by Jacob Gurvis
It’s not very often that someone has so many memorable quotes that they have a type of phrase named after them. It’s not very often that a professional baseball player wins 13 World Championships, ten as a player and three as a coach. It’s not very often that a player is named to the All-Star team 15 straight seasons. I think you get the idea. There is nothing ordinary about Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.
Berra is one of a kind. The Yankees’ Hall of Famer and three-time Most Valuable Player passed away last Tuesday night at the age of 90, and will be remembered as one of the best players, and people, to play the game.
Much of Yogi Berra’s legacy stems from his unique personality and character, but it would be a disservice to Berra to not acknowledge his baseball abilities as well. Berra could play, and he is regarded as one of the greatest catchers of all time, usually ranked only behind Cincinnati Reds great Johnny Bench. In his 19 years as a player, Berra hit 358 home runs with 1,430 runs batted in, a .285 career average, and a career .830 OPS (on-base plus slugging, a stat that was not around when Berra played). He finished in the top five in American League MVP voting every year from 1950 to 1956, taking home the honor in 1951, 1954, and 1955. Ted Williams once famously said that the Yankee that he feared most was not Mickey Mantle. It was Yogi Berra.
In addition to Berra’s accolades, incredible defense, and impressive numbers, he will be remembered for his warmth, humor, and his leadership. In his four decades in the game, Berra was an excellent coach and mentor to younger players, and was a fan favorite around baseball, not just in New York.
Yankee great Derek Jeter has fond memories of Berra. “To those who didn’t know Yogi personally, he was one of the greatest baseball players and Yankees of all time,” said Jeter. “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. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
So there you have it. Yogi Berra was an incredible ballplayer, and an even better man. Always with a big smile on his face, Berra is one of those players that you can’t dislike. His “Yogi-isms” will live forever. Here are my top ten favorite:
- “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
- “It’s deja vu all over again”
- “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
- “It gets late early out here.”
- “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
- “You can observe a lot by watching.”
- “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
- “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
- “I never said most of the things I said.”
- “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
From his priceless Yogi-isms to his stellar career, Yogi Berra is the best of the best. As a 19-year-old, Berra served in the U.S. Navy in the famous D-Day invasion, and went on to become one of the all-time greats in Major League Baseball history and the player with the most world championships ever. Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan put it perfectly in his piece on Berra. “‘Beloved’ is probably the best word to describe his stature as both a Yankee and a baseball icon. Everybody loved Yogi Berra. We are fond of declaring when someone passes that ‘There will never be another like him.’ Usually it’s empty hyperbole. Not this time. It’s over for Yogi, and absolutely, positively, without a doubt, there will never be another like him.”
Thank you, Mr. Berra, for all you have done for the game of baseball. Your legacy will never die. Rest in peace.