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Those who played for him recall Yogi Berra as being a players' manager

Then-New York Mets Manager Yogi Berra, center, poses

Then-New York Mets Manager Yogi Berra, center, poses in the team cart at Shea Stadium with Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Felix Millan and john Milner in New York, on Jan. 31, 1973. Credit: AP / Jim Wells

When Yogi Berra retired as a player in 1963, it didn't take him long to find his next job in baseball.

Berra immediately took over as manager of the Yankees, leading the team to the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He lasted one season in that role, but moved across town to become a coach with Mets in 1965. Berra became manager of the Mets in 1972 and managed the team to the 1973 World Series.

His playing career had an important impact on him as a manager. Berra was a players' manager long before the term was popularized.

Berra wasn't a wordsmith, Jon Matlack, a starting pitcher on the 1973 Mets said.

"He was a very laid back, relaxed manager who pretty much said, 'Here are the bats and balls, boys. Go play, make me proud,' " Matlack said. "Under that environment he allowed people to flourish. He created an environment where you wanted to excel rather than you were under the gun to excel."

That started in 1964 when he was a rookie manager with the Yankees, Joe Pepitone recalled.

"When Yogi gave his speech he said, 'Let's go get 'em,' " Pepitone said. "It wasn't a long speech like some of these college grads would say. He didn't talk in that type of language. He just played the game like it was played."

Some of the Mets later learned the same when Berra managed them to the World Series in 1973.

"He obviously didn't come out with those Yogi-isms in the locker room," said Ed Kranepool, who was a first baseman and outfielder on the 1973 Mets. "He was very serious talking baseball."

Berra had a successful season with the 1964 Yankees, finishing 99-63 and capturing the American League pennant. But Berra was fired after losing a seven-game World Series to the Cardinals.

"He was the one manager that knew me better than anybody, so when I came in feeling [ill] he said, 'You're playing, you're playing,' " said Pepitone, who batted .281 with 28 home runs and 100 RBIs in 1964. "I had my best year."

The Mets finished 82-79 under Berra in 1973, winning the NL East by a game and a half. The Mets were under .500 until late September.

"He was basically thanking us for his job," Matlack said. "He thought had he not turned it around that he potentially could have been fired."

The Mets upset the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series, but lost to the Oakland A's in seven games in the World Series.

"They threw away the mold in regards to Yogi," Tom Seaver, who went 19-10 and won his second NL Cy Young Award in 1973, said in a statement. "He was one of a kind. He loved the game. As a manager, he never tried to complicate things. He let his players play. He respected what you did on the field. He was an utter delight to be around."

The slogan for the 1973 Mets was "Ya Gotta Believe." The players put their trust in Berra.

"He was a true gentleman," said Jerry Koosman, a starter for the 1973 Mets. "As a manager he was very, very reassuring. When things were bad, he always stayed positive."

Berra was fired by the Mets in 1975. He didn't manage again until 1984 when he returned to the Yankees.

Berra had a lasting impact on the players he managed.

"He did so much good for so many people in this world," said Rusty Staub, who played for Berra on the 1973 Mets. "Every time I think of Yogi I have a smile on my face. That's the effect he had on people."

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