Remembering Yogi Berra.
On September 22nd, baseball lost a great ambassador, a great character and one of the greatest players to ever don the tools of ignorance. Many people don’t realize the kind of career that Yogi Berra had and I feel as if his Yogisms and place in pop culture often overshadow his on-field accomplishments. I won’t list everything on his Hall of Fame resume, but after Yogi passed away, I was listening to Buster Olney’s podcast and it was suggested that if you wanted to put Berra’s career into perspective, you can take what Buster Posey has accomplished so far in his career and multiply it by three. I’d say that’s pretty spot on.
Yogi Berra is my favorite catcher of all time and this is reflected in “The Tools Of Ignorance: My Favorite All-Time Catchers,” which I wrote a few years back. Unless you’re a huge Reds fan and Johnny Bench is your guy, I can’t grasp how anyone can not pick Yogi as their all time favorite catcher. Either way, Yogi is one of the most legendary figures to ever step foot on the baseball field and while he was 90 years old and surely lived a full life, he will still be missed by all who love the game of baseball. This one is for you, Yogi.
Aaron Robinson, Ralph Houk and Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees pose for a photo during the 1947 season. Yogi was the youngest catcher of the group and came up as a September call up in 1946, where he played in 7 games and hit .364 with 2 home runs. During his actual rookie season of 1947, Yogi played in 83 games and came in 15th in the American League MVP voting.
This photo of a young Yogi Berra shaking hands with Babe Ruth has been one of my favorite baseball photos for years. I’m not sure when this was taken, but I’m thinking it had to be in late 1946 or early 1947, as the Babe doesn’t seem ravished yet by the cancer that would eventually take his life in 1948.
What I love about this photo is that it directly links two generation of Yankee greats. It’s almost as if the Babe knew that Yogi would be the next pillar of Yankee greatness. I can almost imagine the Babe saying “The team is all yours, kid. Make me proud.”
October 1st, 1953. A great action shot of Yogi Berra in Game 2 of the 1953 World Series getting caught in a rundown in the 6th inning. Everything about this photo is perfect and the fact that it features Pee Wee Reese, Jim Gilliam and Gil Hodges makes even more amazing.
Anyone remotely familiar with baseball history can tell you that this photo is from the 1956 World Series, after Don Larsen made the last out of Game 5, in which he threw his perfect game. This will forever be one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, and when I recently found this photo taken from the side with Joe Collins in the background, I was delighted as I had never seen it before.
Yogi wrapped up his playing career after the 1963 season and was quickly hired on as Manager of the Yankees after Ralph Houk was promoted to General Manager. Yogi then proceeded to lead the Yankees to the World Series in 1964, but lost to the Cardinals in 7 games. After the season, he was fired by Houk as he thought that Yogi was not quite ready to manage yet. This seems crazy to me as he lead his team to the American League pennant.
The following season, Berra reunited with his longtime skipper, Casey Stengel as a member of the Mets coaching staff. In addition to coaching, Berra even played in 4 games early in the season before hanging up his cleats for good. Berra ended up being a Mets coach for 7 seasons, until taking over as manager in 1972, after Gil Hodges passed away in Spring Training. Berra managed the Mets until he was fired late in the 1975 season, therefore ending his 11 tenure as a member of the Mets.
Yogi eventually rejoined the Yankees again as a coach in 1976 to 1983, and then as manager for the 1984 season and the beginning of the 1985 season, before getting unfairly fired by George Steinbrenner 16 games into the season. This lead to Yogi refusing to step foot in Yankee Stadium or be associated with the team for almost 15 years. I don’t care what anyone says, but I never have and never will be a fan of George Steinbrenner and this is one of the MANY reasons why.
Anyways, Yogi was not done with baseball yet and after the 1985 season, he was hired by the Astros as the bench coach under manager Hal Lanier. After Lanier left the team at the end of the 1988 season, Yogi moved over to hitting coach, where he stayed with the team for one more season before retiring after the 1989 season. Maybe it’s because of THIS card from my childhood, but I always thought Yogi looked kind of cool in an Astros uniform.
After Steinbrenner apologized, Berra became a regular at Yankees games and made an impact on many young players over the years, such as Derek Jeter. This photo was taken at his last appearance at old Yankee Stadium and I love it so much. During the last game at Yankee stadium, the team played THIS short video narrated by Yogi, in which he discusses the stadium, it’s legacy and what he experienced there. It’s definitely worth watching as there’s something about it that’s almost tear jerking, especially now that Yogi is gone.