by Harold Friend
Jo Stac recalls that after the disastrous 1965 season, the New York Yankees were finally considered "just another team." She read many articles about how the "pride of the Yankees" belonged to the past. Jo was pleased.
I have rooted for the Cleveland Indians since 1951. Today's fans don't know that the Indians, not the Boston Red Sox, were the New York Yankees' main competition during the early and mid-1950s.
Ever since the days of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle, there was an intangible called "Yankee Pride." I learned about it in 1951, when my Indians came so close, but not close enough, to winning the pennant. We finally broke through in 1954, but even then, the Yankees won 103 games.
Teams used to fear and envy the Yankees. There was something about putting on a Yankees' uniform that seemed to make a player better. The Yankees were a confident team whose players didn't think they would lose.
There was a tradition of self-demand and pride. Veterans taught rookies, and the team policed itself. Hank Bauer used to discipline young Yankees by telling them that they had better hustle and not cost him his World Series share.
Yogi Berra Didn't Hustle
Eddie Lopat, one of the smartest pitchers to ever toe the rubber, was traded to the Yankees in 1948, which was the last time the Indians were World Champions. It was near the end of the season, and the Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox were in heated battle for the pennant.
Lopat recalls an incident near the end of the season. "We were playing Detroit one day at the Stadium. We were losing, 3-2. Yogi Berra got a looping hit to right center, and just loped down to first. If he'd hustled, he might have made a double. As it was, the next man forced him at second and the next two hit long flies. Instead of having the tying run, we were still behind.
"As Yogi was buckling on his shin guards for the next inning down in the passage way by the dugout, Charlie Keller went up to him. Charlie spoke in a low tone.
"'You feeling all right, kid?' he asked Yogi.
"'Yeah, fine,' said Yogi.
"'Then why didn't you run out that hit?' said Keller. 'You cost us a run and it could cost us the ball game.'
"'I ran." said Yogi.
"'Baloney,' said Keller. 'If you want to play, go all out. If you don't want to play, let some else who does.'
Lopat finished the story.
"Tommy Henrich came over and got on Yogi the same way. And Billy Johnson and Snuffy Stirnweiss and Johnny Lindell. Up on the dugout steps was DiMaggio. Yogi looked at him. Dimag didn't say anything. He just stared back -- that cold stare. And believe me, Yogi never failed to run out a hit after that."
The Yankees dominated from the 1920s through the 1950s, but thank goodness, in the 1960s, things started to change.
The addition of Roger Maris helped the Yankees to win five consecutive pennants from 1960-64, but they uncharacteristically lost three of the five World Series.
There was a new breed of baseball player in the major leagues. The Yankees' players were no longer different.
Bobby Richardson, Tommy Tresh, Elston Howard and Mel Stottlemyre were quiet, sympathetic, but all had "mind-your-own business" type personalities. They encouraged and rooted for their teammates, but didn't whip them into line.
Entering the 1966 season, the Yankees were an old, injury-prone team. Most of the older players like Mantle, Maris, Howard, and Ford knew that the team had major problems, and the younger players weren't as talented or confident as Yankees of the past. When teams played the Yankees, even at Yankee Stadium, they considered the Yankees "just another team."
By LEONARD KOPPETT Special to The New York Times. (1966, April 7). 'Pride of Yankees' Is Just a Memory. New York Times (1923-Current file),64. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 96971543).