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Yogi Berra

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2003 Upper Deck Vintage #217 Yogi Berra

Lawrence Peter Berra
born Lorenzo Pietro Berra
(The Little Squat Man)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7½", Weight 194 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1972

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Contents

[edit] Biographical Information

[edit] Introduction

1947 Bond Bread
"He looks cumbersome but he's quick as a cat." - Casey Stengel
"Yogi had the fastest bat I ever saw." - Hector Lopez

Yogi Berra was a catcher who anchored 14 New York Yankees World Series teams, and has been called the greatest catcher of all time by some observers. He was also a successful manager, winning the pennant in New York for both the National League New York Mets and the American League Yankees. The cartoon character "Yogi Bear" was named after him, and he is also quite famous for his aphorisms (see below). Berra was affectionately known by the sportswriters during his career as "The Little Squat Man."

Yogi wore a major league uniform from 1946 to 1989 as a player, coach and manager for both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, and finally as a coach for the Houston Astros.

Writer and statistician Bill James, in his 2004 ranking revision, picked Berra as the #1 catcher of all time.

[edit] Early days

Berra grew up in an Italian area of St. Louis, MO and was very close friends with Joe Garagiola. Yogi left school following the eighth grade to help earn income for his Italian immigrant family. The Cardinals signed Garagiola, while the Yankees signed Berra. Signed in 1943, he played for the Norfolk Tars for one season, then missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons serving in the Navy during World War II.

Berra served in combat, fighting in North Africa, Italy, and at D-Day in France. He was stationed on a rocket launcher off the coast of Normandy Beach just after D-Day.

[edit] Career

Yogi selling Treasury Bonds in the 1950s

People tend to know that Berra won three MVP awards, but may not know that in the seven-year period from 1950-1956, he was always in the top four in the voting. He was on the All-Star team in 15 of his 19 major league seasons.

His offensive numbers are good, but what tends to make him legendary is the combination of excellent offense and great defense.

Yogi was a hitter in the Al Kaline tradition - while he had decent power, and usually hit 20-30 home runs, he also had a good batting average to go with the power. His best was .322 in 1950, a year when the American League as a whole hit .271.

He didn't lead the league in offensive categories, but was in the top ten in slugging and home runs nine times.

According to the similarity scores method, the most similar player is no surprise at all - Johnny Bench.

[edit] Coaching/Managing Career

In 1963, Berra transitioned into a role as a player/coach with the Yankees. Despite only appearing in 64 games, he still hit 8 homers. The next year, he was promoted to manager, replacing Ralph Houk. He led the Yanks to the World Series (which they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games) but was fired afterwards, with the team citing a lack of communication in the clubhouse. He was replaced by Johnny Keane, who had managed the Cards in the just-completed Series. That front-office move is often cited as marking the end of the great Yankee dynasty that began with Casey Stengel's appointment as manager in 1949.

Berra moved across town in 1965, joining the New York Mets coaching staff under his mentor Stengel and even appearing in a handful of games. He remained a Mets coach until 1972, when he took over as the club's skipper upon the death of Gil Hodges. After finishing in third place that year, he led the team on a remarkable run in 1973. Although the Mets were in last place as late as August 30th, the club went 19-8 in September to capture the NL East title and beat the heavily-favored Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS to reach the World Series (which they ultimately lost to the Oakland Athletics in seven games). Berra remained manager of the Mets until 1975.

In 1976, Berra returned to the Yankees coaching staff, and in 1984, he was promoted again to manager. However, early in 1985, he was fired and replaced with Billy Martin. Team owner George Steinbrenner was going through a revolving door of managers in those years, and Berra actually posted one of the best winning percentages of all those who managed the Yankees in the first phase of Steinbrenner's ownership (i.e. until the appointment of Joe Torre as manager in 1996). Berra went on to serve on the Houston Astros coaching staff from 1986 to 1989.

[edit] Miscellany

Yogi Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 19, 1972 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He hit 30 home runs twice and drove in over 100 runs five times during his career. He won a record 10 World Series with the New York Yankees. He is a three-time MVP winner (1951, 1954 and 1955). He is highlighted in the book Heroes Behind the Mask as one of the top catchers of all-time.

Berra is still the only player with three career home runs in the World Series against the same pitcher (Don Newcombe); all three happened to be in the 1956 Series. This is also a postseason record, tied with eight more recent batter-pitcher combinations.

He hit an Opening Day home run four years in a row, between 1955 and 1958.

Berra at Game 1 of the 2009 World Series with Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden

Yogi was part owner of YooHoo Company [1] until 1981. He is credited with making the chocolate beverage popular. He used to visit the New Jersey plant often. Yogi was granted an honorary Ph.D. by Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, which is home to The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center and Yogi Berra Stadium. Berra has also authored several books.

His first baseball card appearance was in the 1948 Bowman set.

He is the father of Dale Berra, Larry Berra and Tim Berra (Wide Receiver for the NFL's Baltimore Colts in 1974). He married his wife Carmen, who was also from St. Louis, on January 26, 1949. The marriage lasted 65 years, until Carmen passed away from complications from a stroke on March 5, 2014.

[edit] Aphorisms

"This is like déjà vu all over again."

"It gets late early out there."

"It ain't over till it's over."

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

"You can observe a lot by just watching."

"When you get to a fork in the road, take it."

  • Berra says this is part of driving directions to his house in Montclair, New Jersey. There is a fork in the road, and whichever way you take, you will get to his house.

"I knew the record would stand until it was broken."

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

"Even Napoleon had his Watergate."

"It ain't like football. You can't make up no trick plays."

"So I'm ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face."

"I didn't really say everything I said."

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 15-time AL All-Star (1948-1962)
  • 3-time AL MVP (1951, 1954 & 1955)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1949-1958 & 1961)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1952 & 1956)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1950 & 1953-1956)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1950)
  • Won 10 World Series with the New York Yankees (1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 & 1962)
  • Division Titles: 1 (1973)
  • AL Pennants: 1 (1964)
  • NL Pennants: 1 (1973)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1972


AL MVP
1950 1951 1952
Phil Rizzuto Yogi Berra Bobby Shantz
1953 1954 1955
Al Rosen Yogi Berra Yogi Berra
1954 1955 1956
Yogi Berra Yogi Berra Mickey Mantle
Preceded by
Ralph Houk
New York Yankees Manager
1964
Succeeded by
Johnny Keane
Preceded by
Gil Hodges
New York Mets Manager
1972-1975
Succeeded by
Roy McMillan
Preceded by
Billy Martin
New York Yankees Manager
1984-1985
Succeeded by
Billy Martin

[edit] Year-By-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1964 New York Yankees American League 99-63 1st New York Yankees Lost World Series
1972 New York Mets National League 83-73 3rd New York Mets
1973 New York Mets National League 82-79 1st New York Mets Lost World Series
1974 New York Mets National League 71-91 5th New York Mets
1975 New York Mets National League 56-53 -- New York Mets replaced by Roy McMillan on August 6
1984 New York Yankees American League 87-75 3rd New York Yankees
1985 New York Yankees American League 6-10 -- New York Yankees replaced by Billy Martin on April 29

[edit] Further Reading

  • Harvey Araton: Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball's Greatest Gift, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2012.
  • Allen Barra: Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, 2009. [2]
  • Yogi Berra (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, December 1971, pp. 89-90. [3]

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