New York Baseball Franchises Had Situations Reminiscent of Eli Manning’s Benching

With the Giants announcing two time Super Bowl MVP and future Hall of Famer Eli Manning will be benched in favor of Jets retread Geno Smith, there were shock-waves sent through the NFL.  It also may be the beginning of the end of Manning’s time in a Giants uniform.  If true, sadly this will not be the first messy divorce between a New York sports star and an organization.

Each New York team has their own story whether it was Mark Messier signing with the Vancouver Canucks or Patrick Ewing demanding a trade.  Sadly, each of the New York sports teams has their own story.  Here are arguably the worst breakups for each New York baseball organization:

Brooklyn Dodgers

There is perhaps no more important player in the history of Major League Baseball than Jackie Robinson.  He not only broke the color barrier, but he was a Hall of Fame player who helped Dem Bums finally overcome the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series.  You would think that would be enough for him to forever be a Dodger.

The answer was a clear and resounding no as Robinson was traded to the hated Giants after the Dodgers penultimate season in Brooklyn.  Rather than change boroughs, the 37 year old Robinson announced his retirement.  There has been some debate where the retirement was due to age or a refusal to join a hated arch-rival.  Whatever the case, Robinson became resolute in his decision to retire when then Dodgers Vice President Buzzy Bavasi implied it was a ploy by Robinson to get a bigger contract from the Giants.

New York Giants

Just like the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Giants moved to the West Coast after the 1957 season.  Unlike the Dodgers, who were a strong financial team looking to leverage the best offer to move out of Ebbets Field, the Giants were just hemorrhaging money.

Looking back, what is really interesting is how little interest the Giants had in staying in New York.  If not for the move to San Francisco, it is likely the team would have moved to Minneapolis.  Unlike the Dodgers, there was no intention of trying to work with the City of New York to replace or renovate the rundown Polo Grounds.  They just wanted out.

Ultimately, it would be the Giants moved to San Francisco on the recommendation of Walter O’Malley.  The Giants move to San Francisco would enable the Dodgers to move out West as well.  When the Giants board voted to approve the measure, there was one dissenting vote – M. Donald Grant.

With that, the longest tenured New York baseball franchise at that time was no more.  The tales of Willie, Mikey, and the Duke had turned from rallying cries to legend.  New York National League baseball would be no more, leaving millions of devastated baseball fans in their wake.

New York Mets

The title Midnight Massacre says it all.  On the darkest day in Mets history, June 15, 1977, Joe Torre retired as a player to become the full-time manager.  Dave Kingman was traded to San Diego.  Worst of all, The Franchise, Tom Seaver, was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

This was the end result of a long standing feud between Seaver and M. Donald Grant.  The acrimony stemmed not just from Seaver’s contract, but also from Seaver’s bewilderment on how the Mets refused to pursue free agents that could help the ballclub.  After Dick Young, who was long seen as Grant’s mouthpiece, published an article accusing the Seavers of being jealous of Nolan Ryan and his contract, it was all over.  Seaver had enough and demanded a trade; a request that Grant was all too happy to grant.

It would not be until 1983 that Seaver would return to the Grantless Mets.  The Mets traded for his rights, and they finally gave him the money and respect he had wanted six years ago.

New York Yankees

When you have a history as long as the Yankees, you are bound to have a number of messy and unfortunate splits.  There was Babe Ruth who was always bitter over his never getting an opportunity to manage.  There was the entire Dave Winfield era leading to Steinbrenner’s ban from baseball.  There are many more that are notable and have left hard feelings behind.

Perhaps none of them were as damaging as the feud that emerged between Yogi Berra and George Steinbrenner.

After Berra was hired to replace Billy Martin in 1984, he led the Yankees to a respectable 87-75 record, good for third place in the AL East.  On the eve of the 1985 season, Steinbrenner promised the world that no matter what happened, Yogi was going to manage the entire 1985 season.  That promise lasted all of 16 games as the notoriously impetuous Steinbrenner fired Berra after a 6-10 start.

It wasn’t just the revocation of a promise that irritated Yogi.  It was the fact Steinbrenner had Clyde King, the Yankees General Manager, deliver the news.  With that insult, Yogi refused to come back to Yankee Stadium.

Over the next 14 years, he would miss Old Timer’s Days.  He missed World Series titles.  He missed number retirement ceremonies.  He missed the day honoring his beloved and late teammate Joe DiMaggio.  He missed it all.

He would have missed much more had it not been for Joe D. and Ron Guidry.  On DiMaggio’s deathbed, he implored Steinbrenner to make peace with Yogi and bring him back to the stadium.  It was Guidry who got Yogi to agree to the meeting.  After the meeting, Yogi would finally returning to Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999.

On that day, Don Larsen threw out the first pitch to Yogi.  They then sat and watched as David Cone emulated Larsen and Yogi by throwing a perfect game of his own.

So as we see with Yogi’s split with the Yankees, the bad blood and pain that may exist now between Manning and the Giants may not last forever.  There is certainly time for old wounds to heal and for both parties to come together.