Little Known Baseball (and football) History – Charlie Berry
(This piece was originally posted in December 2017.)
If only there was more time to just research the lives of former baseball players. I consider myself a baseball historian of sorts. I read a lot about the game. I do a lot of research. I (obviously) write about the game. It’s rare that I come across a player that I never heard of or know nothing about. But that happened today, and the player I just learned about is one who should be more heralded today for he was truly one of sport’s most accomplished figures in the 20th Century.
This forgotten player is Charlie Berry and while he never played for the Yankees, his career impacted on the Yankees in numerous ways.
For those that had never head of Charlie Berry, let me first explain why he is such a legendary figure and why he should be better remembered today. First, Charlie Berry was one of the few men in history ever to play in the National Football League and Major League Baseball. More, after his playing career, Berry became an NFL official and a Major League Umpire. He also coached football at the collegiate level and was a minor-league baseball manager (albeit for a very short time). The man’s life, and career, was absolutely amazing.
I learned about Charlie Berry as I started to research the Greatest Football Game Ever Played – The 1958 NFL Championship Game. That game, the first championship game to be decided in a sudden-death overtime, was played in Yankee Stadium. That was where my research started…
As I was watching the actual game film, I heard the announcer state that one of the referees or officials was from Lafayette College. As the proud father of two Lafayette students, I was immediately interested and wanted to learn more about this official – who turned out (of course) to be Charlie Berry.
While Charlie Berry never played for the Yankees, his various careers intersected with a number of events in Yankees history. Among these are the following:
As a Red Sox catcher in 1931, he blocked home plate from Babe Ruth who was trying to score. The Babe went flying and suffered a debilitating charlie horse that left him unable to play for two weeks. Click here for the picture.
Of his 23 career home runs, three were hit against the Yankees (all at Yankee Stadium). He hit one homer in 1930 against the Yankees (off of Hank Johnson) and two homers in 1931 (with both off of Roy Sherid).
His last Major League hit came on April 20, 1936 against the Yankees. By this time Berry was playing for the Philadelphia Athletics. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Berry hit an RBI double off Bump Hadley.
He was the second base umpire when Allie Reynolds threw his second No-Hitter in 1951.
Among other World Series, he umpired in the 1950, 1958, and 1962 World Series – all Yankees World Series wins.
I encourage all readers of this post to learn more about Charlie Berry by clicking the links below. These were a major source for the information I gathered in writing this piece.
The SABR BioProject – Charlie Berry
The National Pastime Museum – Charlie Berry