Coach And Manager
After retiring as a player at the end of 1963, Berra was introduced to the tumultuous existence of major league managers as head of the Yankees. He took the team to the 1964 world championship, but was fired after losing the seven-game series to the Cardinals. He then accepted a coaching job with the New York Mets under Casey Stengel, who called Berra his "assistant manager." In 1972 he was promoted to manager, replacing Gil Hodges. The next year he led the team to a National League pennant, but would not last through his three-year contract. According to writer Joseph Durso in the New York Times, Berra was fired after two-thirds of the 1975 season because of a conflict with management. In Durso's words, Berra was "gunned down after a series of reverses that were not altogether his fault." The writer named a huge drop in attendance over the previous four years, poor trading results, and grumbling players, as among the team's pre-existing problems.
Berra quickly went back to coaching, taking a job with the Yankees before year's end. In 1984 he was again elevated to manager, this time under the supervision of owner George Steinbrenner. Berra had reportedly turned down the job twice before and was now replacing the temperamental Billy Martin. He was surely entering rocky waters here: Steinbrenner had made eleven management changes in the last eleven years. Berra's continued public appeal and potential in the manager's seat were noted in the New York Times by George Vecsey, who enthused: "Berra is one of a kind, a national institution.… Nobody is hiring him for his value as a glib motivator of young millionaires. He is Yogi Berra, the man who knows all the secrets of the clubhouse, the man the players trusted during the turmoil [with Martin], the former manager whose mind never stopped churning with baseball details."
When Berra was sacked sixteen games into the 1985 season, it was a bitter parting. He had butted heads with Steinbrenner, including a 1984 squabble over the roster that ended with him throwing a pack of cigarettes at the owner. Lou Piniella, Berra's replacement as manager, asked him to return as dugout coach but was refused. Instead Berra accepted a job with the Houston Astros, a team owned by his friend John McMullen. The switch and Berra's model behavior during it were considered news-worthy. Steve Jacobson commented in The Los Angeles Times, "Yogi Berra is a breath of fresh air. I don't think I ever quite appreciated that before. He's a relief from the lies and the posturing and the greed of today's sports."
Berra reported for duty with the Astros after he took his first summer vacation in forty-three years. He laughed in the New York Times that his wife Carmen had objected, "Now I'm going to have to cook for you." Berra has, however, long been known as a family man, someone who scoffed at the idea of playing around on road trips and who is devoted to his grandchildren. He and Carmen have three sons: Lawrence Jr., Timothy, and Dale. In 1985 Berra had looked forward to managing Dale, an infielder who had been traded to the Yankees. But the situation soured with Berra's firing and with Dale's involvement in a drug trial in Pittsburgh. Berra's son admitted to using cocaine and received legal immunity in exchange for his testimony.
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