Yogi Berra

by Dave Kaplan

"You can observe a lot just by watching."
-one of Yogi Berra's famous quotations
A collage of Yogi Berra Pictures. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)
A collage of Yogi Berra Pictures. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)

Yogi Berra is an American original, almost as renowned for his inimitable philosophy as he is for his baseball brilliance. No other sports figure has more entries in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and no other player in the history of baseball has won more championship rings. Yet what truly makes him a beloved national treasure may be his humility, kindness and genuineness.

Perhaps no more unlikely-looking athlete ever strode onto a playing field. In fact, Yogi’s squat, gnome-like body inspired caricature and jokes. Yet there was nothing funny about how he rose from barefoot sandlotter to Hall of Fame heights as catcher for the New York Yankees and one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Yogi Berra in action. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)
Yogi Berra in action. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)

Lawrence Peter Berra, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in St. Louis on May 12, 1925. He got his nickname when some of his childhood buddies saw a resemblance between him and an Indian fakir they’d seen in a movie. Though he quit school at age 14 to help support his family, he had a genius for playing the game that transcended his physical configuration. His unlikely baseball odyssey was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the Navy and participated in the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

In a playing career that spanned 17 full seasons (1947-63) and the “The Golden Age of Baseball,” he appeared in a record 14 World Series, 10 of which the Yankees won. Astonishingly agile defensively, he was also one of the game’s greatest clutch hitters and won the Most Valuable Player Award in the American League three times. As a manager, he won pennants in both leagues, with the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973.

Despite becoming a national celebrity, Yogi has been delightfully unchanged by it all. He’s faithfully devoted to his wife of 56 years, Carmen, and the rest of his family, which include three sons and 10 grandchildren. The values reflected in his life and accomplishments - respect, tolerance, and sportsmanship – inspired the creation of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey, in 1998.

Yogi reads to one of his three sons. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)
Yogi reads to one of his three sons. (Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center)

Page created on 5/31/2006 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/9/2017 4:18:16 PM

Related Links

Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center - Located on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey, the museum provides a facility those of all ages (but especially children) to come together, learn and share in Yogi's vision of respect, cultural diversity, and social justice.
Yogi Berra - Yogi Berra's official website.
Academy of Achievement - Read an interview with Yogi Berra. The Academy of Achievement brings students face-to-face with the extraordinary leaders, thinkers and pioneers who have shaped our world.

Extra Info

LISTEN UP!

Sports writer and commentator talks about the legendary Yogi Berra on National Public Radio (NPR). Click on this link to listen to Deford reminisce on Berra's baseball career.

Related Books

Author Info

Dave Kaplan is a writer and the director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. His short biographical sketch of Yogi Berra also appears in My Hero: Extraordinary People on the Heroes Who Inspire Them.