra.
     In the early 1950s, baseball players were not paid the exorbitant salaries they receive today.  In fact, many ball players, even the stars, worked to supplement their income by taking off-season and part-time jobs or venturing into small businesses.  Yogi Berra worked in the hardware section of a Sears Roebuck store in the off season and also as a head waiter.  And with his best friend on the Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, the two Yankees worked at The American Shop in Newark, New Jersey selling mens clothing during the 1951 off-season.  The two men also bought and ran a bowling alley together in North Jersey.  And Berra, like other popular players, also became involved with advertising and product endorsements.

     Among the first product ads he did was one in the early 1950s for Prest-O-Lite Battery with Berra quoted in as saying, “I Add Water Only 3 Times a Year.”  In his earlier product endorsements, Yogi and other Yankees were often given token gifts such as wrist watches for their appearances rather than payments.  After Yankee traveling secretary Frank Scott learned in the early 1950s that the players weren’t getting paid for their advertising work, he quit his Yankee job and began representing players for contract payment in their endorsement deals.  But Yogi Berra would do o.k. for himself in other endorsement arrangements.

     In 1955, on a golf course in Haworth, New Jersey, Berra met two members of the Oliveri family whose father, Natale Oliveri, had invented the Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink years earlier.  Yogi was soon appearing in print ads for the product.  By February 1956, he was made a vice president at the company.  Yogi took no compensation for the Yoo-Hoo ads, but was advised to take stock in the company instead, which he did.  According to some accounts, Berra also took initiative in suggesting he could do more for the company than merely appear in ads, and helped to bring in other investors.  He also convinced a number of his Yankee teammates to endorse and help advertise the product.  A series of Yogi Berra Yoo-Hoo ads followed through the 1950s, some that also featured Yogi with Mickey Mantle and/or multiple Yankee teammates.  One of the ads at left – “Yoo-Hoo Wants You” – also has Berra pitching to prospective bottlers for the company.  He became, in effect, the face of the franchise during the 1950s.  The impact of Berra’s and the Yankee involvement with the company was almost instant.  Within a few years, You-Hoo became one of the fastest growing soft-drink brands in America.  Berra’s contract with the Yoo-Hoo was slated at one point to run for about 15 years.  The Yoo-Hoo work, in any case, put him in a someting of new spotlight, with his name sometimes appearing in the New York Times business section.  Madison Avenue now knew the name.

Berra salad dressing ad.
Berra salad dressing ad.
     With his Yoo-Hoo business activities, Yogi Berra became one of a new breed of baseball players who were making good money off the field.  The Oliveris, meanwhile, became family friends, even godparents in one case to Dale Berra, Yogi’s youngest son.  But some years later, after the company had been sold a few times, and the quality of drink changed, Berra decided to end his association, also selling his stock.

     In addition to his involvement with Yoo-Hoo, Berra also did a number of other print and/or TV ads during the 1950s and 1960s for an assortment of sponsors, among them: Kraft Foods, Entenmann’s, Stove Top stuffing, Shelby bicycles, White Rock sparkling beverages, Spencer Chemicals, Spalding baseball equipment, Camel cigarettes, Acme Markets, Ballantine beer and others.  In subsequent years, he also did ads for Miller Lite beer, Pepsi-Cola, Jockey underwear and others. 

     One notable advertising success for Berra came in 1960, after he met George Lois, a rising New York advertising man.  Lois was working on advertising for the Quaker Oats Company and its cat food brand, Puss ‘n Boots, and he began developing Berra as a character in the ads.  One of these ads shows a cat “working out” at a gym, jumping over a pummel horse and using a trampoline, after which Yogi and the cat having a “conversation” about the cat’s fitness and diet, extolling the virtues of Puss ‘n Boots cat food.  The ads became a success and won awards for George Lois who went on to develop other famous TV spots, including “I Want My MTV” ads of the 1980s. 

     Berra has also mentioned Frank Scott, one of the first sports agents, who helped book Berra in TV commercials and appearances on programs such as The Phil Silvers Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.  In any case, by the end of the 1960s or so, Yogi Berra was one of the most successful sports celebrity product endorsers around.

Yogi Berra in a 1957 ad about leather products for the Diamond Chemicals Co.
Yogi Berra in a 1957 ad about leather products for the Diamond Chemicals Co.
     Yogi also did ads for some unlikely sponsors.  In 1957, for example, he appeared in a magazine ad for Diamond Chemicals, an ad that pitched the company’s involvement in making the chemicals used in leather processing.  “Lawrence Berra, Esq., Does A Job For Leather,” reads the headline, with the ad’s text explaining that Berra and baseball were very much involved with leather, and so was Diamond Chemicals:

Yogi has a lot to do with leather.  Catches it.  Catches with it.  Hits it.  Wears it.  Even autographs it.  Like most athletes, he couldn’t do without it, since no other substance does certain tough jobs so well.

Notice that Yogi’s pretty fan favors leather, too.  A fashion trend that’s no accident.  The American leather industry has developed new tanning methods, new processes that make leather soft as velvet, pliant as jersey.  You’ll see them in the new fall style – for indoors and out.  Feel good.  Look wonderful.

All of which is pleasing to us at Diamond Alkali, since we are a leading supplier of chemicals to the American leather industry.  Think of Diamond’s “Chemicals you live by” next time you see a baseball
– or a prettily filled leather jacket.

