YOGI BERRA ( 1925 – 2015)
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was an American professional baseball catcher, who later took on the roles of manager, and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star, and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Yogi Berra was known for his malapropisms as well as decisive and paradoxical statements, such as “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, while speaking to reporters. He once simultaneously denied and confirmed his reputation by stating, “I really didn’t say everything I said.’’
Lorenzo Pietro Berra – known later as Yogi Berra, was born on May 12th 1925 to Italian immigrants, Pietro and Paolina Berrain, a primarily Italian neighbourhood of St. Louis. His oldest brothers,Mike and Tony were born in Italy and came over with his mother after his father has settled . His brother, John and his sister Josie were born in St. Louis.
Berra’s parents originally gave him the nickname ‘Lawdie’, which was derived from his mother’s difficulty pronouncing ‘Lawrence’ or ‘Larry’ correctly. The family were Roman Catholic and Berra attended South Side Catholic, now called St. Mary’s High School, in south St. Louis. He left school in Grade 8, when he was fourteen years old and began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues where he learned the basics of catching while playing outfield and infield positions, as well. While playing in American Legion baseball, he received his famous nickname from his friend Jack Maguire, who, after seeing a newsreel about India, said that he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after a losing game.
During World War II, Berra served in the U.S. Navy as a gunner’s mate on the attack transport USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France. A Second Class Seaman, Berra was one of a six-man crew on a Navy rocket boat, firing machine guns and launching rockets at the German defences at Omaha Beach. He received several commendations for his bravery. Following his military service, Berra played minor-league baseball with the Newark Bears, surprising the team’s manager with his talent despite his short stature- he was 5’7’’ tall.
Berra was signed up to the Yankees and played his first game on September 22, 1946. He played 7 games that season and 83 games in 1947. He played in more than a hundred games in each of the following fourteen years. Berra appeared in fourteen World Series, including 10 World Series championships, both of which are records.
In part because Berra’s playing career coincided with the Yankees’ most consistent period of World Series participation, he established Series records for the most games (75), at bats (259), hits (71), doubles (10), singles (49), games caught (63), and catcher putouts (457). In Game 3 of the 1947 World Series, Berra hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history.
Berra married Carmen Short on January 26, 1949. They had three sons and were for a long time residents of Montclair, New Jersey, Carmen’s declining health caused them to move into a nearby assisted living facility. Carmen Berra died on March 6, 2014, at age 85, the couple having recently celebrated their 65th anniversary. Berra’s sons also played professional sports.
Berra died at age 90 in his sleep in New Jersey, on September 22, 2015 – 69 years to the day after his Major League Baseball debut.
The Yankees added a number “8” patch to their uniforms in honour of Berra and the Empire State Building was lit with vertical blue and white Yankee “pinstripes” on September 23.