“You can observe a lot by watching.”
For those who had the pleasure of watching the incomparable Yogi Berra, whether it was live or in a grainy, old highlight, can tell of a scrappy, intelligent catcher that was at the heart of several New York Yankees’ World Series titles; earning his rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. More importantly, for those who knew him personally or through his legacy as a baseball ambassador, he will also be remembered as a Hall of Fame person. Lawrence Peter Berra died of natural causes on Tuesday, the 69th anniversary of his Major League debut. He was 90.
“To those who didn’t know Yogi personally, he was one of the greatest baseball players and Yankees of all time. To those lucky ones who did, he was an even better person,” wrote fellow Yankee great Derek Jeter on his website The Players’ Tribune. “To me he was a dear friend and mentor. He will always be remembered for his success on the field, but I believe his finest quality was how he treated everyone with sincerity and kindness. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
A diminutive catcher/outfielder with a big heart, Berra was at the core of perhaps the greatest generation in the proud history of the New York Yankees. From 1946-1963, he proudly donned the pinstripes. For seven straight seasons, from 1949-1955, it was not Mickey Mantle, nor Joe DiMaggio, but Berra who led the Bronx Bombers in RBI. He was an 18-time All-Star and a three-time AL MVP.
As clutch he was in the regular season, Berra was at his best in the playoffs. The original Mr. October, he played in the Fall Classic in 14 of his 17 seasons with the Yankees; winning 10 World Series titles. He holds several World Series records, including most games played (75), at bats (259) and hits (71). He also caught Don Larsen’s perfect game during the 1956 World Series, the only one in World Series history.
“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Berra’s last plate appearance came in 1965 (for the New York Mets). He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Though his playing days were over, he could still be found constantly on a baseball diamond. He managed and served as a coach for both the Yankees and Mets.
After he was fired during his second stint as Yankees manager in 1985, Berra refused to speak to owner George Steinbrenner until he personally apologized in 1999, That year, Yogi Berra Day was held in his honor. For the ceremonial first pitch, Berra would catch for Larsen. Coincidentally, David Cone would take the mound that day and throw a perfect game of his own.
“It’s déjà vu all over again!”
From that point on, Berra was a constant presence at the stadium, Old-Timers’ Day and at spring training for the Yankees. He loved to talk baseball, and could frequently be seen talking to Yankees player about the game.
Constantly coming up with what has become known as “Yogi-isims,” Berra became one of the most quotable athletes in history. That being said, he would sometimes deny coming up with some of the sayings, stating “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Though his life ended on Tuesday, his legacy will live on forever. His #8 jersey has been retired by the Yankees, and he has his rightful place in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. To commemorate his legacy, the Yankees will wear patches bearing his number on their sleeves for the remainder of the season, beginning with Wednesday’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. They will also pay tribute to him with a pregame ceremony prior to Thursday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.