Yogi Berra in 1964 Ballantine Beer ad.
Yogi Berra in 1964 Ballantine Beer ad.
     Ballantine Beer.   In the 1940s, Ballantine Beer became the New York Yankees’ first TV sponsor.  Ballantine Beer ads became part of the scenery at Yankee Stadium.  Sports writer and announcer Mel Allen, became the voice of the Yankees on radio and TV, and he would also plug Ballantine Beer during the play-by-play, calling each Yankee home run a “Ballantine Blast.”  By 1964, when the Ballantine Beer ad at left appeared, Yogi Berra was managing the team.  This ad, which appeared in several forms, features a smiling Yogi Berra and the words, “Catch Yogi and the Yankees on radio and TV.”  Interestingly, by 2012, one version of this ad could be found as a collectible item for sale at online locations such as the New York Times store, where a 36″ x 36″ version of the ad, signed by Berra, was offered for sale in a wood frame.  “Only two available!,”said the description in September 2012.  “When they are sold, they are gone forever!”  The description also explained that the framed ad came with “a certificate of authenticity from Brigandi Coins & Collectibles of New York, a leader in collectibles since 1959.”  The ad also came with “a letter of authenticity from the Berra Family.”  The asking price for the ad at the NYT store site was $6,700.


Publishing
Brand Berra: Pt. 2

Yogi Berra on the cover of Sport magazine, May 1958.
Yogi Berra on the cover of Sport magazine, May 1958.
Yogi Berra & Micky Mantle on the cover of Sport, May 1963.
Yogi Berra & Micky Mantle on the cover of Sport, May 1963.

     During his playing years, there had been a number of magazine covers, articles, and sports books about Yogi Berra the ball player.  These were nothing special or out of the ordinary – that is, nothing special beyond the normal realm of books about popular sports figures that typically appear during their careers.  Among early publications were also a few short, pulp paperbacks such as, Yogi Berra: Baseball Hero (Fawcett, 32pp) by Charles Dexter, and Yogi Berra: The Muscle Man (Barnes, 25pp) by Ben Epstein – both from 1951.  Yogi Berra also received front-cover play from major sporting magazines through the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Two such covers from Sport magazine, for example, are shown here above – one from May 1958 with Berra at bat, and another from May 1963 with he and Micky Mantle on the cover featuring a story by Mantle – “The Yogi Berra I Know.”  There had also been more substantial baseball biographies featuring Berra as well.

The Yogi Berra Story, 1960.
The Yogi Berra Story, 1960.
Yogi Berra book, 1965.
Yogi Berra book, 1965.

     In 1952, Joe Trimble did a book on Yogi, titled, Yogi Berra, which appeared in revised editions through the 1960s – a book which grew to 224 pages for the Grosset Sports Library edition of 1965, shown here second from left, published by Grosset & Dunlap.

     In 1958, Gene Roswell also wrote a substantial book on Berra, published by Julian Messner in New York, The Yogi Berra Story, which also went into multiple printings through the 1960s.  That book is shown here at far left in its 1960 edition.



Yogi Berra’s 1961 autobiography with Ed Fitzgerald, former editor, Sport magazine.
Yogi Berra’s 1961 autobiography with Ed Fitzgerald, former editor, Sport magazine.
     Then in 1961 came Yogi’s first autobiography under his own name, written with the help of sports writer and editor Ed Fitzgerald.  That book, running more than 230 pages, was published by Doubleday with the title, Yogi: The Autobiography of a Professional Baseball Player.  Ed Fitzgerald had been the former editor of Sport magazine in the 1950s and by 1960 was president of Doubleday’s book division.  Berra was still an active player when the book came out, then in his last few years with the Yankees.  The New York Times did a story on Berra at an author’s book signing event at a Macy’s department store in New York city.  Berra was photographed behind a stack of books with pen in hand.  However, when he was asked to write the full name of a person for a gift-book salutation with his autograph, he begged off, saying:  “I don’t believe last names should be included in autographs.  That makes it too formal… Anyway, I’m a lousy speller.”  The book, in any case, went though several printings, helping keep Yogi Berra’s name in some prominence among sports celebrities.  He also continued to appear occasionally in sporting magazines.  Berra would retire from active play with the Yankees two years later.

 

1973-74 edition of “The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra” by Phil Pepe.
1973-74 edition of “The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra” by Phil Pepe.
Yogi-isms
Brand Berra: Pt. 3

     By the 1970s, however, a whole new level of Yogi Berra marketing began once his “famous sayings” became part of the mix.  And that episode of his life appears to have begun in earnest in 1973-74 with the publication of The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra by author Phil Pepe, published by Belmont Tower paperbacks.

     Berra’s rising fame on the notoriety of his “Yogi-isms”– as his humorous phrases and malaprops are sometimes called – appears to have begun, according to some sources, in 1947.  In that year, the Yankees had come to play a ball game in Berra’s home town of St. Louis, and on the occasion, the city decided to honor their hometown boy.  Nervous about what he would say in the pre-game ceremony, Yogi asked one of his teammates to draft some short opening remarks, which included the line, “I want to thank all the people who made this day possible.”  But as Yogi recalls, when he rose to speak at the mike, he stated instead: “I wanna‘ thank everybody here for making this night necessary.”  That was the beginning of Yogi’s twisted profundities, as some see it.  However, others note that in 1946, as a minor league player, Yogi was admonished about taking wild swings at the plate and was counseled to “think, think think” about what he was doing up there at bat.  So he did, and promptly struck out, concluding that one could not “think and hit at the same time” – or words to that effect.  In any case, it would be such phrases – and their stories – that began gaining wider and repeated currency in the sporting press and beyond.

