Found January 15, 2013 on Bronx Pinstripes:
Yogi-berra-and-bob-dupuy
Berra’s plaque hangs in Cooperstown (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) When the final chapter of the game is written and the Pantheon of baseball greats is assembled, Lawrence Peter Berra will surely be among them.  In his 18-year, Hall of Fame career as a New York Yankee, Yogi Berra was the glue of two dynasties, piloted by Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, was the preeminent catcher of his day, and remains one of the greatest backstops of all-time.  However, he may not have made the Major Leagues at all had the Yankees not been willing to take a risk. Berra, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in St. Louis.  His father was a bricklayer and viewed his son’s favorite pastime as a frivolous activity, convinced it was contributing to his poor grades, but Berra’s passion for baseball could not be quelled.  After an afternoon at the sandlot, Yogi would stop at a neighbor’s home to clean up and change his clothes before heading home in order to hide his day’s transgressions. When it came time for Berra to turn pro, there were few scouts interested in courting him, despite his ample power.  Famed Cardinals’ scout, Branch Rickey, thought Berra was a Triple-A player at best, but the Yanks took a chance, signing him to a minor league contract for a $500 bonus and a $90-a-week salary.  However, once he signed there were still pervading doubts about whether he could be the every day catcher for the New York Yankees.  While many maligned his playing style, manager Casey Stengel championed his young talent, and vehemently defended him in the press.  To help Berra’s transition to the Big Leagues, the team hired Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame Yankee catcher, to tutor Berra on his footwork and defense.  By the end of his time with the greenhorn Dickey said, “He’ll be a pretty good catcher.”  It is one of the great understatements of all-time. Berra would go on to win three AL MVP Awards (the same number as DiMaggio and Mantle), and sock 358 home runs (4th most among catchers).  Berra’s legacy will always be his success in October as he won 14 pennants and 10 World Series, both records, while establishing World Series records in games played (75), at-bats (259), singles (49), doubles (10), hits (71), games caught (63), and catcher putouts (457).  He also caught the only perfect game in World Series history when his battery mate, Don Larsen, baffled the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 Fall Classic. Over his nearly two decades as a player, consistency was a badge of honor for Berra.  He was a 15-time All-Star and received MVP votes in 15 consecutive seasons, finishing in the top 5 seven times.  But in perhaps the greatest indicator of his dependability, he led the Yankees in RBIs every year from 1949-1955 even with the likes of the Yankee Clipper and the Mick in the lineup. Berra’s approach at the plate was also one of his distinctives.  He was a tremendous contact hitter, known for his ability to hit poor pitches well.  He could golf and tomahawk balls well out of the strike zone, yet in five seasons he had more home runs than strikeouts and struck out just once every 20.2 plate appearances.  In the inimitable words of Berra, “If I can hit it, it’s a good pitch.”  He was also a sensational catcher, leaving the game as one of the finest defensive backstops in the history of the game.  According to famed sabermetrician Bill James’ win shares formula, Berra is the greatest catcher in baseball history. After retiring from the game, Berra managed with the Mets and Yankees, winning World Series rings in 1969, 1977, and 1978.  In 1972 he was enshrined at Cooperstown and saw his number 8 retired by the Yankees.  In 1999 The Sporting News ranked him at 4oth on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players and he was chosen as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team. Over the course of his 87 years, there is little he has not done, so it was a true thrill for me to have the chance to interview not only a Yankee legend, but one of the greatest players to ever grace a ball field. *     *     *     *     * When you first became a regular in 1947, how did having veterans like DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, and Phil Rizzuto as teammates help you as a young player? Well, it was good to know they were on your side. They did things right. The expectations were high, so everyone had to pull together. The older guys, they cared about winning more than anything. Of all the incredible moments DiMaggio had on the field, which one impressed you the most? I can’t say one in particular. It was just his overall grace, his determination. Never saw him dive for a ball in the outfield–he just timed everything right. If he’d hit a ball in the gap, you never expected him to turn it into a triple, but he would. He just had that knack. You caught a record 63 World Series games, but one of your most memorable was on October 8, 1956.  At what point did you know Don Larsen had something special that day? Pretty early. He was wild in Game 2. He didn’t even last two innings.  But everything I put down in Game 5 he got over. Fell behind only one hitter, to Pee Wee Reese in the first. He threw only 97 pitches all game. You were well known for your ability to hit bad pitches.  In 1950 you struck out just 12 times in 597 at bats while smacking 28 home runs.  What made you such a tough out at the plate? I just saw the ball good. Like I said, if I could see it, I could hit it.  Some guys today over-think too much. I still believe you can’t think and hit at the same time. Of your 358 home runs, which one sticks out to you as the most memorable? I don’t know.  To me they all weren’t bad. Yogi, you did so much during your Hall of Fame career.  What about your career are you most proud of? Mostly playing on so many championship teams, playing with great guys, the camaraderie. We had a lot of fun. You played with some instigators like Mantle and Whitey Ford. What is your funniest clubhouse memory? We had some good pranksters. Guys liked to play around with Phil [Rizzuto] cause he was afraid of everything. They’d put lizards in his locker, scared the heck out of him. Lastly, how out was Jackie Robinson when he stole home in the 1955 World Series? [Preface: In one of the most iconic plays in World Series history, Robinson stole home in Game 1 of the 1955 Fall Classic.  Robinson was ruled safe, a call that Berra furiously argued with the umpire.  Watch the clip here.] He was out enough, that I know. *     *     *     *     * Special thanks to Dave Kaplan, Director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey.  Check out the website of this fantastic museum at yogiberramuseum.org. Follow Dan at @161st_and_River.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

