Appel: Berra, Dickey and the legacy of Yankee catchers

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on April 28, 2014:

This is the story of two Yankee catchers and how the legacy of one soared while the other remained in place. In other words, it is the story of how one player can get better after retirement, and the other not, even though neither has had another hit nor thrown out another runner in all these years. We are talking about Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra, both of whom had their uniform No. 8 retired, the only time two players had one number retired.

In 1969, for the centennial of professional baseball, Dickey was chosen as the greatest living catcher in a national poll conducted by the Office of the Commissioner. Each team also did their own “all-time teams,” allowing fans to vote, and it is significant to note that only six years after Berra played his final Yankee game, with the memory of his impressive career intact, the fans voted for Dickey, putting Berra on the “second team.”

In 1972, with Yogi off managing the Mets, and now elected to the Hall of Fame, the Yankees chose to honor him by retiring his number. Yankee officials recognized that Dickey had also worn No. 8, and you couldn’t do one without the other. They were, at that point, considered equals.

Today, a vote would almost certainly proclaim Berra first and Dickey second among Yankee catchers. Berra might, in fact, now be in the argument for best catcher ever. His popularity and name recognition has never been higher.

What happened?

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Originally published: April 28, 2014. Last Updated: April 28, 2014.