The Cardinals could have signed Berra. But they passed on him when he and Garagiola tried out for the Cardinals.
Apparently, Garagiola urged the Cardinals to sign him after Joe had signed with the Cards...but nope. Berra really wanted to play for the Cardinals or the Browns.
Man, it would have been great to have him in St. Louis.
Here is an article that talks about it.
ST. LOUIS • Answering what essentially was a Want Ad in the newspaper for ballplayers, young Alfred Fred “Red” Schoendienst hitchhiked to St. Louis and took the field to catch the eye of Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey.
During the tryouts, Schoendienst was on the mound and pitching to a couple local kids, boys from The Hill, both of them claiming to be catchers.
Rickey signed Schoendienst and one of those catchers.
The other was Yogi Berra.
“One that got away,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bob Broeg once wrote.
Lawrence Peter Berra, pride of Elizabeth Avenue, would go on to win three MVP awards for the New York Yankees and 10 championships as a player. If he were a team unto himself, Berra’s 13 World Series rings – including three as a coach – would rank second to the Yankees 27 championships and ahead of the hometown Cardinals’ 11. A beloved immortal in baseball and one of the most-quoted Americans in world history, Berra died Tuesday in New Jersey. He was 90.
In 1942, Berra and buddy Joe Garagiola did as Schoendienst – headed to the ballpark to try out for the Cardinals. Rickey was looking for talent as well as bodies to fill an expansive minor-league system. Berra and Garagiola grew up together in the 5400 block of Elizabeth Avenue on The Hill, a neighborhood that at one time or another was home to three baseball Hall of Famers: Berra on the field; Jack Buck (who lived on The Hill after moving to St. Louis) and Garagiola in the broadcast booth. Garagiola would also be honored in 2014 by the National Baseball Hall of Fame with its lifetime achievement honor, named for Buck O’Neil.
The boys from The Hill played soccer at Sublette Park and sometimes played at Tower Grove Park, where I still see local neighborhood kids playing ball. Garagiola has often joked about how he was a big leaguer and yet still not the best player on his block.
In his biography on Stan Musial, New York Times columnist George Vecsey wrote about the tryout Schoendienst and the others had and how “Berra would swing at anything … and often would drill the ball off the right-field screen.” The three boys were plucked from the crowded tryout and taken to Forest Park by Rickey. He offered Schoendienst a little money, enough to get home and sign a contract, really. Rickey gave Garagiola a $500 bonus. He let Berra go.
There are reports that Berra turned down a $250 offer.
There are quotes that say otherwise.
“I wanted to play for either the Cardinals or the Browns,” Berra told St. Louis Magazine in 2012. “When the Cardinals didn’t offer me anything, the Browns said, ‘Well, they don’t want to give him anything. We’re not going to give him anything.’ I would have played with anyone. I would have loved to play in St. Louis.”
Others suggest that Rickey was trying to stash Berra, hide him and his fondness for him, so he could sign the better catcher later after Rickey took over operations of the Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s what Dave Kaplan, executive director of the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey, told me during a visit there several years ago, and has told other reporters. “Imagine,” wrote Vecsey, “the Cardinals with Yogi behind the plate for the late forties into the early sixties.”
The longtime sports editor and writer for the Post-Dispatch – a Hall of Famer himself – pointed back to Berra’s tryout as a turning point for the Cardinals. The Swifties were about to enter their era of championships and Musial was about to enter his peak. But the Yankees were the threat to their dominance, and as many championships as the Cardinals won, the Yankees had more, and theirs would continue after the Swifties slowed.
“Over a 25-year period, New York owned 14 pennants and 10 championships,” Broeg wrote in 1999. “In 21 seasons, St. Louis floated nine league flags and six world titles at Sportsman’s Park. The disparity that quickly occurred, strongly favoring the Yankees, was at least partly because of Berra.”
Broeg mentioned that the Cardinals don’t have a catcher in the Hall.
They still don’t.