October 13 – Happy Birthday Charlie Silvera
When the late Ralph Houk was a Yankee catcher in the late forties and early fifties, his job was to backup Charley Silvera. The problem for Houk was that it was Silvera’s job to back up a young and durable Yogi Berra. Back in the early fifties, Berra would catch between 140 and 150 games per year and that was when the Yankees only played 154-game regular seasons, so Silvera saw very little action and Houk was pretty much just a figment of Casey Stengel’s imagination.
Silvera was born on this date in 1924, in San Francisco. During his nine seasons as Berra’s backup, he appeared in 201 games, but got to start in less than half of those. He won six World Series rings during his nine seasons with New York but appeared in just one game of one Fall Classic. That was 1949, when the receiver nicknamed “Swede,” caught seven innings of the Yankee’s second-game, 1-0 defeat at the hands of Brooklyn’s Preacher Roe. Still, Silvera’s share of World Series winnings exceeded $46,000 during his career.
Silvera finally got a chance to start when the Yankees traded him to the Cubs after the 1956 season, for Chicago’s catcher, Harry Chiti. Unfortunately for Silvera, he broke his leg early in the 1957 season and never played another game.
As you might imagine, Silvera was not a big fan of Stengel. He always thought Casey cared more about himself than he did the team. Charley loved teammate Billy Martin, who promised Silvera that if he ever became a manager he’d hire Silvera as a coach and he did just that when Martin got the Twins job in 1969.