Who Was Yogi Berra?
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1925, Yogi Berra began his big league baseball career with the New York Yankees in 1946. He went on to become one of the greatest catchers in history, winning three Most Valuable Player Awards while leading the Yankees to 10 World Series championships. Berra later managed the Yankees and the New York Mets, becoming just the second manager to lead his teams to the World Series in both the American and National Leagues. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, Berra passed away in 2015, at the age of 90.
Budding Baseball Star
Born Lawrence Peter Berra in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1925, baseball legend Yogi Berra is as famous for his sports career as he is for his malapropisms. He earned some measure of fame for his ability to mangle common phrases and sayings, such as "It ain't over till it's over" and "I didn't really say everything I said." These quips became known as "Yogi-isms."
One of five children of Italian immigrants, Berra played sports with his three older brothers while growing up. He dropped out of school to help his family in the eighth grade, but still found time to develop his athletic talents. In his teens, Berra got serious about baseball. It was during this time he earned his famous nickname, from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu yogi.
Berra was playing American Legion baseball when he and neighborhood friend Joe Garagiola caught the attention of St. Louis Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey. Offered a $250 signing bonus, half the amount given to his friend, Berra rejected the opportunity to play for his hometown big league team, and later signed with the New York Yankees.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Berra became one of the Yankees' catchers in 1946. He soon earned a reputation as a hitter who made hard contact on anything near the plate, rarely striking out. He hit his career peak in the 1950s, winning three Most Valuable Player Awards between 1951 and 1955. Additionally, he worked well with his pitchers, notably helping Don Larsen achieve a rare perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Berra was also not above trying to psych out the other team; according to his website, he talked to the batters, including Hank Aaron, to distract them.
Berra appeared in his final game for the Yankees in 1963. In all, he played in 18 All-Star Games and helped the Yankees reach the World Series 14 times, winning a remarkable 10 championships. Regarded as one of the best catchers in history, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Manager and Coach
Berra was named manager of the Yankees shortly after the 1963 season ended. However, despite leading the team to the 1964 World Series, he was fired after only one season, and he quickly moved on to the New York Mets. Berra returned to the field to play in four games in 1965, but otherwise served as a coach. He took over as manager in 1972 and guided the Mets to the World Series the following year, but was let go before the end of the 1975 season.
Berra rejoined the Yankees as a coach in 1976. In 1984, he was promoted to manager to replace the controversial Billy Martin, but was fired shortly after the start of the 1985 season by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner; the move infuriated Berra, who refused to return to Yankee Stadium for another 14 years. Berra then joined the Houston Astros, wrapping up his coaching career in 1989.
Later Years, Museum and Death
In his later years, Berra served as a well-loved baseball ambassador and devoted himself to philanthropic pursuits. He opened the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey, in 1998, which is dedicated to his career and baseball history. It also offers a baseball camp and sports-related workshops.
To support the museum, Berra held an annual celebrity golf event. The usually gregarious Berra seemed a little more subdued at the 2012 tournament at the Montclair Golf Club. He chose to remain inside the golf clubhouse at the event rather than chat with participants outside, as he had done with wife Carmen in previous years, according to the New York Daily News.
Berra died of natural causes on September 22, 2015, at the age of 90. Two months later, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
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