Despite a string of
four straight pennants, the Bronx Bombers were a bust
throughout much of the 1964 season. Yogi Berra had
succeeded Ralph Houk as skipper; there were reports that he
got more laughs than lauds from his players.
It was getting to be
late August; the Yankees were in third place behind
Baltimore and Chicago. The Yankees were on the team bus
heading to O'Hare Airport, losers of four straight to the
White Sox, winless in 10 of their last 15 games.
A 5-0 shutout at the
hands of Chicago's John Buzhardt had totally
Phil Linz, #34,
reserve infielder, a career .235 hitter was a tough,
aggressive player who loved being a Yankee. But he was
regarded by some to be un-Yankeelike along with
teammates Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton.
"I sat in the back of
the bus," Linz recalled. The bus was stuck in heavy traffic.
It was a sticky humid Chicago summer day. "I was bored,”
Linz said. “I pulled out my harmonica. I had the Learner's
Sheet for Mary Had a Little Lamb so I started fiddling. You
blow in. You blow out."
An angry Berra snapped
from the front of the bus: "Knock it off!"
But Linz barely heard
him. When asked what their manager had said, Mickey Mantle
said, "Play it louder." Linz played louder.
Berra stormed to the
back of the bus and told Linz to "shove that thing."
"I told Yogi that I
didn't lose that game," Linz related." Berra smacked the
harmonica out of Linz's hands. The harmonica flew into Joe
Peptone’s knee and Pepitone jokingly winced in pain. Soon
the entire bus -- except for Berra -- was enjoying the comic
Another version has it
that Linz flipped the harmonica at the angered Berra and
screamed: "What are you getting on me for? I give a hundred
per cent. Why don't you get on some of the guys who don't
Linz was fined $200 -- but as the story goes
received $20,000 for an endorsement from a harmonica
"The next day," Linz
gave his version, "the Hohner Company called and I got a
contract for $5,000 to endorse their harmonica. The whole
thing became a big joke."
Actually, the whole
thing changed things around for the Yankees. The summer of
1964 was Linz's most productive season. Injuries to Tony
Kubek made the "supersub" a regular: Linz started the
majority of the games down the stretch, and every World
Series game at short.
New respect for Yogi
propelled the Yanks to a 22-6 record in September and a win
in a close pennant race over the White Sox. A loss in the
World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games cost
Berra his job
But there were those
who said he was on his way out the day of the "Harmonica