Richards: Before there was Yogi Berra, there was Bill Dickey

From Lawrence Richards at The National Pastime Museum on April 19, 2017:

When I got the green light to write this essay, I immediately began researching. Given his status, excellence, and tenure, I was surprised to find that a biography of Bill Dickey had never been written. Happily, I came across Pinstripe Empire, which contained important information about him, written by Marty Appel—a fine writer and TNPM colleague.

Much has been written about Dickey’s mentoring of Yogi Berra. This Berra quote punctuates his impact: “I always say I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey. He was a great man.” In a more Yogi-like statement, he said, “Bill is learnin’ me his experience.” When Berra moved to the outfield, far less acknowledged was Dickey’s tutelage of Elston Howard. Ellie said this, “When I came to the Yankees from Toronto, I wasn’t as good as a lot of semipro catchers. Bill talked to me, worked with me. Without Bill I’m nobody. He made me a catcher.” But what a career long before Berra!

The Yankees had great position players, great pitchers, a great manager in Miller Huggins, but never a great catcher. That is until August 15, 1928, when 21-year-old William Malcolm Dickey debuted at Yankee Stadium. He came highly touted. Veteran scout Johnny Nee urged Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow to sign him. When Barrow questioned Nee, he replied, “I will quit scouting if this boy doesn’t make good.” The Yanks purchased Dickey’s contract for $12,000, and Johnny Nee never had to quit.

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Originally published: April 19, 2017. Last Updated: April 19, 2017.