A 1954 Spencer Chemicals magazine ad asks: “What’s That You’re Saying, Yogi?”
A 1954 Spencer Chemicals magazine ad asks: “What’s That You’re Saying, Yogi?”
     Another source for the origin of some of the Yogi-isms appears to have been Yogi’s boyhood friend, Joe Garagiola, who after his own distinguished baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals, moved into the broadcast booth where he told Yogi stories from their boyhood past — stories that went out over the TV and radio airwaves, gaining notice with a wider national audience.  And for any number of the Yogi-isms, the origins are muddy to say the least, with even Yogi admitting, true to form, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”  Yet there is evidence, that Yogi’s utterances were noticed and incorporated into public lore, even in the early 1950s.  One Spencer Chemicals magazine ad from 1954 featuring a smiling Yogi Berra in his catcher’s gear is headlined: “What’s That You’re Saying, Yogi?,” suggesting some generally recognized befuddlement with his observations.  In the early 1960s, referring to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hitting back to back home runs, he is reported to have remarked, “It’s like déj vu all over again” — which has become one of most often quoted sayings.  And in October 1963, as he was signing his contract to manage the Yankees, a New York Times piece included mention of several of his quips: of the October shadows in Yankee stadium’s left field, Yogi said, “It gets late out there early”;  Of seeing a performance of Tosca in Milan, he observed, “It was pretty good. Even the music was nice.”  And on finding the hypothetical million dollars in the street, he said, “I’d return it if the guy who lost it was poor.”  By 1973, certainly, after his famous pronouncement on the Mets’ pennant chances – “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” – Yogi Berra had become a well-recognized English language contortionist.

1988 version of Pepe book.
1988 version of Pepe book.
1989 book w/Tom Horton.
1989 book w/Tom Horton.

     Phil Pepe’s The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra, in any case, arrived at an apparently receptive time in the mid-1970s.  Pepe’s book, which blended Berra biography with Berra sayings, did well and went into subsequent printings and cover revisions for many years.  A 1988 version of that book is shown at near right.  The idea of doing books on Yogi Berra wisdom was picked up by other authors as well.  And by the late 1980s, Yogi himself got into the act with his own book, this one in 1989 with Tom Horton and McGraw Hill using one of Yogi’s famous sayings as the title – Yogi: It Ain’t Over… This volume appeared first in hardback followed by a 1990 HarperTorch paperback.  Yogi-isms also circulated beyond Yogi’s own works, of course, found in various books and magazines.  In 1992, for example, Dick Schaap and Mort Gerberg complied Joy in Mudville: The Big Book of Baseball Humor, published by Doubleday, which included a generous selection of Yogi’s phrases.

     LTD Enterprises.  In 1993, Berra’s three sons, Larry, Tim and Dale, and daughter-in-law Betsy, began thinking they needed a special company to take care of their father’s growing publishing and endorsement deals.  Baseball memorabilia was then becoming more of a business opportunity as well.  Yogi Berra was then receiving about 100 letters a week in the mail, most seeking his autograph.  So Berra’s sons – believing they were just as good if not better suited to protecting and promoting their father’s image than commercial agents – decided to form LTD Enterprises to help manage and market Yogi Berra.  They soon created a mail-order business and a Yogi Berra website which now has a Yogi store with baseball memorabilia and links to other sports sites.  Berra also continued to have endorsement and advertising deals, including those with Hardee’s food chain and Pringles potato chips, among others.  More Yogi books followed as well.

     In 1997, came The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!, with Workman Publishing – a volume that would see a number of printings and new editions through the 2000s.  By early 1999, The Yogi Book had sold some 300,000 copies and had become a best-seller.  Other titles on Yogi-isms – and most with a Yogi Berra by-line – came almost yearly in the 2000s.  In 2001, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes, was published, first as Hyperion hardback, followed in 2002 by a paperback.  In 2003 came, What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All, published by Simon and Schuster.  In 2008, Yogi published with Dave Kaplan, You Can Observe a Lot by Watching: What I’ve Learned About Teamwork From the Yankees and Life with John Wiley & Sons.  In 2010, came another edition of The Yogi Book.

     In recent years, Yogi Berra sayings have popped up in some surprising places, including business newsletters, magazines,  business media, and various websites.  A few financial analysts have taken some of Yogi’s sayings an applied them to investing, including one with a short article entitled, “Yogi Berra’s 7 Secrets to Building Wealth.”  No word, however, if Yogi has associated with or endorsed these.  But even in conversations with his wife, Carmen, Yogi could come up with unexpected quips for sometimes hilarious effect.  In one case, for example, Carmen reportedly asked her husband: “Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” – to which Yogi replied: “Surprise me.”


