Baseball's surprising battle for New York's favor—a battle involving both economics and sentiment—began to reach the shooting stage last October when the Yankees announced that Yogi Berra would succeed Ralph Houk as manager of the most successful corporation in professional sport. One who got the message right away was our baseball writer, Bill Leggett, who had been aware for some time that the rising tide of support for the Mets was not entirely attributable to faddists enchanted by the novelty and often humorous incompetency of the National League's 10th-place team. The Yankees, he concluded, were fully conscious of the trend, too, and unobtrusively they were beginning a campaign to change their public image from stuffed shirt to friendly neighborhood tavern.
Leggett talked to this man and that one, fans of the Yankees and of the Mets. He spent hours with baseball people as well as with experts in the esoteric fields of television ratings and public relations. Last week he assembled his notes, topped off his investigations with a personal observation of Berra's managerial debut in Fort Lauderdale and then wrote the story you see on page 12.
The ideal picture to support Leggett's story involved the two battle symbols themselves: old Casey Stengel, ex-Yankee manager and current Met manager, with his favorite pupil, young Yogi Berra, current Yankee manager and ex-Yankee star. When Stengel flew east from California in early February, Berra came across the river from New Jersey to join him, and both found themselves one Sunday afternoon in the studio of Mark Kauffman, a baseball fan who dabbles in photography for a living. Kauffman, long one of the best sports photographers in the world, welcomed them as old friends who, over the years, had often appeared in his viewfinders.
Casey and Yogi changed into their uniforms and posed cheerfully for an hour or so. Kauffman had arranged for a professional model, dressed as an umpire, to hoke it up with Stengel and Berra for a while, but the best shots of the day turned out to be the spontaneous ones—those of Stengel and Berra talking baseball. And talk baseball they did, all the time they were in Kauffman's studio. "Their comments about various players were fascinating," said Kauffman, "but off the record." At any rate, the happy result was the Socrates-and- Plato photograph that graces our cover this week.
The next confrontation of the rival managers takes place in Florida on March 24, when the Yankees and Mets meet in an exhibition game at Fort Lauderdale. After that, who knows? Perhaps, some day, the World Series?