Lawrence Peter Berra, better known as the beloved Yogi Berra of the Yankees, died Tuesday at the age of 90.
Yogi's professional baseball career was mostly as a catcher, for 19 seasons (18 of them with the Yankees), an amazing feat in its own right. But he added to that feat by being an all-star 15 times, appearing in 14 World Series and winning 10 of them.
A Hall of Famer, he was a teammate of such greats as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, and Moose Skowron. And those were just the sluggers. Yogi caught for such Yankee pitching greats as Whitey Ford, Ed Lopat, and Don Larson. He was the catcher in Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. After his highly successful career as a player, he became a manager and a coach.
Yogi and his wife Carmen were married 65 years, until her death in 2014. They had three boys and 11 grandchildren. On September 24 at the Yogi Berra Museum, family members gatthered to recall their fond memories of Yogi as a devoted family man.
In 2008, Yogi was invited to the Major League All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium, where he threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. The aged star, with the once-feared throwing arm that had intimidated so many runners from stealing bases, had to make the throw from approximately half-way between the pitcher’s mound and home plate in order to reach the catcher. Nevertheless, the fans roared with approval for their beloved Yogi, who at only five feet seven inches remains somewhat of an enigma in a game currently dominated by players at least six feet tall.
One joke about him, actually a compliment on his many World Series appearances, was to refer to him as unfortunate because he had supposedly never seen a World Series game on television. Of course he didn’t see the World Series games on TV; he was playing in them and that was before VHS and DVR!
Yogi was a rich source of comedy in baseball, with (as the New York Times put it) his "unwittingly witty epigrams known as Yogi-isms." Some of his timeless favorites are, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” "It's déjà vu all over again," and "When you come to a fork in the road — take it.". His book Yogi Berra: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said! even had a Yogi-ism as part of its title.
Vin Scully, whose career as a Dodger broadcaster overlapped with Yogi's own career as a player, saluted the great ballplayer and person, observing, “As long as people talk about the game, whenever they mention the name Yogi Berra, they will smile because he was that kind of a human being.”
Photo of Yogi Berra: AP Images