The Copa Incident:
May 16, 1957
Despite Yogi Berra's emphatic denial: "Nobody did nothin' to nobody," a
lot did happen at the Copacabana nightclub in Manhattan when Mickey
Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford and Johnny Kucks gathered to
celebrate Billy Martin's 29th birthday.
Mickey Mantle recalled what happened: "Two bowling teams came in to
celebrate their victories. Sammy Davis, Jr. was the entertainer. They kept
calling him Little Black Sambo and stuff like that. Billy and Hank kept
telling them a couple of times to sit down. They kept standing up. The
next thing I knew was that the cloak room was filled with people swinging.
I was so drunk I didn't know who threw the first punch. A body came flying
out and landed at my feet. At first I thought it was Billy (Martin) so I
picked him up. But when I saw it wasn't I dropped him back down. It looked
like Roy Rogers rode through on Trigger, and Trigger kicked the guy in the
The fracas resulted in Ford, Bauer, Berra, Mantle, and Martin being fined
$1,000 each. It also resulted in a Bronx delicatessen owner suffering a
concussion and a fractured jaw. It also resulted in Casey Stengel dropping
Hank Bauer to eighth in the lineup the day after the incident but leaving
Mantle in the batting third in the order. "I'm mad at him, too, for being
out late," the Yankee skipper said. "But I'm not mad enough to take a
chance on losing a ball game and possibly the pennant."
The main result of the episode was the trading away of Billy Martin to
"I'm gone," Martin told Mantle and Ford the day after the incident.
"George Weiss is just looking for an excuse to get rid of me."
"I needed him this one time in my life and Casey let me down," was how
Martin felt about Stengel who he thought let him down by not sticking up
"Billy thought that Casey got rid of him," Mantle said. "I never thought
that. It was the farthest thing from the truth. Casey loved. Billy."
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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