I never personally got the chance to see Yogi Berra play, but I would always see him when I went to Yankee Old Timer’s Days with my dad when I was growing up.
While players like Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson were always met with loud applause, when Berra stepped out onto the field, you could feel the electricity in the air. Fans, both young and old, would give a standing ovation and countless chants of “Yogi! Yogi!” for arguably the greatest living Yankee at the time.
“You can observe a lot by watching,” is just one of the many Yogisms that Berra graced us with over the years, and in this case it is apropos for his baseball career. The Yankee catcher was a 15-time All-Star, three-time American League MVP and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
His numbers over his 19-year career were astounding. He batted .285 with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI. He also had 10 World Series rings to his credit, and to top it all off, he caught the only perfect game in World Series history, thrown by Don Larsen in 1956.
“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Berra’s success in baseball didn’t stop after he retired, though. After being a Yankee for his entire career, he spent some time on the bench as a manager for both the Yankees and Mets. In his first season with the Bombers in 1964, the team ended up 99-63 and won the AL pennant.
After an eight-year hiatus, Berra retuned to a managerial role with the Mets. In his first season, the Mets went 83-73 and followed it up with an 82-79 season in 1973 and the National League pennant.
“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” As impressive a player as Berra was, he was an even better person. His good humor always put a smile on the faces of his kids and those around him.
Even when he was fired from the Yankees in 1985, he was given a standing ovation from all the players on the team bus after the news of his firing broke; that’s how respected he was.
His sons, Dale – who played for the Yankees in his Major League career, – Tim, Larry, and Larry’s daughter Lindsay described their father and grandfather as a role model who spoke the same way about a CEO as he would a garbage man.
While he may have “never said most of the things [he] said,” Berra was an amazing baseball player, and remains the model for what it means to be a New York Yankee. His play on the field was trumped only by his contagious and happy personality, which he graced us all with during his time in pinstripes and beyond.
“It ain’t over till it’s over.” Sadly it is, Yogi, but we’ll never forget you.
Thanks for the memories, and maybe you’ll finally be able to find out whether Jackie Robinson was really safe or out.