1998-1999
Yogi’s Museum

Yogi Berra Museum logo.
Yogi Berra Museum logo.
     In their adopted hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, Yogi Berra and family had put down roots since the 1950s.  The Berra boys had gone to school there.  And Yogi was a regular celebrity in local events and played on the local golf links there as well, establishing an annual golf tournament that has raised well over $1 million to benefit special need boy scouts, educational programs, and scholarships.  He also opened a local business there in 1978, with son Tim Berra  — the Yogi Berra Racquetball Club.  However, by the 1990s a bigger idea grew out of Yogi’s connections with Montclair State University.  According to university president, Dr. Irvin D. Reid in remarks to the New York Times:  “One evening [in 1996]…eight of us sat down at a restaurant in town, including Yogi and his wife, Carmen.  We’d been looking at our athletic needs, long term, and I presented to Yogi the concept of building a stadium in recognition of his contributions to athletics in Montclair… At the time this all went forward, the focus was on Yogi, for no other reason that his relationship with the university had been established.  He’s always been our friend, in our golf outing, our fund-raising…”

Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, located on Berra Drive in Little Falls, NJ at Montclair State University.
Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, located on Berra Drive in Little Falls, NJ at Montclair State University.
     What followed were plans for a 3,500-seat Yogi Berra Stadium to be used by the Montclair State college baseball team and a new minor league baseball team, the New Jersey Jackals.  A Yogi Berra baseball memorabilia museum was also part of the proposal.  It all became part of a $10 million sports complex project in the university’s expansion of its athletic facilities and two ice skating rinks.  The project was jointly funded by the New Jersey Education Facilities Authority and a private company, Floyd Hall Enterprises.  The Yogi Berra Stadium opened for business in time for the Jackals’ inaugural game in May 1998, although some construction was still ongoing.  The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center opened in late October 1998.  Among those attending the museum opening were Joe Torre, then manager of the New York Yankees who had just won the World Series, and Boston Red Sox legend and Hall-of-Famer, Ted Williams.

Dec 2009: Yogi Berra pointing out some detail at one of the exhibits at his baseball museum in Little Falls, NJ. Bergen Record photo.
Dec 2009: Yogi Berra pointing out some detail at one of the exhibits at his baseball museum in Little Falls, NJ. Bergen Record photo.
     One 1999 review of the museum shortly after it opened noted that among its displays were exhibits on baseball history, great catchers, how the Yankees adopted New York as a hometown, segregation in baseball, early New York stadiums, baseball during World War II, changes in baseball and major-league milestones, the catcher’s mitt Berra used in Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and exhibits on players including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and of course, Yogi Berra.  A film series then running in the museum’s Canon Theater – built with the look of a stadium – included profiles of Joe DiMaggio and of Yogi Berra’s life.  The 1978 and 1998 World Series trophies, on loan from the Museum of the City of New York, were also then on display.  With the Jersey Jackals playing their games at the new stadium next door, the museum proved to have a steady stream of visitors during summer home games.  The Berra museum’s Learning Center also holds conferences and seminars to help teach children about life lessons they can learn through sports.  “We really focus on character,” explained museum director Dave Kaplan in one interview some years later.  “We try to tell Yogi’s life story through examples of how you persevere.  We also teach the importance of respect, humility and how to overcome adversity.”

George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, making a statement in an undated photo.
George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, making a statement in an undated photo.
     Yankee Apology.  Berra by this time had also patched up his differences with the New York Yankees.  In early January 1999, George Steinbrenner – owner of the New York Yankees, and the source of ill felling between he and Berra after Steinbrenner had sent an emissary to fire Berra from his 1985 Yankee manager’s job – had come to the Yogi Berra Museum where he made a formal apology to Berra for his past mis-handling of the firing.  And with that, the 14-year feud, and Berra’s boycott of the Yankee organization, ended.  On July 18, 1999, Berra was honored with “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium – a part of the celebration to mark the return of Berra to the stadium and the Yankee organization.  Pre-game that day, Don Larsen threw the first pitch to Berra, to honor the perfect game from the 1956 World Series.  The following year, Berra would resume his involvement at Yankee spring training sessions in Florida.

Old Friends
Baseball Memories

     One day in June 1999, Yogi Berra, then 74 years old, went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to look at baseball cards.  The museum is a repository for a collection of more than 300,000 baseball cards dating from 1887.  Every six months or so the museum’s American Wing rotates the display of the cards, offering a new theme or subject or period.  Berra had come to visit to see the display on one of his former Yankee teammates, Joe DiMaggio, who had died that March.  Among the cards displayed were also images of Honus Wagner, Dizzy Dean and Ty Cobb.Yogi Berra had outlived many of his Yankee team- mates.  But there were seven of DiMaggio.  A New York Times note on Berra’s visit at the museum that day reported, that “Mr. Berra viewed the DiMaggio cards reverently…”.  In the museum display, there was also one card of Berra arrayed with three of his other 1953 teammates: Billy Martin, Phil Rizzuto and Mickey Mantle.  Yogi Berra had outlived many of his Yankee teammates, and his remembrances on seeing old baseball cards like these were no doubt tinged with sadness of his departed friends.  Billy Martin died at age 61 in December 1989; Mickey Mantle died at the age of 63 in August 1995; and Joe DiMaggio died at age 84 in March 1999.  Phil Rizzuto, also a former business partner to Berra in their early years, would die some years later in August 2007 at age 89.  Another former teammate, Elston Howard (MVP 1963), who was the first black player on the Yankees and would replace Berra at catcher, died at age 51 in 1980.  Some years later, in February 2005, when Yogi was 79 years old, he came to speak at an exhibit honoring Elston Howard at Westchester County during Black History Month, where Yogi, accompanied by his wife Carmen, became emotional over his old teammate.  Berra had written an introduction to a 2001 book on Howard by his wife Arlene Howard titled, Elston and Me: The Story of the First Black Yankee.


