Teams: New York Yankees, 1946-1963; New York Mets, 1965
Yogi Berra was a mainstay of the most dominating baseball team in history, the New York Yankees team that played from the end of World War II until the early 1960s. Although he never led the league in a single major offensive category, he won three Most Valuable Player Awards (just the third man to do so), and he played in 14 World Series. As manager of the 1964 Yanks, he was asked if he had any new plans for the World Series. “It ain’t like football. You can’t make up no trick plays.” “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."
When being honored on Yogi Berra Night in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, he showed his gratitude by saying, “I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”
On his catching tutor, “Bill Dickey learned me all his experiences.”
On poor attendance, “If the people don’t want to come out to the park, nothing’s going to stop them.”
As manager of the 1964 Yanks, he was asked if he had any new plans for the World Series. “It ain’t like football. You can’t make up no trick plays.”
“Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."
Lawrence Peter Berra (born in 1925) grew up in a largely Italian neighborhood in St. Louis. One of his neighbors was Joe Garagiola, and they played sandlot and American Legion baseball together. When both went to a Cardinal tryout in 1943, the Redbirds offered Garagiola $500 to sign, and they offered Yogi less. His pride hurt, Berra refused, eventually signing with the Yankees for a matching $500. He played in the Piedmont League until he joined the Navy. He saw action in the Normandy Invasion of 1944. After his 1946 discharge, Berra played for Newark, hitting .314 with 15 homers. He was called up to the Yankees that season, where he starred until 1963.
Berra captured the imagination of baseball fans with his malapropisms. “It ain’t over till it’s over” has become a rallying cry for anyone trailing in a game. (Although interestingly, Berra himself left the final game of the 1951 Dodger-Giant playoffs early, thereby missing Bobby Thomson’s dramatic home run.)
Many of Berra’s near-Zen comments came from sportswriters. As Yogi himself put it, “I didn’t really say everything I said.” He was stocky and short, with a broad face and a well-publicized penchant for comic books. His down-to-earth, completely honest style amused fans and endeared him to them. If DiMaggio was a god, Yogi was the guy next door who borrowed your lawn mower. He was also one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League.
Yogi didn’t become the Bombers’ No. 1 catcher until 1949. In 1950, he batted .322 with 28 homers and 124 RBI. Although his 1951 season was somewhat less impressive (a .294 batting average, 27 home runs, and 88 RBI), he won his first MVP Award. His 1952 and 1953 seasons weren’t much different than his 1954 (a .307 average, 22 homers, 125 RBI) and his 1955 (.272, 27, 108), but he won consecutive MVP trophies in 1954 and ’55.
It was a tribute to his consistency that his three MVP seasons were not necessarily his best years. He had 90 RBI in nine different seasons and 20 homers in 11 seasons. Although he was called a bad-ball hitter, Berra seldom struck out. In 1950, for example, he went down on strikes just 12 times in nearly 600 at bats.
Yogi Berra was beloved by fans everywhere. Above, he fails in his bid to score
from third base on a sacrifice fly in a 1957 World Series game.
Although he was initially clumsy and crude behind the plate, Berra worked hard and, under the guidance of Bill Dickey, became a fine defensive catcher. In 1958, he fielded a perfect 1.000. He is a co-holder of the American League record for most years leading all catchers in chances; he set the AL mark for most years leading in games caught; and he set the major-league record for most consecutive errorless chances behind the plate -- an amazing 950.
He was a wonderful handler of pitchers and a wizard, for a catcher, at the double play. Although he played with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, Berra’s teams were not stocked like the 1927 Yankees, yet they won five consecutive World Series. Berra owns a host of World Series records, he was named an All-Star from 1948 to 1962, and he had perhaps the greatest career of any catcher in baseball history. He also managed the Yankees and the Mets to pennants. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Here are Yogi Berra's major league totals:
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