Washington Nationals Pre-History: Yogi Berra Versus the Senators
Yesterday, the game of baseball lost one of the greatest players in its history, but also one of the great people to ever play the game. Hall Of Fame catcher Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90 and it’s a loss that was mourned throughout the league. Whether it was his play on the field (10-time World Champion) or his humorous and wise Yogi-isms, he had an impact on every person that he met. While Berra never played for any teams in the Washington area, he was definitely a tough opponent to face, as both a player and a manager.
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From 1947-1963, he was the Yankees’ catcher when they would go play in stadiums such as Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium. What was impressive about Berra’s career in DC was that he hit nine home runs in his career at Griffith Stadium and drove in 94 runs (fifth most of any ballpark he ever played in).
Berra had two seasons (1953 and 1955) where he hit two home runs in Griffith Stadium. On August 12, 1953, Berra had a home run and five RBI’s in a 22-1 Yankees blowout win. Despite scoring 22 runs, it was Berra’s three run homer that was the only one hit in the game and it went over the 388 foot left field wall.
The five RBI’s was the most he had in a single game that season, a year in which the Yankees won the World Series under Casey Stengel and a season where Berra finished second in the AL MVP voting.
Two years later, Berra had one of his better seasons at Griffith Stadium. In 11 games, he hit .364 with two home runs, 14 RBI’s, and had a .420 on-base percentage. One game in particular to look back from that season was July 9. During that game, the Yankees’ catcher went 3-for-5 with a double, triple, a two-run home run, and four RBI’s. Berra and Mickey Mantle (5-for-5) combined for eight of the team’s 12 hits and Bob Turley threw a complete game two-hitter in a 4-0 Yankees win. In 1956, Berra played for the American League in the All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium. He went 2-for-2 in a 7-3 loss to the National League.
Berra did play at RFK Stadium toward the latter stage of his career. From 1962-1963, he played in a total of five games and went 5-for-15 with three RBI’s. All three runs came on August 1 in game one of a doubleheader. He had a sacrifice fly in the first inning that drove in Roger Maris and then drove in two runs with a single in the third inning. New York went on to win the game, 6-4.
In addition to the great number eight playing well against the Senators as a player, he carried that success over as a manager. In 1964, Berra began his first season as manager of the Yankees. His team went 99-63 that season and lost in Game 7 of the World Series to Bob Gibson and that St. Louis Cardinals.
Against the Senators that season, the Yankees were 12-6, but 14 of those 18 games were decided by three runs or fewer. The Senators finished that season 62-100 (9th in the league), but the 12 losses against New York were tied for the second most they had to any team that year (5-13 against the Orioles). Berra retired after that season and went to become a player-coach with the New York Mets in 1965.
When I think back to one of Berra’s famous Yogi-isms, it’s “It ain’t over till it’s over.” While this game wasn’t played in DC, it involved the Senators. Back on May 5, 1962, the Yankees were trailing the Senators, 6-2, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Heading into that portion of the game, the Senators had a 96% chance of winning, according to Baseball Reference. But, that didn’t stop the Yankees from making a comeback.
Tom Tresh was on second and Mantle was on first with one out. Then Berra, who was the left fielder in that game (Johnny Blanchard was catching) hit a three-run homer to right against Bernie Daniels to cut the Senators lead to 6-5. Later in the inning, the Bronx Bonbers would take the lead on a two-run homer by Joe Pepitone against reliever Marty Kutyna.
While Berra had a history of great moments against DC teams, the Washington Nationals and their fans can take solace from that famous Yogi-isms. Even though the tragic number currently sits at five games, Berra reminds us all that it’s never over until it is over. All of us at District On Deck send our thoughts and prayers to the Berra family during this difficult time.
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