The Pride of SI: Charlie Silvera

Frank McGloin ’25, who started coaching baseball in 1930 (winning an AAA championship his first year), ended his career as varsity baseball coach in 1942, though he continued to be an avid supporter of SI until his death in 1994. (Each year since 1995, one junior varsity baseball player receives the Frank McGloin Award in honor of this great Ignatian.)

McGloin had many superb players, including pitchers John Collins and Buzz Meagher and first baseman Harvey Christensen, all of whom earned first-team all-league honors. (Christensen ’43 also earned all-league honors in basketball. Collins pitched a no-hitter against Balboa in 1938 and earned the league pitching title. Meagher started a triple-play as pitcher in 1939.)

But the most celebrated of them all was Charlie Silvera ’42 who went on to become a catcher for the Yankees between 1948 and 1956. As such, he was one of eight Yankees to win five consecutive World Series and six in all. However, Silvera only played in one of those games (in 1949) as he was backup to Yogi Berra, one of the Yankee’s greatest players. Still, he served his team with distinction, mainly helping to warm up pitchers in the bullpen. He roomed with Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, and he traveled on Billy Martin’s staff from job to job during that manager’s volatile career.

Silvera began playing baseball at Mission Dolores School, and he nearly went to Sacred Heart. “But Bob Dunnigan, who lived down the street, talked to my mother and made sure I went to SI to play for Frank McGloin, who was a great coach. He had a wonderful temperament and was great with kids.”

At SI, Silvera played on the varsity team in each of his four years, spending most of the time as catcher. After graduation, he signed with the Yankees, and along with Jerry Coleman and Bob Cherry — Lowell seniors also signed by the Yankees — he took a train on June 20 to Wellsville, NY, to play on the PONY League there in a Yankee farm club for one season.

In 1943, he entered the service and played baseball for three years at McClellan Field in Sacramento on the same team as Joe DiMaggio before being transferred to Hawaii, where he continued to play ball with the 7th Air Force.

After the war, he spent several years on farm teams before seeing major league action for the Yankees for the last four games of 1948 to replace an injured catcher. He stayed with the Yankees while they won seven Pennants and six World Series — five of them in his first five years with the team, from 1949–1953, a feat yet to be repeated. (After his fifth World Series ring, he and some of the others asked for silver cigarette cases.)

His teammates called him “Swede,” a nickname given him by John Swanson, the owner of the Mission Bowl. Swanson didn’t care that Silvera was Portugese-Irish, only that he had blond, wavy hair. “Everyone playing ball in the Mission District had a nickname, and that name stuck with me.”

Silvera didn’t mind warming the bench watching Yogi Berra play. “After awhile, I tried to hide so they wouldn’t discover me. I had sat on the bench so long, I was afraid my tools had grown rusty.” During double-headers, Berra played the first game, and Silvera would step in for the nightcap. In 1957, the Yankees sold Silvera to the Cubs, and a badly sprained ankle on Memorial Day that year ended his career.

He spent the next several years managing farm teams for the Yankees and the Pirates and then scouted for the Washington Senators until 1968. Billy Martin then asked him to join his team of coaches, and he followed him to Minnesota, Texas and Detroit. “He kept getting fired, and I’d be fired along with him. After 1975, I told him I didn’t want to be fired anymore.” With that, Silvera returned to scouting and has worked for the Yankees, Brewers, A’s, Marlins, Reds and Cubs.

In 2003 he celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Yankees’ five-straight World Series victories and his 62nd year in baseball. If you go to a Giants’ game, you can still see him in the seats scouting for talent.

“I always felt that I was born in the greatest city in the world, lived in the greatest district in that city and played for the best team ever in baseball with the greatest catcher who ever lived. And I had an excellent education at SI. I succeeded because of the discipline that started at home and then continued at SI and in the service. That discipline really helped me with the Yankees. We all felt that there are major league ballplayers and then there are Yankees. We felt the same camaraderie on that team as I still feel for my SI classmates — guys like Fr. John LoSchiavo, SJ, and Bill McDonnell.”

At his 50-year reunion, Charlie Silvera made this comment about his years at SI: “Great classmates, great school, great teachers and great baseball coach.”

(At his class’s 63rd reunion in 2005, Silvera presented Fr. Sauer with his SI block for the school archives.)

Silvera wasn’t the only major-leaguer to attend SI. Jimmy Mangan ’47 played with the Pirates in 1952 and 1954 and with the New York Giants in 1956. Don Bosch ’65 played with the Pirates in 1966, the Mets in 1967 and 1968 and the Expos in 1969. And Allan Gallagher, who played third base for the Giants from 1970–1973, and who finished his career with the Angels, attended SI for part of his high school years before he went on to Mission High School where he became AAA Player of the Year. He returned to the Jesuit fold when he enrolled at SCU.