He was a decorated war veteran there on D-Day. He won more World Series than any other player in Major League history. His quotes became part of the American lexicon. He was so cool, a cartoon was named after him. Today, we mourn the passing of one of baseball’s greatest.
A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
The baseball world lost one of it’s greatest characters this morning when we found out about the passing of 90-year old Yogi Berra. Perhaps the most quoted man in professional sports history, there is no denying that Lawrence Peter Berra left a mark on this world in which most of us strive. It’s a sad day not just for the New York Yankees, but for baseball.
All pitchers are liars or cry babies.
Berra leaves Whitey Ford as the last great New York Yankee from one of the most dominant runs in sports history. As battery mates, they won six of Berra’s record TEN World Series together. Berra played alongside legends like Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Elston Howard, Phil Rizzuto and Roger Maris and he would still often find ways to outshine them all.
He hits from both sides of the plate — he’s amphibious.
When I think of Yogi Berra, I think of my Uncle Shifty. He’s one of those old school Yankees fans that watched these guys go to World Series after World Series. You know, one of those guys that think even the late-90s Yankees dynasty was a bunch of softies? How can you blame him? He watched Berra win 10 World Series with his favorite team, including five in a row from 1949 to 1953.
I bragged about Derek Jeter winning four titles in six years, but after that, the Yankees disappeared from the World Series for a little while. Not Berra’s Yankees. Over Berra’s 17 year career (let’s not count his 22 at bat debut in 1946, nor the nine at bats in 1965 he took as a coach for the New York Mets), Berra and the Yankees appeared in 14 World Series.
While the names I listed above usually stole the spotlight, Berra won three MVPs over that span. He was truly the Derek Jeter of those Yankees. While Maris was bashing record setting home runs, The Mick was winning triple crowns, and Joey D was becoming the self-proclaimed Greatest Living Baseball Player, Berra was there doing his job, being one of the top run producers on the team… and winning ALL OF THE TIME.
Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.
It was never baseball that made Yogi what he was. He was baseball’s great philosopher. If you are a youngster today and read his memorable quotes for the first time, you would imagine that he was a bumbling idiot who took one too many balls off the noggin. But if you are one of us old folks, Yogi made perfect sense. It wasn’t just what he said, it was his entire demeanor. He was always smiling and laughing, and he had that voice, no wonder a famous cartoon bear was made in his likeness (despite the fact that Hanna Barbera denies it).
Berra wasn’t just a guy who said something stupid and moved on. He was a comedic story teller that wanted you to laugh. His voice made listening to him more enjoyable. When Yogi spoke… people listened.
I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
Berra’s legacy is immeasurable. He has the Yogi Berra Museum — which is “Open til we close” –on the campus of Montclair State University, a campus I did some of my graduate work on when I started my teaching career. He loved kids, was a philanthropist and he always made it feel like he loved everyone he crossed paths with… except that 14-year stint with George Steinbrenner. But The Boss and Yogi made amends and when Berra returned in 1999 to Yankees Stadium, Yankees fans rejoiced.
Does everyone remember July 18, 1999? Let me remind you. It was Yogi Berra Day. They celebrated by having Don Larsen throw the first pitch to Yogi, honoring the battery mates in the only perfect game thrown in World Series history. Several hours later, David Cone would complete his perfect game, the 16th in baseball history at the time, with Yogi on hand. You’re telling me that little man wasn’t magical?
I never said most of the things I said.
While the above quote may seem silly, it may actually be true. One of Berra’s most memorable quotes — It ain’t over till it’s over — may not have actually ever been said that way. “You’re never out of it until you’re out of it,” was actually how some reporters remember Yogi saying it that day as manager of the 1973 Mets amid their unthinkable run. Either way, by the time Yogi left us late last evening, he was more quoted than Bill Shakespeare.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
So today, Yankees fans, baseball fans, and much of America mourns the passing of a legend. If Yogi taught us one thing, it’s not to be sad, but to find away to make people smile, sometimes even in the darkest of times. It would be a shame if we celebrate his life today any other way. RIP Yogi.