Transitions : Yogi Berra (1925-201). I grew up playing baseball in small towns in the south. In organized leagues and on sandlots. All through the year. For schools and with friends. Pickup and travel squads. It was important to me and to my friends because, well, baseball is important in small towns in the South, just like football (I played that too…there weren’t a lot of choices in the small towns I grew up in: football, basketball, baseball..most of us played all three). Like all kids who played baseball, we all had favorites, guys we followed, whose baseball cards we had to get. Those days were arguably baseball’s “Golden Era”. At a time when Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford or Duke Snider were everyone’s favorite players, back when baseball was THE national pastime, I was a Yogi Berra fan.
The reasons why were pretty simple: I was a catcher. Yogi was a catcher. I was a Yankee fan. Yogi was a Yankee. I was aspirational. Yogi was aspirational (although he never knew it). I was a grinder. Yogi was the ultimate grinder. In those days, only catchers wore their baseball hats backwards. Yogi did that. I did too. Yogi was everything that was right about baseball as far as I was concerned.
When I moved out of the small towns I was raised in, and went off to college, my appreciation for Yogi changed. It was no longer based on what he did on the field, but his manner, his innate humility, the lack of showboating. Yogi was a character, one so rich and unique, that you just couldn’t make someone like him up. A true original. He had a way of speaking that was unique, a point of view that was wonderfully simple and, in a way, very sweet. But no one should ever mistake lack of swagger for softness, because he was amazingly competitive and played the most punishing single position on the field. Yogi Berra was on 10 World Series winning teams, when the World Series was the most important sports game of the year, every year. Yogi left the field as a player, became a manager and a coach and he was successful there as well. He was, to me at least, Mr. Baseball, just like Gordie Howe was, to me and others, Mr. Hockey.
When Yogi Berra died last week, at the age of 90, all the great old feelings about him and the game came back. It was a welcome reprise, for a time long since gone, and a man who defined the very best of that time. Yogi lived a very long and amazing life, and over the last week, we’ve had a chance to realize–once again–just how special he was. Below please find a ClickPak of some of the best stories about Yogi Berra. And, might as well start it off right, with a great collection of his quotes. To Yogi’s family, we send our prayers and thanks for sharing him with so many for so long.
The Great Quote of Yogi Berra (Source; Newsday)
The American Life of Yogi Berra (Source: Sports Illustrated)
Yogi and the 1956 World Series (Source: cheatsheet.com)
The Yankees Honor Yogi Before A Game (Source: SportsIllustrated.com)
The Mayor of Montclair (Source: New York Daily Post)
Yogi Berra: An American Story (Source: The Missoulian)
Yogi Berra’s Greatest Legacy (Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Yogi Berra Tribute from The New York Times (Source: The New York Times)
Yogi by the numbers. He was much, much better than you ever thought . (Source: fivethirtyeight.com)
The Fine Print: Baseball Card photo of Yogi Berra from Baseball Collection, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. The photo has not been altered. It has been sized to fit in the available space. We thank the Baseball Collection for sharing the photo.