Photo credit: sfchronicle.com
By: Amaury Pi-González
Charlie Silvera was born in San Francisco, California on October 13,1924 and passed away in Millbrae, California on September 7, 2019. An original Bay Area baseball man, he attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School. In 1942, he signed with the Yankees and played the outfield for the Wellsville Yankees at 17 years old. He didn’t play from 1943 to 1945 as he served in World War II.
In 1946, Silvera was converted to catcher with Kansas City Blues (AAA team). Three years later, he was playing for the New York Yankees.
Silvera was a catcher, a coach and a scout for most of his life. He won six World Series rings with the Yankees during their title runs in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1956. He played with Yogi Berra (as his back-up), Tommy Henrich, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mike, Ralph Houk and many others.
As a back-up catcher to Berra, Silvera had many great baseball stories because he was a storyteller. Many times, he would show up at the Giants or A’s press boxes and we would just sit there and listen to endless stories about his playing years. My favorite was about his last year with the Yankees in 1956. It was October 8, 1956 when Yankee pitcher Don Larsen threw a perfect game in Game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the only perfecto to date in a World Series.
That was the way it went, according to Silvera, who said: “I warmed-up Don Larsen prior to that game. After the game, I told Yogi if he could give me a souvenir of that game. Yogi told me, he will see what he could do. Next day after the game, Yogi came to me with a brown bag on his hands, as I opened it was a jockstrap, Larsen’s cup! I said, is that all? Yogi told, me the ball used on that last out went to the Yankee Museum, his Uniform to the Hall of Fame and there was not much left besides that. To this day,I have that jockstrap on the mantle of my house in San Mateo.”
That was one of the many great and funny stories about Silvera’s years as part of the Yankees dynasty. He loved the Bay Area. He was a treasure, and while he was not a famous player by any means, he was part of our baseball world. I got to know him as a scout when he came to the park or at functions or events related to baseball.
Silvera was one of the greatest characters of the game, and a man that lived a long life in and out of baseball. I will never forget him.
Rest in peace, Charlie.
Amaury Pi-González is a pioneer in establishing Spanish baseball play by play in the Bay Area and began his long broadcasting career during the late 1970’s when Charlie O Finley was the team’s owner.