I hate writing articles like this. Every time I do, it us because we have lost another piece of our baseball past, our baseball memories. Yes, I know that it is inevitable, just as the sun rises every day, people die.
Lawrence Peter ‘Yogi’ Berra was born on May 12, 1925, in St. Louis, Missouri. He broke into the Major Leagues in September of 1946, and played through 1963 with the New York Yankees. He finished his playing career in 1964 as a member of the cross-town rival New York Mets, plating in just 4 games for them. He had reasonably good statistics over his career. He played in 2,120 games, scored 1,175 runs, had 2,150 hits, 358 HR’s and 1,430 RBI. He had a career batting average of .285. Looking slightly past that was something more. Yogi Berra had an excellent eye at the plate, so good in fact that he only struck out 414 times in his entire MLB regular season career! That is pretty impressive. Yogi Berra was an excellent defensive catcher as well. He had a fielding average of .989 as a catcher.
Yogi Berra was the American League MVP 3-times, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1972 By the time that his career in baseball was done he had participated in 21 World Series and won 13 Championship rings (10 as a player).
Alright, enough statistics… Yogi was famous for his ‘Yogi-isms’ as much as he will be remembered for anything else. To coin an old phrase, he had a million of ‘em. I will not give examples here, simply because there are so many of them that I will never finish this article. Yogi was a character, and in a world that is sometimes too sterile and politically correct, we could use a few more Yogi Berra’s.
Yogi Berra was not a big guy, standing only 5’8”, but he weighed 194lbs. He was incredibly strong in every way that you want your catcher to be. Personally, I share a lot of those physical similarities with him. He was a little taller and a little heavier than I was when I played, but as a fellow catcher, he was a player who I studied and emulated (along with Carlton Fisk…). I could relate to Yogi Berra, as I was short, stocky, strong defensively, and could be a bit of a character, too. Even though he played for a team that I dislike intensely, I had a tremendous amount of respect for Yogi.
I don’t want to get into his acrimonious split with the George Steinbrenner Yankees, and I am not going to rehash the countless stories about him as a player and a manager/coach. Everybody who knew him or knew of him has their own individual memories of him. Yogi Berra was not only a baseball icon, but he was an American icon as well. When you mention the name of Yogi Berra, everybody instantly knows whom you are talking about. Just a little factoid here…did you know that Yogi Berra served in the U.S. Navy during World War 2, and that he took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy? Well, he did! Also, he was in fact the inspiration for Hanna-Barbera’s famous picnic basket stealer, Yogi Bear.
As his health deteriorated over his later years, he was moved into an assisted living facility, and he didn’t speak very much, but in the case of Yogi Berra, he really didn’t need to.