     PBS Documentary.  In August 1999, a PBS-TV documentary on Berra’s career, Yogi Berra: Deja Vu All Over Again, was hosted by sportscaster Bob Costas. During the show, Costas and Berra visited Berra’s childhood neighborhood in St. Louis.  Former baseball greats Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson both appeared in segments of the film praising Berra for his “clutch” hitting.One of Yogi’s boyhood friends in the film said that Yogi hadn’t changed and “never went uptown.”  Jeffrey Peisch, the PBS producer-director, observed that during the making of the film he was “really touched seeing Yogi with guys he grew up with.”  He noted that Yogi’s old friends “still called him Lawdie [a nick name from Berra’s mother who could not pronounce Larry].  One told me that Lawdie hadn’t changed; that Lawdie never went uptown.”  Meanwhile, back in the New York city region a few years later, following the unsettling weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, Berra appeared in one of a series of New York TV ads meant to lure tourists back to Manhattan.  In the spot, after conducting the New York Philharmonic in Ravel’s La Valse, Berra turns to the camera in deadpan saying, “Who in the heck is this guy Phil Harmonic?”  Berra also continued to be in demand for commercial TV advertising.


The AFLAC Ad

     In late May 2002, during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the AFLAC insurance company debuted a new TV commercial titled “Berra at the Barber.”  The 30- second spot began with Yogi Berra in the barber’s chair getting a haircut while another man waits his turn.  “Not too close,” Yogi says, as the barber clips a bit too close to his ear – “Whatta ya’ think I got that insurance?,” Yogi says to the barber.  “What insurance is that, Yogi?” asks the waiting customer in the next chair as the AFLAC Duck waddles into the scene, making his trademark AFLAC sqawk.  Yogi then proceeds to answer the question, and explain the insurance benefits with a series of Yogi-isms: “The one ya’ really need to have if you don’t have it.  That’s why you need it.”  Cut to waiting customer again, asking “Need what?,” as the duck chimes in again with his “AFLAC” phrase while Yogi explains: “Well, if you get hurt and miss work, it won’t hurt to miss work.”  Cut to puzzled customer and befuddled duck.  “And they give ya’ cash,” adds Yogi, “which is just as good as money.”  Cut again to puzzled barber, puzzled customer, and frustrated duck, leaving the shop.

Yogi Berra, between takes, with his co-star.
Yogi Berra, between takes, with his co-star.
     The spot was created by the Kaplan Thaler Group, the inventor of the AFLAC Duck series.  The Berra ad marked the first time a celebrity had ever appeared in an AFLAC commercial.  It was the tenth ad in the Duck series, which had boosted AFLAC sales by some 65% since the ads first first appeared in 2000-2001.  With Yogi in the mix, AFLAC was hoping for added benefit.  “Yogi Berra is as famous for what he says as for all of the amazing things he has done in his career,” said Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO of the ad group, at the ad’s release.  “We were thrilled when Yogi agreed to accompany our feathered friend in this newest commercial.  Here’s our AFLAC Duck, who is desperately trying to be heard, with the man who is legendary for what he says.  It’s a perfect fit.”  In the ad, Yogi succeeds at perplexing the duck and making the message stick in a novel way. It became one of that year’s more popular ads, also burnishing Berra’s everyman image.  “That Aflac commercial speaks to who Yogi is, a regular guy in a barber’s chair,” offered Dave Kaplan, director of the Yogi Berra Museum.  “I think people connect to that…”  AFLAC was then spending in the neighborhood of $70 million annually for major media advertising, so it’s likely Yogi Berra was well compensated for his time at the barber shop.

     “Sex-and-The-City” Ad.   Although he has had a long career in advertising, when it comes to advertising that uses his name in a not-so-family-friendly way, Yogi draws the line.  In 2005, he filed a $10 million lawsuit against Turner Broadcasting for using his name without his permission in an advertisement for Sex and the City TV reruns.  The advertisement asked people to define the word “Yogasm,”with one of the multiple choice answers being “sex with Yogi Berra.”  Berra objected, saying he was an 80-year-old “married man and has children and grandchildren.”  An out-of-court settlement was reached for an undisclosed amount.

Yogi’s image at new Yankee stadium.
Yogi’s image at new Yankee stadium.
     Elsewhere, however, the Berra legend and image continued to be lauded, especially in Yankee land.  At the July 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, Berra had the honor of being the last of the 49 Hall of Famers in attendance to be announced.  The hometown favorite received the loudest standing ovation of the group.  During 2008, Berra also appeared at the closing ceremonies for the old Yankee Stadium and the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium.  And in the new stadiums that emerged in their place for each team, Yogi Berra’s image appeared in displays. 

     At the Mets’ new home at Citi Field Stadium, Berra appears in a photograph on a video board reaching to tag Jackie Robinson as he stole home in the 1955 World Series.  At the new Yankee stadium too, Berra appears in a large wall-size version of the iconic photo of he and Don Larsen embracing at the famous 1956 World Series perfect game.  He is also on view in the new Yankee Stadium museum, in statue form, catching a pitch from Larsen.

2008: Carlo DeVito’s “life & times” of Yogi Berra.
2008: Carlo DeVito’s “life & times” of Yogi Berra.
2009: “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee,” by Allen Barra.
2009: “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee,” by Allen Barra.

     During the 2000s, there were also more books about, or written by, Yogi Berra.  In 2003, with Dave Kaplan, Berra published Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons.  In 2004 came, Yogi Berra’s Favorite Baseball Radio Shows, by Mike Stewart and Mike Kennedy.  And in 2006 under Yogi’s name came Let’s Go, Yankees!  In the latter half of the decade, two more biographies appeared – one in 2008 by Carlo DeVito, titled, Yogi: The Life and Times of an American Original, published in hardcover by Triumph Books, and another in March 2009 by Allen Barra titled, Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee.  But wait, there’s still more.


