Harvey Frommer / Records & Feats / Yankees
The Copa Incident: May 16, 1957
by Harvey Frommer
Despite Yogi Berra's emphatic denial: "Nobody did nothin' to nobody," a lot did happen at the Copacabana nightclub in Manhattan when Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford and Johnny Kucks gathered to celebrate Billy Martin's 29th birthday.
Mickey Mantle recalled what happened: "Two bowling teams came in to celebrate their victories. Sammy Davis, Jr. was the entertainer. They kept calling him Little Black Sambo and stuff like that. Billy and Hank kept telling them a couple of times to sit down. They kept standing up. The next thing I knew was that the cloak room was filled with people swinging. I was so drunk I didn't know who threw the first punch. A body came flying out and landed at my feet. At first I thought it was Billy (Martin) so I picked him up. But when I saw it wasn't I dropped him back down. It looked like Roy Rogers rode through on Trigger, and Trigger kicked the guy in the face."
The fracas resulted in Ford, Bauer, Berra, Mantle, and Martin being fined $1,000 each. It also resulted in a Bronx delicatessen owner suffering a concussion and a fractured jaw. It also resulted in Casey Stengel dropping Hank Bauer to eighth in the lineup the day after the incident but leaving Mantle in the batting third in the order. "I'm mad at him, too, for being out late," the Yankee skipper said. "But I'm not mad enough to take a chance on losing a ball game and possibly the pennant."
The main result of the episode was the trading away of Billy Martin to Kansas City.
"I'm gone," Martin told Mantle and Ford the day after the incident. "George Weiss is just looking for an excuse to get rid of me."
"I needed him this one time in my life and Casey let me down," was how Martin felt about Stengel who he thought let him down by not sticking up for him.
"Billy thought that Casey got rid of him," Mantle said. "I never thought that. It was the farthest thing from the truth. Casey loved. Billy."