Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yogi Berra, 1925-2015

Yogi Berra as manager of the New
York Mets in 1983. The Mets went to
the World Series that year despite
being barely better than ,500.
Always go to other people's funerals. Otherwise they won't go to yours.

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

The family of Yogi Berra announced this morning that the legendary catcher, manager and malaprop philosopher died on Tuesday.

It was appropriate timing; Sept. 22 was also the anniversary of Berra's major league debut.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

The question "Who is the greatest catcher in baseball history" has many plausible answers. One of the best answers is Yogi Berra.

A three-time American League Most Valuable Player, Berra was the rare catcher who sustained a middle-of-the-order bat for a full career. Bill James once wrote that Berra made Casey Stengel a genius by being the one guy who could hit cleanup, catch 140 games a year and never have an off season.

So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

Stengel and Berra had aspects in common -- faces that drew gibes and a penchant for wisdom hidden in fractured English. When Berra joined the Yankees, one teammate reacted: "They finally found one uglier than (Charlie) Keller." 

We were overwhelming underdogs.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra on the 1973 Mets

Berra was done as a player by the time I started paying attention to baseball. But I well remember his work managing the New York Mets in 1973. He had a rotation featuring Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack and a broken-down Willie Mays in center field. The Mets won just 82 regular season games, but that was enough to win the Al East. Then Berra piloted them past the Big Red Machine of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench to get to the World Series, where it took the Mustache Gang A's of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers seven games to win their second of three consecutive championships.

It’s deja vu all over again.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

Berra was, of course, no stranger to the World Series. He holds the records for World Series games played and World Series hits. As a manager, he led the 1964 Yankees to the Fall Classic (and got fired for his efforts); nine years later, as noted, he guided the 1973 Mets to the Series. He never won the title as a manager, but he won 10 as a player and earned another ring as a coach of the 1969 Mets.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi' Berra

And before he could get his brilliant major league career started, Berra served in the Navy during World War II. He was on a "landing craft support small" off the coast of Normandy on D-Day. His heroics, obviously, went beyond the baseball field.

The future ain’t what it used to be.

It ain't over 'til it's over.

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

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