McDonald: Yogi Was A Met Icon Too

(Joe McDonald/Sportsday)

It may have been fitting tonight, after the Mets 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, that manager Terry Collins was loose as a goose at the podium.

The Mets manager, comfortable in what’s happening with his team, presented a certain biting wit about him answering questions such as about the pitching rotation, saying things like, “We want to send everyone home with a smile on their face, except me and Jay (Horwitz).”

It may not have been a “Yogi-ism” but in the heat of the pennant race, it was nice to see some of Yogi Berra coming out of Collins.

Because tonight, the baseball world was saddened with the announcement Berra passed away at age 90. His Yankee history is well documented, so much so, that his Met tenure is often forgotten about. It shouldn’t be that way, since Yogi was an important part of Mets’ history as well.

Most people forget about Berra’s Met playing career, after all, it lasted all of four games. After he was fired by as the Yankee manager in 1964, Berra came to the Mets as a player/coach. He struck out three times on May 9th against the Milwaukee Braves and then immediately quit.

Thus ending a Hall of Fame career as a member of the New York Mets.

But he stayed on the coaching staff under Casey Stengel, West Westrum, Salty Parker, and Gil Hodges, earning a another World Series Ring with the 1969 team.

When Hodges unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack in April, 1972, the team had a tough decision to make. Who was going to replace the man that made this team a winner?

Berra wasn’t a slam dunk choice, in fact there was a movement in the organization to name a young Whitey Herzog as manager. But to keep continuity with the team that was about to begin the season, the Mets went with Yogi.

And Herzog, ultimately left the organization to have a Hall of Fame managerial career with the Texas Rangers, Californian Angels, Kansas City Royals, before he became a thorn in the Mets side in the 1980s with the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, the Mets were Berra’s team. In the beginning, he helped heal the organization in 1972, while battling through injuries with the club. Helped by NL Rookie of the Year, Jon Matlack, and a 20-win season by Tom Seaver, the Mets finished 83-73, good for third place in the NL East.

It was the next year, though, that made Berra a Met icon.

The 1973 season looked like a loser all the way to the middle of August. But Berra kept the team together and the rallying cry from Tug McGraw of “Ya Gotta Believe!” sent the Mets to the World Series.

It was during that campaign that Berra, known for his colorful expressions coined the phrase “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.” and the Mets won the East on the last day of the season.

He was 20 games under .500 in ’74 and dismissed in August of 1975, sending him back to the Bronx with a managerial record of 292-296 in Queens.

There were many players who played for both the Mets and Yankees, but not many icons could cross the RFK Bridge. Yogi with his colorful personality and general likability was one of the few who could.

It’s rather fitting that No. 8 is out of circulation for the Mets. Held out now because of Gary Carter, but not retired, that number is as much Yogi’s as Carter’s. An iconic picture at the closing of Shea Stadium had Carter with his arm around Berra looking out toward center field. Two No. 8s forever in Mets history. Now both of them are with their eternal reward.

Baseball lost another great figure on Tuesday. One who left his stamp on New York, both in the Bronx and in Queens.


About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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