Yogi Berra: A Yankee We All Can Love

As much as I detest the New York Yankees, no one can hate Yogi Berra. I am convinced that there is no way a person with a soul could legitimately hate Yogi. The man was too funny, too witty, too  entertaining for anyone to carry any disdain for him. Remember, this is coming from a lifelong Red Sox fan who grew up in a war zone known as Connecticut. I cannot bring myself to hate Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra. He’s too excellent a baseball player and man for even the most provincial New Englander to detest. 

Yogi born on The Hill in St. Louis to Italian immigrants in the same neighborhood that produced famous broadcasters Jack Buck and Joe Garagiola. He grew up playing baseball whenever he could, and dreamed of playing for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Team president Branch Rickey also loved Yogi and wanted to play for him, just not in St. Louis. Rickey was planning on leaving the Cardinals to take a job in the front office of the Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s why as one of the last moves he made in Sr. Louis, Rickey decided to sign Berra’s childhood friend Joe Garagiola to the Cardinals. It looked as though St. Louis had outright spurned Berra, but it was actually a gamble by Rickey to get him in Brooklyn. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The New York Yankees offered Berra a contract with a $500 signing bonus, a good bonus at that time. He began his minor league career in 1942 before it was interrupted by World War II. He was one of the many baseball players who served in the war. The Navy assigned Berra to be a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield in the DDay invasion. 

After the war, he resumed his baseball career, eventually getting the call to join the Yankees in September 1946. The next season, he had advanced enough to be a regular in the 1947 World Champion Yankees lineup, hitting the first ever World Series pinch hit homer against Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers. He continued playing well, and earned a position as the starting catcher in the historically great New York Yankees of the 50’s and 60’s. He went to 18 MLB All Star games, won 3 AL MVP awards, and was the backstop for 10 World Series winning teams, the most for any player in the history of the sport. He ended his career with a .285 average, 358 career homers, and caught the only perfect game in World Series history.  

 He was a coach with the Amazing Mets of 1969 who won the World Series, and won 2 more championships as a coach with the 1977 and 1978 Yankees, running his championship total to 13. 

His list of baseball accomplishments is incredibly long and puts him in the category of baseball legend, and yet this isn’t first in most discussions about Yogi. What is? His wit. People originally called him Yogi because he looked like a Hindu Yogi when he sat with crossed arms and sad eyes after a loss in American Legion baseball. That nickname eventually came to define his habit of producing many wonderful quotes and phrases that make people laugh and wonder “what was that dude saying?” He always had a point to make and spoke with wisdom, but the wording got people to raise their eyebrows and wonder how Yogi’s mind actually worked. I loved mentioning to people some of the things he said, and just watching the reaction. 

Just read some of these! 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace different.”

“In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.” 

“You wouldn’t have won if we’d have beaten you!”

“Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” 

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” 

“It’s like dejavu all over again.” 

“Always go to other people’s funerals or else they won’t go to yours.” 

Well Yogi, I know that many will attend your funeral and you deserve it. 90 years is a long time to live and you accomplished a tremendous amount in that time. From a passionate Red Sox fan, may God welcome you in to His arms for eternal joy. We’ll remember how tremendous a ballplayer you were and how extraordinary your life really was.  

 

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