By A.J. Hayes
Every team needs a second-string catcher, and from 1948-56, San Francisco native and current Peninsula resident Charlie Silvera was owner of the plumb back-up backstop job in baseball, caddying for Yogi Berra with the powerhouse New York Yankees for nine seasons.
While playing behind a future Hall of Famer didn’t allow Silvera much playing time, it did allow him to be part of one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history. The Yankees won seven American League pennants and six World Series championships, including five straight from 1949-53.
Yankee Stadium will be demolished after this season to make way for a parking lot for the state-of-the-art new Yankee Stadium, set to open in 2009. On the eve of the final game ever to be played in the original big ballpark in the Bronx, Silvera, now 83, and still active in baseball as a major league scout with the Chicago Cubs, talked about his memories of the big ballpark in the Bronx.
San Francisco Bay Guardian: It’s ironic that after the Yankees great history of winning, Yankee Stadium will close (on Sunday, Sept. 21) with the Yankees most likely not advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
Charlie Silvera: Yeah, It’s too bad the place will close on a losing note, but what can you do – 26 world championships are pretty good for one place. There are a lot of people who hate the Yankees and they are gloating now. I say let them gloat. Look at the rings we have collected over the years.
SFBG: When your were growing up in the Mission District, the city had the Seals of the Pacific Coast League, but as far as major league baseball was concerned, did the city root for the Yankees?
CS: Oh yeah, San Francisco was a Yankee town no doubt about it. Look at all the city kids who played for them: Tony Lazzari, Lefty Gomez, Frankie Crosetti and of course Joe DiMaggio who I saw play for the Seals when I was a kid. I was a Seals fan first, but also rooted for the Yankees. My idol was Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher.