August 13, 2007

EASY WAY TO GET SIX RINGS (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Yogi's backup caught flak, but very few games: Charlie Silvera seldom played as a Yankees reserve catcher in the 1940s and '50s. Opponents needled him mercilessly, but he got the last laugh as a member of six World Series champions. (Jerry Crowe, 8/12/07, Los Angeles Times)

Maybe Charlie Silvera would have been an everyday catcher for the St. Louis Browns or the Washington Senators, or any of the other lower-division teams dwarfed by the dynastic New York Yankees of the late 1940s and early '50s.

Or, at the very least, maybe he would have been part of a platoon.

But Charlie Silvera didn't play for a lowly, wannabe contender.

Silvera played for the mighty Yankees, which meant that he was a backup to Yogi Berra. Which meant, of course, that he rarely played at all.

"Yogi caught every . . . damn game," Silvera, 82, says from his home in Millbrae, not far from the San Francisco airport. "You know, we had doubleheaders in those days, but he was a horse. He played every damn game."

And Silvera, all but tethered to the bench, mostly sat and watched as the workaholic Berra forged a career that landed him in the Hall of Fame.

Silvera, over 10 major league seasons, appeared in only 227 games. He racked up a paltry 482 at-bats, less than a typical season's worth for Berra. In 1950, he didn't bat until June 17, two months into the season. And though his lifetime batting average was .282, the San Francisco native hit only one home run.

"July 4, 1951," Silvera says. "I still have the ball."

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 13, 2007 2:11 PM

oj: those hated Yankees are 4 back. Wha' happened?

Posted by: pchuck at August 13, 2007 6:01 PM

They caught the Tribe without Hafner and Eric Gagne is adjusting gradually to not closing. No biggie.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2007 7:30 PM

So, was Silvera's nickname "Boo-Boo"?

Posted by: ghostcat at August 13, 2007 8:04 PM

I'll bet it was "Splinter".

Posted by: ratbert at August 13, 2007 8:38 PM

Yogi's no Knothead.

Posted by: ghostcat at August 13, 2007 9:37 PM

Needless to say, I am stunned there's somebody else who knows the name of Woody Woodpecker's niece, which is perhaps the most useless piece of knowledge I possess.(When I worked at a comic book store, I once got a phone call asking for her name, then hanging up after getting the answer. I'm not sure what surprised me more, the fact that I knew the niece's name or that somebody WANTED to know it. Never found out why either - I suspect it was a question in some contest.)

As recently as 2002 or so, Charlie Silvera was still working in baseball, as scouting director for the Florida Marlins; he was quoted on some subject in a USA Today article, and I don't remember what he said, only that I recognized the name and that I was stunned he was still alive.

If anything, the article understates Charlie's predicament; he was the Yankees' THIRD-string catcher. For much of his time on the club, Yogi's backup was Elston Howard; for a time they had Berra in the outfield so Howard could play more. In other words, Charlie was screwed: Yogi could've been struck by lightning and he STILL wouldn't get in the lineup.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at August 13, 2007 10:53 PM

It's truly a shame there's never been a major league team called the (Wherever) Woodpeckers. I mean, how more apt could one get?

Posted by: ghostcat at August 13, 2007 11:38 PM