Yankees History: Yogi Berra’s Vote of Confidence
George Steinbrenner changed managers the way that some people change their socks. On this day in 1985, he swore that Yankees manager Yogi Berra would get a full season no matter what.
For most of the first two decades that he owned the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner changed managers at an absurd rate. Virtually any reason for dismissal would be used, such as minor losing streaks or failing to win a World Series. Or, just because it had been a while since he hired/fired Billy Martin.
But, of course that mania for firing managers would not extend to a revered legend, right? Yogi Berra was about to enter his second year as the Yankees manager, and even though it was February, the vultures were already circling. When would Berra meet the same fate as the other Yankees managers of the past few years?
On this day in 1985, Steinbrenner made a proclamation in regards to Berra’s future. He gave his manager a vote of confidence, stating that Berra would manage the 1985 season no matter what. Given that he had guided the Yankees to a 87-75 record the previous season, it made sense for Steinbrenner to back his manager.
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Well, about that promise…. Apparently, in Steinbrenner’s realm, “the entire 1985 season” meant all of 16 games. After the Yankees got off to a 6-10 start that season, Berra was fired, replaced by the fourth run as manager for Martin. Steinbrenner did not even have the decency to let Berra know he was being fired, instead sending Clyde King to do his dirty work.
This infuriated Berra, even though he landed on his feet as a coach for the Astros for four seasons beginning in 1986. He refused to have anything to do with the Yankees, with Berra’s anger at his former franchise lasting for 15 years. This included when the Yankees retired his number in 1988, leading to an embarrassing situation where Berra was not present to see his plaque in Monument Park.
Those fences would eventually be mended. Steinbrenner himself went to visit Berra at his home in New Jersey, personally apologizing for how he handled that dismissal. Those fences mended, Berra returned to Spring Training, working with Jorge Posada on the finer points of catching.
Yogi Berra was going to manage the Yankees for the entire 1985 season, or so said George Steinbrenner. Instead, he lasted 16 games, setting off a rift that lasted for 15 years.