In 1943, an 18-year-old born in St. Louis, MO made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees and greatness followed soon after for him as well as the “Bronx Bombers.” His ability at the plate and behind it as a catcher made him a MVP, multiple time All-Star and a major part in helping the Yankees garner multiple Pennants and World Series titles. He also had an amazing way of coming up with quips that would become legendary. One of his most famous was “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Well earlier this week, it was over for one of the greats of the professional diamond and a proud servant of the United States.
Baseball Hall of Famer and World War II veteran Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra passed away on Tuesday in his sleep at an assisted living facility in West Caldwell, NJ. He was 90 years old.
Berra passing is on the heels of the death of his wife of 65 years Carmen, who passed on Mar. 6, 2014 after complications with a stroke.
The couple is survived by their three sons, Dale, Larry and Tim Berra, who played pro sports. Dale played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Yankees, where he was managed by his father from 1984-85 and the Houston Astros. Tim played in the NFL for the then Baltimore Colts in 1974. Larry played briefly for the New York Mets. Between the three children, they gave Yogi and Carmen 11 grandchildren.
Berra’s passing occurred nearly seven decades to the day of his Major League Baseball debut back on Sept. 22, 1943 as part of a doubleheader against the then Philadelphia Athletics. Berra went 2 for 5 at the plate in those two games, including hitting the first of his 358 home runs, which stands the fourth most in MLB history for a catcher.
Many of those in the baseball world, political world and many in New York expressed their feelings on the passing of one of the games greats.
President Barack Obama said that Yogi Berra, “epitomized what it meant to be a sportsman and a citizen.”
“Yogi Berra was an American original-a Hall of Famer and a humble veteran; prolific jokester and jovial prophet.
“We all looked up to Yogi,” current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.), who ordered all city flags to be flown at half-staff said last week.
“We all felt a personal sense of connection. I think for so many of us, that felt like there’s another member of our families, and that was Yogi Berra.”
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) @MikeBloomberg said via twitter, “The future ain’t what it used to be. We’ll miss you, Yogi-thanks for bringing so much joy to our city.”
Four-time World Series champion with the “Bronx Bombers” and soon to be Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, who spent a lot of time with Berra when he visited the team during spring training and was a frequent visitor to the Yankee Stadium in the captain’s heyday said on his personal blog that Berra was one of the greatest baseball players and Yankees of all-time.
“To those lucky ones who did, he was an even better person. To me he was a dear friend and mentor. He will always be remembered for his success on the field, but I believe his finest quality was how he treated everyone with sincerity and kindness.”
To put how much Berra meant to New York City in perspective, this past Wednesday night, The Empire State Building was lit with pinstripe look in tribute to him.
As mentioned earlier, Berra was one of the very best on the diamond in professional baseball. He won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1951, 1954 and 1955). He is the all-time leader in World Series games played with 75 and hit 12 home runs in his career in the fall classic, with three of those in the 1956 World Series win over the Dodgers. He played in 14 World Series in his 19-year career and he helped the Yankees win 10 of them.
Berra would conclude his career with New York’s other baseball team the Mets in 1965 and in his last game on May 9 of that season he went 0 for 4 at the plate and grounded into a forced out in the last a bat of his career.
He would remain with the Mets for the next seven seasons as a coach under his former manager during his time with the Yankees Casey Stengel, Wes Westrum and Gil Hodges, which included their 1969 World Series championship season.
In 1972, Berra would become the new manager of the Mets following the sudden death of Gil Hodges in Spring Training that summer. He led the Mets to the NL pennant as the knocked off the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series 4-1 on Oct. 10, 1973.
The excitement would be short lived as eleven days later the Mets lost in the World Series to the Oakland Athletics in seven games.
Berra’s tenure as manager ended on Aug. 5, 1975 when he was fired by the Mets. His record was 298-302.
He returned to the Yankees one year later as a part of their coaching staff and the team won three straight American League titles and back-to-back World Series championships in 1977 and 1978.
Before the 1984 season, Berra became the Yankees manager replacing Billy Martin, but Martin was rehired as manager by the late owner George Steinbrenner on Apr. 29 of that season after the Yankees got off to a 6-10 start.