2010
The iXP Deal

2010: Yogi Berra, a trusted sports legend, called upon to help to sell public safety & security services for the iXP Corporation.
2010: Yogi Berra, a trusted sports legend, called upon to help to sell public safety & security services for the iXP Corporation.
     In May 2010, Berra’s LTD Enterprises made a 3-year advertising deal with iXP Corporation, a consulting firm that specializes in helping public safety and security organizations with emergency-response systems.  The budget for the campaign over three years was estimated at between $6 million and $9 million, depending on the types of ads and where they ran, with Berra and LTD paid some undisclosed amount.

     The ads feature photos of Berra accompanied by one or more of his Yogi-isms which fit a theme being touted in the particular ad.  Some of the sayings have been quoted for many years, while others have been written for the campaign.  The idea the campaign sought to convey generally was that iXP was a consistent, reliable and trustworthy performer — just as Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra was, with decades of baseball achievement under his belt.  The  campaign was crafted by Stimulus Brand Communications of Ewing, N.J.  There was also a separate PR effort by Ink Media of New York to promote the ad campaign.  As of May 2010, the ads had appeared on billboards, at airports, and on the iXP website.  Additional print advertising and possible TV spots were also in the offing.

     William E. Metro, president and chief operating officer at iXP in Cranbury, N.J. explained to New York Times writer, Stuart Elliott, that many of his company’s potential clients were in law enforcement, and so they couldn’t pick just any celebrity.  They needed someone who was “squeaky clean” and someone their clients could relate to.  Law enforcement officials, mayors, city managers and fire chiefs, Metro explained , were experienced individuals and often middle-aged.Madison Avenue puts Yogi Berra in a special category of sports star endorsers – trusted and established older stars who are less risky than younger super- stars.  Older, former professional athletes are a known quantity to them.  And with someone like Berra, who evokes the feelings of the good old days, that was an added plus.  Madison Avenue types, in fact, put Yogi Berra in a special category of sports-star endorsers – in league with baseball’s Cal Ripken Jr., football’s Joe Montana, or golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer – trusted and established older stars who are less risky than younger superstars capable of unexpected scandal or controversy, as occurred a few years ago with Tiger Woods.  Although Berra might be expensive, using him in the iXP campaign was also a way “to get immediate name recognition,”said Metro.  In making their choice iXP “immediately gravitated to Yogi’s character: he’s humble, he’s self-effacing and he was a team leader; as catcher, he controlled the game,” said Metro.  iXP, as a personal-services organization, needed to build a level of trust and confidence with their clients, Metro explained – “to get them to put their riskiest operations into our hands,” he said.  “They have to know we’re serious from the beginning.”

     And as part of the iXP campaign, they would also integrate Berra’s famous sayings into the ads.  Many of the Yogi-isms fit messages that iXP wanted to get out, Metro explained.  One example was Berra’s, “the future ain’t what it used to be” – which fit a changing approach to public safety because of new terrorism threats.  “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” works for iXP as well, said Metro, since municipal governments are trying to supply emergency response with less public money.  And finally, stating the obvious in Yogi-ese: “If it’s an emergency, it’s usually urgent.”


Driving Mr. Yogi

2012: Harvey Araton’s book on Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry, “Driving Mr. Yogi.”
2012: Harvey Araton’s book on Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry, “Driving Mr. Yogi.”
     In 2012 came a somewhat different Yogi book; one that told a more human story of Yogi in his continuing baseball world as he moved into his eighties.  That book’s title is, Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry and Baseball’s Greatest Gift.  Witten by Harvey Araton, a sports writer for the New York Times, Driving Mr. Yogi tells the story of the long-running friendship between Berra and Guidry, and how Guidry became an unofficial helper and chauffeur to Berra during their visits to the Yankee’s spring training camp in Florida over a decade or so that began in the year 2000.

     Berra and Guidry had first met at Yankee spring training in 1976 when Guidry was 25, and Berra 51, then returning as Billy Martin’s bench coach.  Guidry was an up-and-coming southpaw trying to build a future for himself.  It happened the two men had adjacent lockers in the Yankee clubhouse, and Guidry began seeking’s Berra’s advice about how to approach hitters, and from there something of a friendship began.  Guidry would play his entire career with the Yankees, helping them with the World Series in 1977 and 1978.  He won the Cy Young Award in 1978, compiling a 25-3 record that year with a 1.74 ERA.  Guidry and Berra saw each other only sporadically during Berra’s self–imposed, 14-year exile from the organization through 1999.  But when Yogi returned with his spring training visits in 2000, his former old-timer mates were no longer around, but he and Guidry began eating meals together and their friendship began anew.

     The common bond between the two was baseball, but Araton’s story also covers the foibles and demands of an aging sports figure, and is therefore an account of growing old in America, too.  As Araton explains, the book is also “an examination of a man who refuses to surrender to human frailty.”  Berra in this book is still the well-known Yankee celebrity, of course, but he is also, as Araton explains, “an Everyman, much like our grandfathers and grandmothers and parents, who clings to his identity however he can because it makes him feel not only happy, but vital and alive.”  Guidry, the attentive friend and helper, sees the moody, demanding, and cantankerous side of Berra along the way, but is also an enabler of purpose and dignity for the aging Berra.

Spring training, 2011: Ron Guidry left, Yogi Berra, right.  Photo, Barton Silverman/New York Times.
Spring training, 2011: Ron Guidry left, Yogi Berra, right. Photo, Barton Silverman/New York Times.
     In February 2011, in a precursor to his book, Harvey Araton, writing in the New York Times, offered the following passage about Guidry and Berra, a telling vignette about how the game lives inside long retired players and what it means to them – as well as what it means to continue to be alive and contributing:

… During exhibition games, [Berra and Guidry] sit on the bench together, in the corner by the water cooler, studying the game.  “Every once in a while, Yogi will see something about a guy and think that he can help,” Guidry said.

Last season [2010], Berra noticed that pitchers were getting Nick Swisher out with breaking balls and mentioned to Guidry that he thought Swisher might try moving up in the batter’s box to attack the pitch sooner.

“Tell him, not me,” Guidry said.

“Nah, I don’t want to bother him,” Berra said.

After Swisher grounded out, he walked past Guidry and Berra in the dugout.  Guidry stood up, pointed at Berra.  “He wants to talk to you,” Guidry said.  Swisher sat down, heard Berra out and doubled off the wall in his next at-bat.  After he scored, he returned to the dugout and parked himself alongside Berra.

“For Yogi, that meant everything,” Guidry said.  “Now who knows if that had anything to do with the great season Swisher had?  But in Yogi’s mind, he made a friend and he felt, ‘O.K., that justifies me being here,’ even though everybody loves having him here anyway.

Sept 22, 2008: During turbulent time, the New York Times put Yogi Berra on the front page, waving to the crowd during “last game” ceremonies at Yankee Stadium.
Sept 22, 2008: During turbulent time, the New York Times put Yogi Berra on the front page, waving to the crowd during “last game” ceremonies at Yankee Stadium.

“But that’s the thing — for Yogi, spring training is his last hold on baseball,” Guidry added.  “When he walks through that door in the clubhouse, sits at the locker, puts on his uniform, talks to everybody, jokes around, watches batting practice, goes back in, has something to eat, and then he and I will go on the bench and watch the game, believe me, I know how much he really looks forward to it.”

     In May 2012, at his 87th birthday at Yankee Stadium, Berra was honored with a video tribute and a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” sung by the crowd.  As this is written in October 2012, Yogi Berra is no doubt following every pitch and the play-by-play action during the baseball playoffs and the World Series.

     For additional baseball stories at this website please visit “Baseball Stories: 1900s-2000s,” or go to the Sports directory page for more stories in that category.  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle

Note: Yogi’s wife, Carmen, passed away in early March 2014. They had recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. She was 85. A new photo of she and Yogi appears midway below in Sources.

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Date Posted: 21 October 2012
Last Update: 15 June 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Yogi Chronicles: 1940s-2012”
PopHistoryDig.com, October 21, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Oct 6, 1950: Yogi Berra making tag at the plate on Philadelphia Phillies’ Granny Hamner in 9th inning, Game 1, 1950 World Series. AP photo.
Oct 6, 1950: Yogi Berra making tag at the plate on Philadelphia Phillies’ Granny Hamner in 9th inning, Game 1, 1950 World Series. AP photo.
1951: Yogi Berra rounding the bases to home plate after what appears to have been a home run.
1951: Yogi Berra rounding the bases to home plate after what appears to have been a home run.
May 1955: Yogi Berra holding three baseballs and bat in clubhouse.
May 1955: Yogi Berra holding three baseballs and bat in clubhouse.
Yogi Berra in “catcher close-up” on cover of All-Star preview issue of ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine, July 11, 1955; photo by Mark Kauffman.
Yogi Berra in “catcher close-up” on cover of All-Star preview issue of ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine, July 11, 1955; photo by Mark Kauffman.
1957 Topps baseball card in collector’s case depicting “Yankees' Power Hitters” Mickey Mantle / Yogi Berra, with authenticated autographs. Robert Edwards Auctions reports this card sold for twelve hundred dollars in 2005.
1957 Topps baseball card in collector’s case depicting “Yankees' Power Hitters” Mickey Mantle / Yogi Berra, with authenticated autographs. Robert Edwards Auctions reports this card sold for twelve hundred dollars in 2005.
Dec 1963: NY Yankees then-manager, Yogi Berra, dances with wife Carmen at the annual Baseball Writers' dinner in NY City. (AP photo).
Dec 1963: NY Yankees then-manager, Yogi Berra, dances with wife Carmen at the annual Baseball Writers' dinner in NY City. (AP photo).
Yogi Berra reading from his 1961 autobiography at Yankee spring training camp. Tony Kubek photo for Life.
Yogi Berra reading from his 1961 autobiography at Yankee spring training camp. Tony Kubek photo for Life.
Elston Howard and Yogi Berra photo from a Bronx Museum exhibit titled "Baseball in the Bronx."
Elston Howard and Yogi Berra photo from a Bronx Museum exhibit titled "Baseball in the Bronx."
March 1964: NY Yankee manager Yogi Berra, and NY Mets manager Casey Stengel, on the cover of Sports Illustrated in “battle for New York” feature story.
March 1964: NY Yankee manager Yogi Berra, and NY Mets manager Casey Stengel, on the cover of Sports Illustrated in “battle for New York” feature story.
April 16, 1964: New York Yankee manager Yogi Berra, and Boston Red Sox manager Johnny Pesky, have a few laughs before season-opening game in New York.  AP photo/John Lindsay.
April 16, 1964: New York Yankee manager Yogi Berra, and Boston Red Sox manager Johnny Pesky, have a few laughs before season-opening game in New York. AP photo/John Lindsay.
March 2004: Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra during a pre-game warm-up session for Yankess and Devil Rays game in Tokyo, Japan.
March 2004: Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra during a pre-game warm-up session for Yankess and Devil Rays game in Tokyo, Japan.

