Ex-Met Yogi Berra turns 86 today, and for some reason, people are transfixed on the brief period of time he spent with the New York Yankees. And sure, the parts of 18 seasons he resided in The Bronx had some highlights- like Berra watching Bill Mazeroski’s home run clear the left field wall, for instance- but this myopic focus misses the real heart of his career.
The four games Berra played with the New York Mets in 1965.
Specifically, May 4, 1965 was arguably Berra’s last game in the major leagues as Yogi, the all-time great catcher deservedly enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Berra caught all nine innings of the Tuesday night game against the Phillies at Shea Stadium. Thanks to Berra’s game-calling, the underrated Al Jackson pitched nine innings, allowed just a single run, walked two and struck out 11.
Berra also contributed two hits to the cause. In the seventh inning, Berra started the margin-providing rally with a single. Rookie Ron Swoboda, playing center field (can you imagine?), then singled, and shortstop Roy McMillan, who didn’t do much hitting, followed with a single to center that scored Berra from second.
Would this be the new spring for Berra’s career? Sadly, no. He appeared in two more games for the Mets, including one start, but that hit was the last of his career. His playing career ended with his release on May 17, though Berra continued in his coaching duties for the Mets. He took over as manager or Gil Hodges when Hodges died of a heart attack just before the 1972 season.
But I wish I could have attended this final hurrah of Berra’s career. I did attend a similar game as a child, also against the Phillies, in the career of Gary Carter. His 4-for-4 day raised his batting average to .152, while he caught Bobby Ojeda’s complete-game shutout. There’s something wonderful about a true great putting those talents on display one final time.
And there are lots of great things about Yogi. Happy birthday, and remember: Mets fans don’t hold it against you that you played in The Bronx. Now that’s a tribute to the enduring appeal of the man.