This began a 14-year long feud between the guy that was known as “The Boss” and one of the greats in Yankees’ history.
In the years that followed, Berra became a bench coach for the Houston Astros from 1985 to 1989. The team made it to the NLCS in 1986, but lost to the Mets in six games.
It would be his last job as manager of a major league team. Berra concluded this part of his career with a 484-444 record and a 9-10 mark in the postseason.
He received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State University in 1996, where their baseball stadium on their campus is named “Yogi Berra Stadium.”
Two years later “The Sporting News” named Berra the No. 40 on their list of the Top 100 ballplayers of all-time.
On Dec. 4 of that same year, Berra opens the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.
In 1999, Steinbrenner ventured out to Berra’s home in New Jersey to apologize for how the dismissal as manager of the Yankees was handled.
It was so bad that when Berra got the well-deserved honor of having his plaque in Monument Park, he never came to the old Yankee Stadium to receive that honor.
With their feud put in the rearview mirror, Berra started to work with then catcher Jorge Posada during spring training of 1999.
Berra would make his return to Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999 for ‘Yogi Berra Day.’
In honor of the perfect back in the 1956 World Series versus Jackie Robinson and the then Brooklyn Dodgers, pitcher Don Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
On that same day, pitcher David Cone threw the 16th perfect game in MLB history as the Yankees defeated the Montreal Expos.
Four years ago, Berra received another incredible honor as he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Along with becoming one of the greatest players to ever grace the pro diamond, Berra served as a gunner’s mate on the U.S. Navy’s USS Bayfield during D-Day of World War II.
Berra was part of a six-man crew which fired machine guns and launched rockets from a Navy rocket boat at the German defenses at Omaha Beach of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. While he was fired upon, Berra was not injured and his bravery was rewarded with several commendations.
On the 65 Anniversary of D-Day, the Yankee great confirmed that he was also sent to Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion.
He would return to baseball following his military service, but it was in the minor leagues with the Newark Bears. While he was there for a short stint he really made an impression on the team’s manager with his amazing range of skills on the diamond. He was also a mentor to Hall of Famer Billy Dickey, who uniform No. 8 Berra took.
“I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey,” Berra said about his teammate.
Berra was called up by the Yankees and played in his first contest on Sept. 22, 1946 playing in seven games that season.
For all his greatness on the diamond with the stats and the titles and his amazing service to our country, Berra became well renowned for his one-liners, which became to be known as “The Yogisms.” Some of his most famed ones include:
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
“Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”
“Take it with a grain of salt.”
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
“I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.”
“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
This was a special man without question. He was a great baseball player as well as a hero for our country. He made his teams as a player and as a manager and they reaped the rewards by winning championships or coming close. More than anything else, he brought an excitement to those that watch on television or in the stands of the old Yankee Stadium. He gained the respect of all who watched him play, played with him or against him.
Via twitter many paid their respects to the Hall of Famer.
Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza @mikepiazza31 said, “Very sad to hear the passing of #YogiBerra. My deepest prayers to his family and the #Yankees family. Great player, Great Gentlemen.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand @SenGillibrand said, “With the passing of Yogi Berra, NY has lost one of our all-time greats. My thoughts & prayers are w/his family & the whole @Yankees family.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo @NYGpvCuomo said, “It’s hard to imagine NY without Yogi Berra, iconic and beloved baseball legend.”
Canadian actor, comedian and filmmaker Seth Rogen @Sethrogen said, “I don’t know much about sports, but Yogi Berra was always my favorite baseball player because he was a comedic genius.
Stand-up comedian, writer and actor Patton Oswalt @pattonoswalt said, “Yogi Berra has passed away. You know he’s gonna say something hilarious about it, so it’s not so sad…”
Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of Thursday Sept. 214 edition of the Daily News; article “Sadly It’s Over Yogi Berra 1925-2015,” by Bill Madden, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Larry McShane; en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra. Sept. 23 article “Yogi Berra Dead: 5 Facts You Need to Know,” on www.heavy.com.