On this day in 1951, New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra was awarded the MLB AL MVP award. However, his award was almost given to someone else.
In the 1951 MLB season, Berra was a focal point of the Yankees lineup with 27 homers and 88 RBI while batting .294 across 141 games. Despite the excellent season, St. Louis Browns' ace Ned Garver put up pretty incredible numbers as well. Garver won 20 games and batted over .300 throughout the season. In fact, Garver was under the impression that he won the AL MVP award after a writer from the Baseball Writers Association of America told him that he won the award. A recount later revealed that Berra was in fact the winner.
“It’s great to be classed with fellows like DiMaggio and Rizzuto who have won the award,” Berra told reporters that night. “I sure hope I can win it a couple of more times, like Joe did.” (History.com)
The Yankees catching legend would go on to win two additional AL MVP awards in 1954 and 1955. Berra would play for the Yankees throughout his 19 year career, earning All Star honors in an astonishing 15 consecutive years. With the Yankees being a perennial World Series contender, Berra would also set the bar for a handful of World Series records with most games (75), at bats (259), hits (71), doubles (10), singles (49), games caught (63) and catcher putouts (457). He would hit the first ever pinch-hit home run in a World Series game during the 1947 World Series.
With teammates like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio around him, it would be Berra who would lead the Yankees in RBIs for seven consecutive seasons.
Perhaps the most memorable game Berra played in was catching Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, one of only 2 no-hitters in MLB Postseason history. The image of Berra leaping into Larsen's arms has become one of baseball's most iconic images.
Following his successful playing career, Berra would go on to manage the Yankees, New York Mets and Houston Astros. It was his second firing from the Yankees which created a rift between Berra and George Steinbrenner which caused Berra to step away from being a part of anything related with the Yankees. The two would mend the fences in 1999 with Berra rejoining the fold and assisting Yankees catcher Jorge Posada during spring-training.