“90 percent of it is half mental…”
Yogi Berra was a unique American icon, known as much for his unique personality and lexicon as his stellar baseball career. He was well known for his impromptu and pithy comments some of which were paradoxical contradictions but seemed profound nonetheless. This American icon passed away at age 90 on September 22nd and is our choice for the “People Who Rock” feature for September 2015 (we don’t always feature musicians).
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it…”
Born Lorenzo Pietro Berra in an Italian neighborhood of St. Louis, MO, Berra was known for his toughness in spite of his short stature. Berra quit school after the 8th grade and he and his best friend Joe Garagiola were avid athletes who played on a football team with no pads or helmets (while the opposing team was in full gear) and developed tremendous skills on the baseball field. In 1942, Garagiola was signed by the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, temporarily disappointing Berra who was passed by, before he was signed by the New York Yankees the following year. However, Berra soon turned 18 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as a gunner’s mate during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 and bravely fighting and taking heavy fire at both Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.
“Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded…”
Following the war, Berra finally got his chance to play baseball professionally, making his major league debut with the Yankees in 1946. During his 18 year career as a player with the Yankees, Berra played in 14 World Series, winning 10 of those. Berra established World Series records for the most games, at bats, hits, doubles, singles, and games caught. Known as an excellent hitter who could hit any pitch at any location in the strike zone, Berra was also a 15-time All Star and 3-time AL MVP.
“It’s déjà vu all over again…”
Berra retired after the 1963 World Series, and was immediately named manager of the Yankees, leading the team to the 1964 World Series against his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Later in the decade, Berra moved to the crosstown Mets and was an assistant coach during their 1969 World Series championship and manager during their 1973 World Series appearance. Berra returned to the Yankees as assistant coach during their two World Championships in the late 1970s and one more stint as manager in the late 1980s. The Yankees have retired his uniform number 8 and Berra is honored with a plaque in Monument Park.
“It ain’t over till it’s over…”
In 1998, he established the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey, an organization with which he worked closely for the rest of his life.
“Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours…”