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