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This Day in Yankees History: Yogi Berra switches boroughs

Over half a century ago, the Mets flipped a Yankee icon to the other side of town.

Orioles v Mets Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The 2020 baseball season has come to an end, so let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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56 Years Ago

Yogi Berra, it goes without saying, stands as one of the most iconic Yankees to ever play the game. Today, however, was the first I learned that he actually played for another major-league team, albeit briefly. On this day in 1964, the Mets signed Berra to become a player-coach, weeks after the Yankees had fired Berra as their manager.

Berra had spent 1963 as a player-coach for the Yankees, before retiring from active play and moving into the manager’s chair in 1964. The Yankees played well under his watch, going 99-63 and winning the AL pennant, but Berra was fired after the Yankees lost Game Seven of the World Series to the Cardinals. Some speculate the Berra firing was due in part to his struggle to control the clubhouse, and an incident on the team bus in late August, when Berra slapped the harmonica infielder Phil Linz was playing out of Linz’s hands.

With the Mets, Berra made a handful of cameo plate appearances as a player, recording two singles in nine at-bats and scoring one run. He ultimately became a fixture on the Mets’ coaching staff, and eventually became the manager after Gil Hodges’ sudden death in 1972. He won the 1973 NL pennant and would compile a 292-296 record across four seasons managing in Queens.

44 Years Ago

Thurman Munson won the AL MVP, the first Yankee to do so since Elston Howard in 1963. He tallied 18 of the 24 available first-place votes to outpace second-place finisher George Brett. Munson had hit .302 that season and driven in 105 runs, to go along with his dependable defense behind the plate. While modern-day value metrics suggest Brett had a much stronger season, it’s unsurprising that writers of the time sided with Munson, the highest-profile player, and unquestionable leader, of the AL’s top team.

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We have plenty of recent Yankees birthdays today. It’s the 26th birthday of right-handed pitcher of Adonis Rosa, who made one appearance in relief for the Yankees in 2019. Shane Greene turns 32, which means it’s a great day to wish him a happy birthday and to thank him for yielding Didi Gregorius via trade nearly six years ago. Jeff Nelson, who was a part of the Yankees’ four World Series winners in the late 90’s, turns 54. He managed a 136 ERA+ as a member of the Yankees. And lastly, Darnell McDonald, who took just four at-bats for the 2012 Yankees, turns 42. Of course, McDonald’s time in New York was most famous for how those four at-bats forced him to cut off his trademark dreadlocks, to stay in accordance with the team’s awful hair policies.

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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.