Late rally earns Berra 1951 AL MVP Award

Written by: Aaron McCoy

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

One of Yogi Berra’s most famous quotes, this “Yogi-ism” perfectly sums up the catcher’s 1951 American League Most Valuable Player Award race.

Yankees Gear

Represent the all-time greats and know your purchase plays a part in preserving baseball history.

Hall of Fame Membership

There is no simpler, and more essential, way to demonstrate your support than to sign on as a Museum Member.

Initially, St. Louis Browns star and 20-game winner Ned Garver had been told, via a representative from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, that he had earned the honor. Ultimately, “it” (the AL MVP race) was not over, and ballots continued to be counted, and it was determined that the New York Yankees legend had passed Garver in votes. On Nov. 8, 1951, the BBWAA named Berra the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

“I’m very happy over it,” Berra told the Associated Press. “Boy was it a surprise.”

Berra had finished in the Top 20 in MVP voting in 1947 and 1949, and he came in third in 1950 – a year in which he hit .322 while tallying 28 home runs and 124 RBI.

In his first of three MVP campaigns, Berra hit .294 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 1951. While his production at the plate would help lead the Bronx Bombers to a first-place finish in the AL and an eventual World Series victory over the New York Giants, a late-season slump would threaten Berra’s chances for the award.

“I was afraid I had blown it with the bad finish,” Berra said, regarding the slump which saw him hit just .263 in September. In addition to Berra and Garver, fellow Yankee Allie Reynolds, Chicago White Sox rookie Minnie Miñoso and Cleveland’s Bob Feller were also in contention for the American League’s top honor. Berra, Garver and Reynolds each received six first-place votes (the most of any candidate) but Berra finished 27 points ahead of Garver (184-157) and 59 points in front of Reynolds.

In a close finish, Berra would come away with the hardware, becoming just the second catcher to win AL MVP honors. Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella also won the National League MVP Award in ’51, and the pair of backstops became the first catchers to win the award in both leagues in the same year.

From 1948 to 1962, Berra never failed to make an All-Star Game appearance and earned league MVP votes in all but one of those seasons. Not only was Berra a consistent bat in the Yankee lineup, but he was also a defensive stalwart behind the plate. In nearly 1,700 games as a catcher, he posted a career .989 fielding percentage at the spot.

Over 19 seasons, Berra helped lead the Yankees to 10 World Series championships, earning 18 All-Star Game selections and three AL MVP Awards. He finished his career with a .285 lifetime batting average, 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI. Berra would serve as the Yankees’ manager for the 1964 season, leading them to a World Series appearance, but his playing days were not over. Berra would return to the field and appear in four games for the ’65 New York Mets. After hanging up his cleats for good this time, he managed both the Mets and Yankees during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and he would pilot the Mets to an NL pennant in 1973.

Berra was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Aaron McCoy was the 2023 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Leadership Development

Related Stories

Yogi Berra: He said - and did - it all

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra passed away at age 90.

Berra, Koufax inducted amid star-studded Class of 1972

In August of 1972 Cooperstown welcomed a star-studded group of inductees for the Class of 1972.

Berra delivers first pinch-hit home run in World Series history

Yogi Berra made history before he'd even played in 100 games, crushing the first-ever pinch-hit World Series home run.

Berra documentary captures essence of the Hall of Famer

Feature-length film tells the story of Berra's unforgettable career.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame Remembers Yogi Berra

Quick notes on the Hall of Famer, who passed away Tuesday.