December 13 – Happy Birthday Dale Berra
Today’s pinstripe birthday celebrant was part of an exclusive club. He was the second player in Major League history to play for a team being managed by his father. The year was 1985 and Yogi Berra started that season as Yankee skipper. The previous December, New York had traded outfielder Steve Kemp and shortstop Tim Foli to the Pirates in return for a young power hitting prospect named Jay Buhner, a seldom used pitcher named Alfonso Pulido and Yogi’s youngest son, infielder Dale Berra.
Dale had been a good enough player in high school to be selected by the Pirates with the twentieth overall pick in the 1975 Major League Draft. He bounced up and down between the Minor Leagues and Pittsburgh’s big league roster for five seasons before sticking as the parent club’s starting shortstop in 1982. He wasn’t a great hitter, averaging just .238 during his tenure in the Steel City. By 1984 his weak bat and a rumored cocaine habit convinced the Pirates to give up on him.
Berra immediately thrived playing for his Dad, hitting in the high .300s during the first two weeks of the 1985 season. Unfortunately, the rest of the Yankees did not follow suit and when the team’s early-season record fell to 6-10, Steinbrenner fired Yogi, replaced him with Billy Martin, who used Bobby Meacham as the team’s shortstop for the rest of that season. The younger Berra remained in pinstripes until the 1986 All Star break when he became the second member of his family to receive his walking papers from Steinbrenner. In an embarassing prelude to that season, Berra and a bunch of ex Pirates had been suspended for their use of cocaine during the early eighties. His problem with drugs evidently continued because he was also picked up in a 1989 drug raid in his home state of New Jersey and eventually indicted.
The first MLB player to play for a club managed by his Dad was Connie Mack’s son Earle, in 1937. Others that followed Berra were Cal and Billy Ripken, Brian McRae and Moises Alou.