The Yankees have tons of history. The Mets a few scraps.
But they share one important piece -- Yogi Berra.
One of the most poignant moments during the Yankees' 8-4 win last night at sold-out Shea Stadium came when Berra tossed out the ceremonial first pitch to a reverent standing ovation, a salute that included nearly the entire Yankees squad on the top step of the visiting team's dugout.
The 73-year-old Berra, who had a Hall of Fame playing career with the Yankees before managing both the Yankees and the Mets, has not been back to Yankee Stadium since George Steinbrenner fired him as manager 16 games into the 1985 season. He has been to Shea at least three times this season.
What, Berra was asked, would it take for him to go back to the South Bronx? "I don't know," Berra said.
Has Steinbrenner ever invited him back? "I think he has, by somebody else," Berra answered, a smile creeping over his face.
Even though Berra did not say it, it was obvious that he still feels slighted by the Yankees' owner. But not by the Mets, who once fired Berra, too.
"At least Grant called me up when he fired me; one guy didn't," Berra said, referring to former Mets chairman M. Donald Grant and Steinbrenner. "At least they told you, you got fired. Then you can't say anything."
It is hard to imagine Berra ever being at a loss for words. In recalling the Mets' September comeback in 1973, Berra said, "That's where I said, 'It ain't over till it's over.' We had to play the teams we had to play."
Yes, Berra said, he has spoken to Steinbrenner since his firing, the last time two years ago at the funeral of Mel Allen, the legendary Yankees broadcaster. "I talk to him if I see him," Berra said of Steinbrenner.
Has the owner ever said, "Please come back"?
"He's never said that," Berra said.
Would Berra ever return to Yankee Stadium should Steinbrenner turn the team over to his sons? "That I don't know, either," Berra said. "Even if he does, he'll be there."
Still, Berra said he pulls for both the Yankees and the Mets, even though he was noncommittal about whom he was rooting for this weekend.
As for his feelings about Steinbrenner's wish to move the Yankees into a new stadium and away from the Bronx, Berra said of the stadium he has not visited in more than a decade: "I'd like to see them stay there and fix it up. It's a tradition, like the Statue of Liberty."
Kind of like Yogi Berra.
Pub Date: 6/27/98