Ed Fitzgerald, “The Fabulous Yogi Berra,” Sport, August 1951.

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William J. Briordy, “Berra’s Four Hits Pace 10-4 Verdict; Yanks Get 16 Blows as Ford Goes Route Against A’s for His 6th…,” New York Times, Wednesday, July 31, 1957.

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Yogi Berra with Til Ferdenzi, Behind the Plate, Argonaut Books, 1962.

UPI, “Yogi Doesn’t Draw Laughs,” Kingsport Times (Tenn.) January 24, 1963, p.15, and (same story),”No One Has Laughed at Yogi Berra In A Long Time,” Lodi News Sentinel (Calif), Thursday, February 21, 1963, p. 15.

Robert Lipsyte, “The Man and the Myth; A View That Berra Is a Bit of Each: A Lovable Myth and a Sensitive Man,” New York Times, October 25, 1963, Sports, p. 20.

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Joe Trimble, Yogi Berra (hardback), New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1965, With forward by Casey Stengel Yogi Berra (Author),

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Paul Wilner, “Yogi Berra: At Bat In Montclair,” New York Times, New Jersey Weekly, January 8, 1978.

Ira Berkow, “Players; Some Words From Berra,” New York Times, Tuesday, December 6, 1983.

George Vecsey, “Yogi’s Back in Style,” New York Times, December 17, 1983, p. 19.

Murray Chass, “All Jokes Aside, Berra Is Back on Top” New York Times, February 13, 1984.

Yogi Berra with Tom Horton, Yogi: It Ain’t Over, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Steve Jacobsen, “For Yogi Berra, It Still Ain’t Over, And That’s Refreshing,” Los Angeles Times April 2, 1989.

Richard Sandomir, “For Yoo-Hoo and Yogi, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again,” New York Times, April 20, 1993.

“The Wisdom of Casey Stengel…and Yogi Berra,” Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, p. 314.

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Patricia Winters Lauro, The Media Business: Advertising; “One of Baseball’s Most Colorful Figures Finds He Is in Demand Again,” New York Times, April 30, 1999.

Yogi Berra with Howard Liss and Bob Powell, Yogi Berra’s Baseball Book: The Game and How to Play It, Lion Books, June 1999.

Charles Strum with Amy Waldman, “Public Lives: Baseball Greats Shine in New Fields,” New York Times, June 23, 1999

Dulcie Leimbach, “Jerseyana; In the Galleries, Baseball Hits a Homer, New York Times, August 8, 1999.

Carolyn Olson, “Yogi Berra Comes Home: The Making of a PBS Documentary About the Hall of Fame Catcher Brought Him to His Childhood Home on the Hill,” Everyday Magazine, St Louis Post-Dispatch, August 10, 1999.

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AFLAC, “Yogi Berra Teams Up With AFLAC in Newest Commercial,” PRNewsWire.com, May 22, 2002.

“Yogi Pitches Fresh Malaprops in AFLAC Campaign,”Brandweek, May 27, 2002.

Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan, What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Yogi Berra, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes, Hyperion, 2002

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“Number of Days Until Spring Training: Yogi Berra (#8),” Fack Youk, Thursday, February 5, 2009.

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King Kaufman, “The Genius of Yogi Berra,” Salon.com, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.  Biographer Allen Barra talks about his new book, in which the lovable, quotable old catcher comes off as intelligent, shrewd and decent.

“Jackie Robinson Steals Home” (0:38),” YouTube.com, Uploaded April 2, 2009.

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Larry Dorman, “Berra Calls ’em as He Sees ’em,” New York Times, January 19, 2010.

Stuart Elliott, Campaign Spotlight, “For Berra, It Ain’t Over Till … Well, You Know the Rest,” New York Times, May 24, 2010.

“iXP Corporation Launches National Advertising Campaign,”Reuters.com, May 25, 2010.

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“55 Years Ago: Jackie Robinson Steals Home Base – Game One, The 1955 World Series,” Monroe Gallery, Friday, September 24, 2010.

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Harvey Araton, “For Berra and Guidry, It Happens Every Spring,” New York Times, February 23, 2011.

Ben Shpigel, “When Yogi Berra Speaks, Yankees’ Cervelli Listens,” New York Times, Saturday February 26, 2011.

WFAN/AP, “Joe Torre, Bob Costas Help Yogi Berra Reopen His Montclair, NJ Museum,” CBS New York, June 24, 2011.

“Berra, Teixeira to Be Honored at Thurman Munson Awards Dinner,” Bombers Beat.mlblogs.com, January 31, 2012.

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Barbara Chai, Media & Marketing: “With Ad Push, Publisher Is Aiming for a Home Run on Yogi Berra Book,” Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2012.

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“Yogi, The Legendary ‘Say What’ Kid,” PSACard.com, 2012.

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“Don Larsen, Yogi Berra Reunite On 56th Anniversary Of World Series Perfect Game,” CBS New York, October 8, 2012.

The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, Yogi Berra Drive, Little Falls, NJ.




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