The day Hank Aaron outwitted Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee mainstay for 10 championships, died Tuesday at the age of 90.

Berra, a catcher, was a master tactician who threw dirt on batters' shoes and needled players with his witt from behind the plate. He appeared in 21 World Series, and still holds the record for games played.

Two of those Series -- in 1957 and 58 -- came against the Milawukee Braves and slugger Hank Aaron. In '57, the Braves beat the Yankees for the world championship in a seven-game duel that would mark the first of four post-season meetings (1957, '58, '96 and '99) between the clubs. In Allen Barra's 2009 book, "Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee," he tells the story of an on-plate encounter between Berra and Aaron during that '57 series that would become part of baseball lore:

"In the 1957 Series, despite the hostility between the Yankees and Braves, Yogi went out of his way to learn his experience to the twenty-three-year-old Henry Aaron, who, after all, had hit only .322 that season.
"Hank," Yogi reminded the NL's batting champ of 1956 in a tone of avuncular concern, "you need to hold the bat so you can read the label. You're gonna break that bat. You've to to be able to read the label."
"Didn't come up here to read," Aaron calmly replied.

Berra would often tell the story following the loss.

Barra writes that while many thought it was another of Yogi's needling tactics to get into batters' head, Aaron thought it more as light conversation.

"I didn't take it that way," Aaron said in a 1992 interview. "I always enjoyed coming to bat when Yogi was catching. He helped me relax, and I hit better. I had no problem talking to him. I just wasn't very interested in talking about the label on my bat. I just wished he had talked to me about movies, or fishing, or something else."

The Yankees defeated the Braves in another seven-game Series in 1958. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X