Yogi Berra was more than a baseball icon. He is part of the American vernacular (“Yogiisms”) and was a hero for generations of sports fans as a player, manager and personality. He may have been small in body size but was a giant, nonetheless. His passing at the age of 90 is a big loss in many ways for the National Pastime.
Although I dislike writing in the first person, an exception is being made in this case to share a personal story about Berra.
In my years as a sportswriter, I have had the opportunity to interview many different athletes. But perhaps the one that sticks out in my mind was not an interview at all, but rather meeting and having a cannoli with Berra.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending an honoring of New York Yankees legend Phil Rizzuto at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey. Two buddies of mine – sports artist John Pennisi and photographer Bill Menzel – brought me along and they knew the right people within the ‘inner circle,’ if you will. They brought along with them a humongous cannoli that included empty mini shells for self-serving hand made cannolis.
Following the event, we were in the back office area and enjoying this super-sized cannoli. At one point, I found myself eating alongside the Hall of Fame catcher and it was a surreal moment. There were framed photographs adorning the walls and one nearby was from the famous steal of home by Jackie Robinson in the 1955 World Series.
This was a bang-bang play at the plate and one that Berra argued profusely with the home plate umpire’s ‘safe’ call. I made a comment and a gesture to Berra about the photo and he smiled and said, “He still was out,” and we shared a laugh.
Such a small detail on a wonderful day but the type that I will always treasure.
STATEMENT FROM HAL STEINBRENNER, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGING GENERAL PARTNER / CO-CHAIRPERSON
RE: THE PASSING OF YOGI BERRA
“Yogi Berra’s legacy transcends baseball. Though slight in stature, he was a giant in the most significant of ways through his service to his country, compassion for others and genuine enthusiasm for the game he loved. He has always been a role model and hero that America could look up to.
“While his baseball wit and wisdom brought out the best in generations of Yankees, his imprint in society stretches far beyond the walls of Yankee Stadium. He simply had a way of reaching and relating to people that was unmatched. That’s what made him such a national treasure.
“On behalf of my family and the entire Yankees organization, we extend our deepest condolences to Yogi’s family, friends and loved ones.”
Photos courtesy of the New York Yankees