One baseball player trait fans admire is “played their whole career with the same team”. It is standard trivia to know Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski both spent their entire 23-year careers with the same team – that’s the record. There are 11 players, all in the Hall of Fame, that played in 20 or more seasons all with the same team, since integration.

We are all surprised to learn one of our favorites did not spend their whole career, and had a cup of coffee with another team. Always disappointing to hear.

Below 20 seasons, and it gets a little hit more miss with respect to greatness.  There are 22 more players with 17-19 years with the same team, and 12 are in the HOF. The other 10 are very familiar names, some of whom will likely get elected to the HOF or were egregious errors not being in the HOF. These are names like Lou Whitaker, Yadier Molina, Todd Helton, who I would view as probable, with additional very good players, Dave Concepcion, Frank White, Jorge Posada, Adam Wainwright, Jim Gantner, and Bill Russell.

That’s only nine of 10, and those players were all parts of teams with HOFers. The one player with 18 seasons with the same team, but really doesn’t have a sniff of greatness is, of course, Ed Kranepool, an original Met. Kranepool held, and still holds, Mets records, on pure longevity, and was a part-time player by the age of 25. As a young Met fan, until David Wright and Jose Reyes even, Kranepool held all the records.

All of these players are still team favorites – they were always on the team, and secondly, they were loyal. They stayed with the team.

Of course, a little knowledge of free agency lets us know players didn’t really have any choice until 1976.

There is currently a docu-movie about Yogi Berra one can stream on Netflix and assorted other services.  It is a biography of sorts, but one that is very flattering, opening with a scene of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Johnny Bench, and Sandy Koufax walking across a baseball field and being honored as “The Greatest Living Ballplayers”.  The fan-voted selection was a few years ago, of course. The movie host said “How does one leave Yogi Berra, with 10 WS titles and three MVPs out – more than these guys by leaps and bounds?”

As mentioned, it was a very flattering biography. The host was Lindsay Berra, his granddaughter, and the movie is mostly spent telling the Berra story, and rightfully recognizing him as a truly great baseball player, not just, as she frets, a goofy catcher saying funny things. She is right, of course. If you love baseball, it is a great watch with amazing facts and highlights.

Berra, like Stengel, was always a link my father and I could enjoy about baseball – Yankee greats as Mets.

Berra played 18 seasons with the New York Yankees, winning 10 World Series, three MVP awards and tons of All-Star appearances, and was widely consider one of the greatest catchers of all-time, and retired as a one-team player.  Berra was, in 1962, closing out a run of 16 years of all-star games, and MVP votes. Yogi got votes every year of his career with the Yankees, except his 7 games in a September call-up, and his last, when he was done mid-season. From 1950-1956, his MVP finishes: 3,1,4,2,1,1,2.

Then Berra retired from baseball as a player, after 1963, and was immediately named manager of the Yankees. Berra steered the 1964 Yankees to the World Series, where they lost to the Cardinals in seven games. And the Yankees fired him.

Casey Stengel, who had been Berra’s manager from 1949 through 1960 and eight of his World Series wins, was now the manager of the Mets. A month after the season ended, the Mets signed Berra to be a coach. Stengel was heading into his last season and was a big Berra fan.

Berra was one of the Mets coaches until Game 11 in San Francisco, when late in a game, Stengel had to use Warren Spahn, a fine hitting pitcher, as a pinch hitter. After some cajoling, and a week of batting practice, Stengel talked Berra into being added to the roster.  The rosters then were 28 players for the first month or so, until about May 15.

On May 1, Berra pinch hit in the eighth inning, removing his crown as the longest post-integration career with a single team player.

On Tuesday, May 4, Berra got his first start, against the Phillies, behind the dish and went two for three with a run scored.

Berra pinch hit again the next day, and then got his second start on May 9, 1965 – Mother’s Day Sunday, three days before his 40th birthday. Berra struck out three times in an 0-4 performance.

Another piece of trivia around Berra is that, in his career, he hit 358 home runs and struck out just 414 times.

This game was the third time in his career he struck out three times in a game, and Berra went to Stengel and said he just couldn’t do it.

Berra was “released” as a player as part of the roster reduction to 25 players, and never batted again. When Stengel was removed as manager, Wes Westrum, not Berrra, took over.  Berra would get three more World Series rings as a manager/coach, but those nine plate appearances took Berra off the “Lifetime Yankee” list.

5 comments on “On how Yogi Berra missed being a career Yankee back in 1965

  • ChrisF

    It was a great documentary. I really enjoyed watching Yogi’s life play out. He was such an undervalued player.

  • Dan Capwell

    A great man and a great ballplayer. He was magical during the 1973 stretch run for the Mets. Unfortunately, his decision to use Seaver on three days rest will always tarnish his Mets legacy, IMO. It’s been 50 years, so I guess I should get over it.

    Also, the documentary was wonderful, kudos to his granddaughter.

  • Brian Joura

    Berra had a Topps baseball card in 1965 featuring him on the Mets and his position was listed as “CATCHER-COACH.”

    It was a sixth-series card so they probably made it in that brief window when he was active.

    I was unaware that they had expanded rosters in the 60s and cut down to 25 a month into the season. Do you know when that practice stopped and started?

  • Mike W

    Yogi was one of a kind. I am a baseball stats guy and never realized that about the strikeouts. That was amazing.

    When Yogi was the manager of the Mets, in a pregame warmup I leaned over the edge of the dugout and Yogi was the only one there. I asked him for an autograph. He said no. It wasn’t funny then, but I can chortle about it now.

    Just think, what a catcher like Yogi would mean to the Mets now.

  • TexasGusCC

    Great piece Chris! I look forward to seeing that tonight.

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