On May 12th, in 1925, Yogi Berra was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Launched down into the world flat in the roaring 20’s and full of life, Berra made the most out of it. He played 19 years in the Major Leagues. He served his country in the Navy(something that may have kept him from being a Cardinal). He created the most unforgettable one liners that baseball figures would never forget. He did all of this with a smile and didn’t stop until he decided the world had enough. On Tuesday, at the tender old age of 90 years, Berra passed away.
One of the worst things in life is a waste of talent. We see all over the place. Berra did the opposite. He picked up his talent, his name and used it well. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1943 and made his debut at the age of 21 a year later. Berra hit a home run and collected two hits on that fall day near the end of the season. It was the start of a career that few would forget but many in this modern world don’t know enough about. Berra played 19 seasons, 18 of them and all but 4 games in a Yankees uniform. Not bad for a guy who proclaimed baseball to be 90 percent mental and the other half physical.
Berra played in 18 All Star games and won 3 MVP awards. He averaged 27 home runs, 26 stolen bases and an .830 OPS over his career, according to Baseball Reference. Berra won 10 World Series titles with the Yankees, but people remember him more for saying “it ain’t over til it’s over” or “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” To many, he is the character instead of the great baseball player, but he was the latter in full.
He never shrunk from the massive spotlight that New York can shine on players and watch them melt. Berra was the Big Apple’s match for nearly two decades and in his last season with the Yankees, hit .293 and slugged .493 at the age of 38. He didn’t play too long. When it was time he stepped down but he did so with these unique labels at the end of his run.
Nobody has won more World Series titles than Berra. No catcher has won more MVP awards. He played with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, never got their spotlight but made his mark. No catcher made more All Star Games than Berra’s 18. If you include his time as a player, coach and manager, he appeared in 21 different World Series matchups.
Most teenagers know him as the cool guy in the barber shop in the Aflac commercial. You know, where the duck walks into the shop and talks about the insurance and Berra goes, “If you get hurt and miss work, it won’t hurt to miss work.”
He also loved life, his family and baseball. He once said that love is the greatest thing in life, but baseball is pretty good too. Unlike many of his famous quotes, which he claimed to never ever say, that quote and baseball and life rung more true than any of them.
Part of being a true baseball fan is remembering its heroes, both large and small. Unlike most of today’s giants of the game, Berra was 5 foot 7 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds. He didn’t need to stand taller than most when his game already did. He threw out baserunners, hit more bad balls than anybody and only struck out 414 times in 7,555 at bats.
Yogi Berra lived a full life, on and off the field. Every kid, teenager and adult living today should know who Yogi is because of his unique name and sense of humor, but please know that he was one of the best to ever play his position and he did it in the biggest city.
Everybody in life wishes to be special or unique. Rest in peace, Yogi. You were truly one of a kind.