Yogi Berra will be remembered for a lot of things. Born on May 12, 1925, he made 21 World Series appearances throughout his career; 13 of which he won. A legend and among the last of baseball’s golden era, his record as a player, coach, and manager of baseball’s best team will never be forgotten.
A favorite of reporters, Berra could always be counted on to provide charming, if not confusing quotes for them to use in their stories. Indeed, many of these have become hallmarks of America’s growing lexicon. Perhaps his most famous line was “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.” It’s a phrase that can be found everywhere from song lyrics to campaign slogans. Its simplicity and truth reflections of a man who dropped out of 8th grade but who had a better understanding of life than most men with higher education.
While Berra will forever be known for his playing abilities, he was much more than a jock who put on a catcher’s mitt every season. In 1944, Berra served as gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield as the ship disembarked troops at Utah Beach on D-Day.
It was after World War II that Berra’s career hit a home run. Mentored by Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, Berra honed his skills to become one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. So grateful was Berra that he took his mentors number as his own later remarking, “I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey.”
In 1972, Berra was elected by his peers into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. His No. 8 Yankee jersey will hang there among the mementos and relics of an era when Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, and so many other greats were part of America’s dream team.
And, as much as America gave Berra, he never forgot the Italian heritage his immigrant parents brought with them to New York. A strong supporter of the National Italian American Foundation, Berra was a proud fundraiser for their activities and eagerly used his name and reputation to help everyone from the Boy Scouts to charities that needed a hand.
A generous, gentle, and sometimes misquoted man, Yogi Berra was the husband of Carmen Short, the father of Dale Berra and Tim Berra, and to the rest of us, the father of Yogiisms whose wit and wisdom are well worth remembering.
So, Yogi, as you take this final fork in the road of your life’s journey, thank you. Thank you for the timeless memories. Thank you for the wit and the wisdom. But, more importantly, thank you for showing all of us that with a touch of determination, a little bit of talent can be honed to a skill that by any measure is nothing short of legendary.