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Yankees’ ‘Harmonica Incident’ protagonist Phil Linz dead at 81

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Phil Linz, part of the Yankees’ 1962 World Series championship team, but known more for his role in the infamous “Harmonica Incident” two years later, died Wednesday at 81. 

Former longtime Yankees PR director Marty Appel announced the news Thursday. 

As a player, Linz was primarily a utility infielder and was a rookie on the 1962 Yankees. He also homered twice in the 1964 World Series, when they lost to the Cardinals. 

It was earlier in the ’64 season that Linz inadvertently became a more significant part of Yankees history. 

After the Yankees were swept in a four-game series by the White Sox in Chicago, the team was on the bus headed to O’Hare Airport to fly to Boston, where they were due to continue their road trip. 

Linz, upset that he had not gotten off the bench during the critical August series, started playing a harmonica he had gotten the day before. 

As Jim Bouton wrote in his book “Ball Four,’’ Linz didn’t know how to play the instrument and tried to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.’’ 

The music irritated manager Yogi Berra, who didn’t think it was appropriate with the team playing poorly. 

Phil Linz Yankees
Getty Images

But Linz, sitting in the back of the bus, apparently didn’t hear what Berra said, and Mickey Mantle jokingly told Linz that Berra said to “play it louder,’’ which Linz did. 

That caused Berra, who didn’t know who was playing the harmonica, to walk to the back of the bus. There, the two had an argument which ended with Linz either throwing the harmonica or getting it knocked out of his hands. 

The incident became a national story. Linz later apologized to Berra, and the Yankees came back to win the pennant, but Berra was fired after the season, with ownership believing the former catcher had lost control of the team. 

Linz stayed with the Yankees through the 1965 season and was then traded to the Phillies. Linz and Berra were reunited with the Mets for 1967 and ’68, after Linz was traded to Queens, where Berra was a coach. The two remained on good terms. 

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