How Willie Mays Learned That It Wasn't Wise to Challenge Yogi Berra

Harold FriendChief Writer IAugust 21, 2011

Two Pretty Good New York Yankees (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Two Pretty Good New York Yankees (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Two All-Star games were played in 1960 to provide additional money to the players' pension fund.

The National League won both games, but it was the second game, which was played at Yankee Stadium, that helped to further the legend of Yogi Berra.

Despite his easy-going manner, Yogi Berra was one of the great competitors in the history of sports. It was a grievous error to interpret Berra's friendly conversations to mean that he lacked intensity or a competitive drive.

Willie Mays was back in New York for the first time since Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley convinced an inebriated Horace Stoneham, who owned the New York Giants, to follow him to the California. New York fans' love for Willie never diminished.

Before the game, Mays, with his usual grin, went over to Yogi and casually asked him, “Hey Yogi, do you mind if I steal on you?” 

Not one who was easily perturbed, Yogi told “Say-Hey” Willie to “Go ahead.”

Sure enough, Willie led off the game against the New York Yankees ace left-hander, Whitey Ford, with a single to left field.

The batter was the left-handed hitting Bob Skinner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ford checked Willie at first and delivered an inside fast ball that tied up Skinner. All he could do was hit a high Baltimore chopper, but Skinner was faster than he was given credit for and beat it out.

Mays stopped at second. Ford was in trouble.

Now, Whitey Ford had a great move to first base, which prevented runners from getting a good lead, but Ford, like all left-handers, was less effective in keeping a runner on second close to the bag.

Willie took off and promptly stole third base.

 Yogi, always the competitor, remembered that Willie had asked him if he would mind if he stole on him. Yogi mumbled to himself.  “You wasn’t kiddin’, was you?”

With Mays on third, Skinner on first and the powerful right-handed hitting Joe Adcock at the plate, National League skipper Walt Alston of the Los Angeles Dodgers called for the hit and run.

Skinner took off for second and Mays broke for home as Adcock swung and missed.  What followed demonstrated just how great a defensive catcher Yogi Berra had been.

Yogi bluffed a throw to second as Mays barreled toward the plate, but Yogi never threw to second. Instead, he fired a strike to third baseman Frank Malzone.

For one of the few times in his career, Willie Mays was caught with his pants down.  There was nothing he could do.

Mays was hung out to dry and tagged out. 

As Willie started for the dugout, Yogi quietly said, “That’ll learn yuh not to go horsing around with me.”

Still, the game was a disaster for the American League and especially for the Yankees.

Ford was the losing pitcher, Roger Maris went hitless in four at-bats, Mickey Mantle managed only a single and Berra hit into a double play and struck out before being replaced by Sherm Lollar.

Only Bill Skowron, with a single and a walk, had a decent game as the National League won, 6-0.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.