On that Saturday afternoon before 69, 416 fans, Yogi Berra caught both ends of the double dip for the first of what would eventually be 117 times. Berra had an atypical offensive day. He went hitless in 9 trips.
Since doubleheaders are now rarely played and today’s conventional wisdom would keep the first game’s catcher out of the second game, Berra’s record will stand forever.
In a 1956 interview with Sports Illustrated, Berra explained how he gets tapped for so much double duty. Said Berra: “I don’t know how to say ‘no’”
In 1947, Berra’s first season save for 22 at bats the previous year, Yogi played a little left field and occasionally spelled catchers Ralph Houk, Aaron Robinson or Sherman Lollar. But by 1948, the catching job belonged to Berra. Before he retired in 1965, Berra played 1,699 games behind the plate.
For all the millions of words that have been written about which of the great New York centerfielders Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider were the best during baseball’s Golden Era, the more compelling debate among the scribes at the time was who was better, Berra or his Dodger counterpart Roy Campanella?
In his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James ranks Berra first and Campanella second with Johnny Bench sandwiched between them. While Campanella never played a position other than catcher, Berra during 19 seasons had stints in left and right field as well as at first and third base.
Choosing between them is a toss-up. Here are their managers’ evaluations.
They’re two great guys and they can do everything. They’re both great hitters and receivers and their arms compare favorably, one with the other…I’d say Campy is the best at blocking the low pitch. It’s hard to pick between those two guys.”
Berra is an amazing players and a splendid hitter. Although he’s not built as a track athlete, he’s a very fast player. Campanella is more graceful behind the plate, more adept in handling his glove. But while Berra isn’t as graceful, he has so many points. He’s younger than Campanella and may become greater.
I give a slight edge to Berra, the more durable of the two (2,120 games to 1,215), a better hitter for both average and power (.285 to .276/358 HR to 242).
Except when they went head-to-head in the World Series, Berra and Campanella were each other’s biggest fans.
“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader in baseball history each week.