Inside Pitch Magazine, September/October 2022

Last Inning: This One's for Charlie

by Anthony Piperata

Charlie Berry along with three teammates in their Philadelphia Athletics uniformsThe period of time when Charlie Berry excelled as a two-sport (MLB and NFL) athlete has been camouflaged by many decades. However, my love and interest in reviving and memorializing his story has given me the motivation necessary to dig through hundreds of articles, pictures, press releases and obscure-yet-documented relationships he forged with his teams, coaches and peers.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve truly enjoyed being able to learn and tell Charlie’s story a little bit better. And it’s funny; at the start of my mission in 2012, I would find maybe one or two dozen of Charlie's images. Nowadays, you can retrieve hundreds of his images and other archives where his name is now posted.

I met Charlie Berry 70 years ago, and I’m fortunate to be in regular contact with his youngest daughter and many of his grandchildren, and have actually made a few friends along the way—friends who share my affinity for good stories about better people. I’m proud of the “CB Network” I have fostered with his family, friends and fans.

Charlie Berry was a national and international sports hero who resided and lived in Phillipsburg, New Jersey for 70 years. He attended Phillipsburg High School, earning numerous accolades in each of the three sports he played. He attended Lafayette College from 1921-1924, where he was president of his senior class and was named to the Walter Camp All-America football team in 1924. He played both baseball and football in each of his four years at Lafayette. Charlie is enshrined in the Lafayette College Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania College Hall of Fame, and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

Charlie was named First Team All-NFL in both 1925 and 1926, leading the league with 74 points scored in 1925 as a kicker and tight end. He played for the Pottsville Maroons and was a team captain when they won the 1925 NFL Championship, defeating the Chicago Cardinals. This serves as one of the many online “rabbit holes” that may not ever have any more resolution than a good story: The Maroons were actually suspended and later removed from the NFL by commissioner Joseph Carr, who declared that an exhibition game they played in Philadelphia infringed upon the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. The opponent on that fateful day in Philly was none other than the mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish—who featured the famed Four Horsemen. Berry kicked a 30-yard game-winning field goal to help upset the Irish, 9-7. 

Berry hopped back onto the diamond after that debacle, playing for the Philadelphia Athletics for a handful of games in 1925. Upon the end of his football career, Charlie later became a player, coach, and official in the MLB for four more decades. He batted .267 with 23 home runs and 256 RBIs in more than 700 big league games as a player. He coached with the Athletics under Connie Mack, managed the Wilmington Blue Rocks and was even the head man for Grove City College’s football team for five seasons, posting a 33-6-4 record.

Charlie would eventually settle into an officiating career, umpiring American League games from 1942 through 1962. He was assigned to five World Series and just as many All-Star Games. At the same time, Berry was a head NFL linesman for 24 years and called a dozen championship games on the gridiron. And yes, he is the only person to ever call a World Series, the NFL Championship and the College All Star Game in the same season, surely a feat that will not be repeated. 

Charlie always came home to “P’Burg” many evenings and even found time to give back to Phillipsburg High and the town's Little Leagues in football and baseball. He was laid to rest in peace at Belvidere Cemetery in Warren County. For my money, he was the greatest two-sport professional athlete that ever lived in our proud county.

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to indulge and tell Charlie’s story one more time. Let us not forget our past!

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