New York Yankees: Adios Soriano

Ah… another day in Yankees Universe, as more disappointing news just keeps on coming. Rafael Soriano (Photo credit: Wikipedia) As the Washington Nationals just cemented themselves as the favorites to win the 2013 World Series, and the reason is the new addition of now ex-Yankees closer Rafael Soriano to their bullpen. The Washington Post reports that Soriano will be pocketing ...

Risk and reward for Andy in WBC

The official Team USA roster will be announced tomorrow, however we already know that Andy Pettitte will be participating in this year’s World Baseball Classic, according to WFAN’s Jon Heyman. Pettitte, 40, admittedly said he didn’t have his legs fully underneath him for much of the season. His decision to pitch in the WBC can be viewed as both a risk and reward for him and...

Derek Jeter goes booty-less in Tampa

It looks like Derek Jeter's post-surgery rehabbing is coming along right on schedule and his offseason prediction that he expects to be ready for Opening day in the Bronx is not a forgone boast. Tuesday, the New York Yankees shortstop was pictured for the first time without a special boot to protect his repaired left ankle that he fractured during the ALCS. Jeter, who underwent...

Phil Hughes, Yankees agree at $7.15 million

Right-hander Phil Hughes and the New York Yankees have agreed to a $7.15 million, one-year contract, a raise of $3.75 million. Wednesday's deal, which is not guaranteed, avoided salary arbitration. Players and teams without agreements are set to swap proposed arbitration salaries on Friday. Hughes, who is eligible for free agency after next season, was 18-8 in 2010, slumped...

Jeter OK'd to resume baseball activity

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter says he's been cleared to start baseball activity in his recovery from a broken left ankle. The 38-year-old team captain reiterated Wednesday that he is on track to be in New York's starting lineup for the opener on April 1. Jeter won't take the field for workouts until later this month. The 13-time All-Star said that is his normal pre...

A-Rod gives thumbs-up after successful hip surgery

Alex Rodriguez looked positively chipper after his hip operation Wednesday and even took time out to post a photo of himself and tell his fans he was ready for rehab. The New York Yankees third baseman underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, bone impingement and cyst in his left hip at the Hospital for special Surgery in Manhattan. A-Rod gave a thumbs up after the procedure...

Report: Yankees ' Hughes agrees to one-year deal

The New York Yankees avoided an arbitration hearing with pitcher Phil Hughes, when Hughes agreed to a one-year, $7.15 million contract, the New York Daily News reported. Hughes, 26, was 16-13 last season with a 4.32 earned average in 32 games, all starts. His best season was 2010, when he went 18-8. He made $2.7 million in 2011 and $3.2 million in 2012.

A-Rod has hip surgery; recovery time 6 months

Alex Rodriguez had surgery on his left hip Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined until after the All-Star break. The New York Yankees said Dr. Bryan Kelly repaired a torn labrum and impingement and the operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York ''went as planned and without complication.'' The 37-year-old former All-Star third baseman is expected...

A-Rod out six months after surgery

Alex Rodriguez had surgery on his left hip Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined until after the All-Star break. The New York Yankees said Dr. Bryan Kelly repaired a torn labrum and impingement and the operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York ''went as planned and without complication.'' The 37-year-old former All-Star third baseman is expected...

AP Source: Nationals, Soriano close to $28M deal

Reliever Rafael Soriano and the Washington Nationals were working to finalize a $28 million, two-year contract on Tuesday, said a person familiar with the negotiations. The person said Soriano's deal would contain a $14 million option for 2015 that would become guaranteed if he has 120 games finished over 2013 and 2014 combined. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition...

How bad was A-Rod's injury?

A person familiar with the diagnosis says Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was found to have relatively minimal cartilage damage in his left hip during surgery this week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the team did not make that detail public. Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery, who operated on A-Rod on Wednesday, said last week...

Nationals Sign Rafael Soriano to Two-Year Deal

The Washington Nationals will be paying Rafael Soriano more than any other reliever not named Mariano Rivera.  And they will be giving up draft picks and limiting themselves in slot money for the upcoming draft.  All this because the New York Yankees gave Soriano a qualifying offer that he turned down, and the Nationals signed him. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports...

Rafael Soriano signs with Nationals

The Washington Nationals have signed free agent reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal with a vesting option for a third season, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo. The option for 2015 will vest if Soriano finishes 120 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, ensuring he'll be Washington's closer during the life of the contract. Soriano served as the closer for...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.