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Yogi Berra on the Field: The Case for Baseball Greatness


In the newest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, there’s a sports figure who towers over the competition.

Among the many nine sayings attributed to at least one Lawrence Peter Berra, the Recent York Yankees catcher higher often known as Yogi, are phrases that could seem nonsensical at first, but on further reflection offer wisdom for the ages.

“You’ll be able to observe rather a lot by watching.”

“It was déjà vu all all over again.”

And after all, there’s “It ain’t over till it’s over,” which provides the title for a latest documentary about Yogi’s life.

“It Ain’t Over” goals to be a corrective to the caricature implanted within the cultural consciousness of Yogi as an amiable clown, a malaprop-prone catcher who looked as if he were put along with spare parts. But Yogi was not only a cuddly pitchman for insurance, beer and chocolate milk, an inspiration for a certain cartoon bear, and a stand-up guy beloved by teammates; he was, the film argues, among the best baseball players who ever lived.

“This guy was criminally ignored his whole life, at every stage,” said Sean Mullin, the film’s director.

The documentary, which opens Friday, is very personal, tapping the eldest of Yogi’s 11 grandchildren to function a narrator with no pretense to objectivity in fighting for her grandfather’s legacy.

It was a comparatively recent slight that encapsulates the film’s defining thesis and yields the opening scene. Through the All-Star Game in 2015, Major League Baseball honored the 4 players voted by fans as the best living legends. Watching that night together with her grandfather, Lindsay Berra remembers becoming infuriated that Yogi had not made the cut.

Mullin and Lindsay Berra, in separate interviews, emphasized that they meant no offense to the 4 greats honored that night — Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench. They simply fervently consider that Yogi must have been the fifth man walking on the sector that night in Cincinnati.

“I at all times thought from the start that I figuratively desired to put Grandpa back in the image with the documentary,” said Lindsay Berra, who’s an executive producer on the film.

The filmmakers marshal the statistics and a formidable array of former players and other baseball experts to back up their claim. Yogi — who died in 2015 at 90 — was a core a part of 10 World Series championship teams as a player, greater than anyone else. He won three Most Worthwhile Player awards, played in All-Star games in 15 straight years and in 1956 caught the one perfect game in World Series history. And only two major leaguers have ever hit greater than 350 home runs while striking out fewer than 450 times: Joe DiMaggio and Yogi.

The statistic that the majority impresses Lindsay Berra comes from 1950. That season, Yogi went to the plate 656 times and struck out just 12 times: “That to me will at all times be astonishing, because guys today strike out 12 times in a weekend.”

All this passionate lobbying isn’t mere special familial pleading. Jon Pessah, who wrote the 2020 biography “Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask” (and isn’t within the film), said the concept Yogi’s baseball prowess has been ignored “is one hundred pc true.”

Besides the hitting feats, Yogi willed himself into becoming a terrific defensive catcher and was expert at guiding his temperamental pitchers. (During Don Larsen’s perfect game within the 1956 World Series, he didn’t shake off one among the 97 pitches Yogi called.)

“After studying his profession, you say, wow, this guy carried the Yankees within the ’50s,” a decade that bridged DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Pessah said. “You have a look at what he meant on the sector and on the plate, he was a force.”

The unfair, and incomplete, perception of Yogi has much to do together with his stubby stature and comparisons together with his famous teammates. DiMaggio was slick and polished, and married to Marilyn Monroe; Mantle was the blue-eyed, golden-haired, all-American boy from Oklahoma. Yogi — well, no demeaning or belittling description seemed off-limits to the writers who covered him. Early in his profession, a Life magazine article referred to him as “knock-kneed” and “barrel-shaped,” and likened his running style to that of “a fat girl in a decent skirt.” That was multi functional sentence.

His first manager called him an ape. In newspaper and magazine articles, Yogi’s looks were in comparison with those of a gargoyle, a gorilla and an orangutan.

“Are you able to imagine reporters writing today that somebody looked like a gorilla and was too ugly to be a Yankee?” Lindsay Berra said.

But Yogi ultimately didn’t mind playing the butt of jokes, sloughing them off as just one other test of character.

“I believe he knew inside who he was,” Mullin said. “There was an actual confidence at a really base level.”

Growing up the fourth child of Italian immigrants in St. Louis, Yogi quit school after eighth grade to assist support his family, although he just about just desired to play baseball. Continuously underestimated, he ultimately signed with the Yankees. He was drafted during World War II and was in a rocket boat at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Back from the war, he played on a Yankees farm team for a 12 months before being called up late within the 1946 season. He was within the majors for good.

While proving naysayers incorrect together with his hitting prowess and improving defense, he also displayed deep-seated integrity. At a time when racism still thrived in Major League Baseball despite Jackie Robinson integrating the sport in 1947, Yogi showed respect to Robinson and other Black players; he later became excellent friends with Larry Doby, the primary Black player within the American League.

But a charmed life — he also had a storybook marriage to his hometown sweetheart, Carmen — doesn’t make for essentially the most dramatic of movies.

So as to add some texture to his portrait, Mullin examined each Yogi’s larger cultural significance and his personal pain.

Yogi became one among the primary celebrity endorsers, hawking the chocolate milk drink Yoo Hoo, Doodle fish oil, Camel cigarettes and, really leaning into the persona later in life, Miller Lite and Aflac insurance. “He never resented the way in which he was viewed but he was savvy enough to understand it made business sense,” Pessah said.

Yogi’s son Dale followed him into the majors, but a promising profession was derailed by a cocaine addiction. Rehab didn’t help, and neither did encouragement from his family. It took an ultimatum, delivered by Yogi, at an intervention in 1992.

“You’re not going to be my son anymore unless you decide to not do drugs again,” Dale Berra said his father told him. He has been clean since.

The opposite deep wound in Yogi’s life got here in 1985, inflicted by the Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Serving as manager for Steinbrenner was a decidedly unsafe proposition, and 16 games into Yogi’s second season, he was fired. What angered Yogi most wasn’t the firing, it was that Steinbrenner didn’t have the center (or decency) to deliver the blow himself. Yogi, at all times a person of his word, vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium until Steinbrenner apologized.

It took nearly 14 years before a rapprochement was brokered, resulting in Yogi Berra Day on the stadium in July 1999. Forty-three years after the World Series perfect game, Don Larsen was reunited together with his former battery mate to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Yogi didn’t have a glove with him, so he borrowed one from Joe Girardi, a Yankees catcher on the time. Those there that day still marvel at what they then witnessed. David Cone proceeded to pitch one other perfect game for the Yankees. A life well lived had its magical coda.

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