Yogi Berra collected the last two hits of his career 54 years ago on May 4, 1965. He did it not as a New York Yankee but as a New York Met.
Berra had produced a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees and retired in October 1963 to become their manager. As every ardent Yankee fan knows, he was fired after the seventh game of the 1964 World Series, following the Yankees loss to the Cardinals. Although an unpopular move by the Yankees, in a perverse way management did him a favor with the dismissal. The club went down hill quickly, following his departure, and Berra was no where near when the excrement hit the fan.
Meanwhile, Yogi’s long time manager with the Bombers, Casey Stengel, invited him to become a player-coach with the Mets, a club Stengel started managing at its inception in 1962. Yogi agreed.
Berra played for the first time as a Met on May 1, appearing as a pinch-hitter 12 days before his 40th birthday. In a game at Cincinnati, he batted in the eighth inning and grounded out to first. On May 4, with the Mets back home, Berra played against the Philadelphia Phillies, catching Al Jackson. The paid crowd at Shea Stadium was 17,321.
As it turned out, Berra was one of the key contributors in the Mets, 2-1 victory, as he went 2-for-3 with a run scored. His seventh-inning RBI turned out to be the difference, as it gave the Mets a 2-0 advantage. Typical of the Mets of that era, Yogi actually lost an RBI with his first inning single, when Joe Christopher was tagged out at third base for the third out, before Ed Kranepool crossed home plate. Leonard Koppett, covering the game for the New York Times, wrote “Yogi had what might be termed a ‘run batted out’ instead of a run batted in.”
The next night against the Phils, Berra appeared in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter and grounded out pitcher to first. That night, Philadelphia won, 1-0, as Jim Bunning dueled Warren Spahn. Both Hall of Fame pitchers hurled complete games in a tidy one hour and fifty-two minutes.
Yogi played his last game on May 9, catching Jackson again in the first game of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves. The Mets lost 8-2 and he went 0-for-4. His last at bat in the ninth inning – against winning pitcher Tony Cloninger – was a fielder’s choice ground out. He ended his career stranded at second base. While catching in his last game, he had to figure how Jackson had to pitch to Felipe Alou, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Joe Torre, the top four hitters in Milwaukee’s line up.
Without a designated hitter in 1965 in either league and his legs aching, no way Yogi was going to catch many more games for the Mets. And so it was, on the eve of his 40th birthday, Berra announced his retirement as a player. He remained as a coach with the Mets and later became their manager, winning the pennant in 1973.
Berra finished his playing career with 2,150 hits, his last two while in a New York Mets uniform.