April 28th is a dark day in the annals of the New York Yankees. It was on this date in 1985 that the beloved Yogi Berra was fired as manager after starting the season 6-10. This was back in the days when George Steinbrenner would fire managers at will. This particular change was as bad as any termination that Steinbrenner had committed during his many years of owning the Yankees. Not only did he embarrass a Yankee Icon, he did it in the most callous of manners: he didn’t bother to tell Berra himself, instead leaving general manager Clyde King to do the “honors”.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The prior season, New York won 55 games after the All-Star Break completing the 1984 season with 91 wins. They had a budding superstar in Don Mattingly and a future Hall of Famer in Dave Winfield. In the offseason, the Yanks acquired Rickey Henderson, one of the greatest players of all time. Expectations were high with those three gentlemen in the fold as well as staff ace Ron Guidry and Phil Niekro, another player bound for Cooperstown, anchoring the rotation. Steinbrenner even was on record as saying that Berra would manage the whole season, no matter what happens. Unfortunately, things turned south quickly as Henderson opened the season on the disabled list with an ankle injury. The Yankees then began play by getting swept in Boston. The end came less than two weeks later as the Bronx Bombers were swept in Chicago by the White Sox. After the third loss on Sunday, Berra was fired. He was so stung that he vowed that he would never return to Yankee Stadium as long as Steinbrenner owned the team. It was a vow he kept for 14 years.
As for the team he left behind, the Bombers clawed their way back into the race but eventually finished one game behind the American League East champion Toronto Blue Jays. They ended up with a record of 97-64 with Niekro getting his 300th career victory on the final day of the season. Despite the solid finish and excellent record, the 28th of April of that season is an indelible black mark in Yankees’ history.
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