They Don’t Make ‘Em Like Yogi Anymore

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 06, 2011 10:14am  |  COMMENTS (9)

Yogi Berra still sells magazines. So there he is, all young and squatting in catcher position, on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s special summer double issue, “Where Are They Now?”

Our 86-year-old hometown hero, who appeared in 21 World Series, is the subject of a loving tribute in the issue, which deals with his legend not just as sports hero but as a Will Rogers-like spinner of pithy wisdom.

The story, and the issue, have resonated with sports fans like Buzz Bizzinger of the Daily Beast, who opined on the dearth of likable athletes in his column today. Then we had Yogi. Now we have LeBron. Bummer.

The Sports Illustrated story about Yogi, by Joe Posnanski, talks about how the mantle of profundity is almost too heavy for Yogi to bear. Every day, strangers come up to him expectantly, looking for impromptu brilliance. Like the couple who bumped into him at the Yogi Berra Museum, checking it out as a possible venue for their son’s Bar Mitzvah party.

“This is such an honor,” the woman says after a moment or so. Berra nods sheepishly. Again there is the silence. The silence always surrounds Yogi Berra. It smothers him. Imagine having every word you say analyzed like bacteria in a petri dish. Imagine facing that look of wide-eyed anticipation whenever you are about to say something, anything.

I’ve been there a few times myself, and it’s always been equally awkward. What do we expect when we encounter Yogi? It seems to me that he’s been elevated to the status of the Dalai Lama. We expect something utterly transformative to happen if we get to meet him.

Years ago, we had a huge tree taken down in our back yard, and the owner of the tree company — a Birkenstock-wearing guy with long hair — and he told us that he’d done some work for Yogi Berra. The funny thing was, he didn’t know who Yogi Berra was.

As he reported the story to us, Carmen said to him, “I guess you’d like to meet my husband now?” and the tree guy responded, “Who?”

Carmen cackled with delight. She had met perhaps the only adult in the world who hadn’t heard of Yogi Berra. Certainly one of the few in Baristaville.

It’s high summer, less than a week before the All-Star Game. Let’s talk baseball. Give us your best Yogi story.

9 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 06, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    My husband and I were in Walgreen’s in Verona a couple of years ago when we spotted Yogi! I did a double take because I really didn’t expect to see someone of Yogi’s caliber picking up his own prescription at a local pharmacy. But that’s the kind of guy he is. I debated whether to go over and say hello but how often does something like this happen? I approached him, introduced myself, and he shook my hand and made some small talk. Even my husband, a devout Mets fan, was impressed. No brilliant bon mots that day, no great fanfare, just a regular guy–who happens to be a legend-out doing his errands.

  2. POSTED BY cmfnj  |  July 06, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    Back in the early 70s when Yogi was managing the Mets, a bunch of us kids from West Orange would ride our bikes to Yogi’s old house in Montlcair and ring the bell. I remember doing this fairly often. Every time, Carmen would answer the door, greet us warmly and give us autographed photos of Yogi. Once, she brought out a dish of water for someone’s dog. Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of Yogi driving off to a game and he’d smile and wave as he drove off. Can you imagine this happening today? Although, something tells me that if my daughter went up to ring the Berra’s doorbell today, Carmen would probably still answer and give her a picture. They definitely do not make them like Yogi – or Carmen – anymore!

  3. POSTED BY herbeverschmel  |  July 06, 2011 @ 11:04 am

    Back in the mid 70′s my Little League had Yogi as the guest of honor/speaker. He gave a signed ball of the entire Mets team to each of the Managers (my Dad was one). Cut a year or 2 later and Herb needs a ball to throw around the street with his boys and pulled that one out of my dads dresser. The rest is history as was was that ball after 10 minutes of landing on the pavement. Even though I loathe the Mets it would have been nice to have a ball with Seaver, Matlack, Mays et alii displayed. Back then memorabilia wasn’t that popular so i don’t believe I ever got in trouble for ruining it, plus my Dad also hated the Mets , haha.
    Still nice to see him around occasionally. Great, great player. I am looking forward to reading the article.

  4. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 06, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

    Terrific story, cmfnj. It reminds me of my own experience with Bob Noyce. He’s not quite Yogi Berra, but he did invent the computer chip and founded Intel. He was one of the nicest men you’d ever meet, unbelievably tolerant of dumb-ass 22-year-old journalists who asked stupid questions and made ridiculous demands on his time. He must have been one of the busiest people alive, and yet he always managed to be gracious and helpful. They don’t make them like him anymore either.

  5. POSTED BY Howard Beale  |  July 06, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    When I was 11 or 12 years old, Boys Town, an orphanage in Kearny, was dedicating their new ball field on River Road. Special guests included Yogi, Phil Rizzuto and Elston Howard. Yogi’s left hand was heavily bandaged so for the first pitch at the new ball field Yogi pitched, Phil caught and Elston was the batter. He hit the ball across River Road and most likely into the Passaic River. It was probably around 300+ feet but to us it seemed like a super human achievement. All three men, dressed in jackets and ties for the occasion, were respectful and attentive to the hundreds of kids who showed up.

  6. POSTED BY LiFer  |  July 06, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    According to my wife, she almost hit Yogi with her car in an MSU parking lot when she was a student there. Thankfully for everyone involved, there’s no “story” to that story.

  7. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  July 06, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    Nostalgia sells. It’s deja vu all over again.

  8. POSTED BY Conan  |  July 06, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    Back in the late 1940′s, my family were at a 4th of July celebration at a place called Henry’s Bay View Inn, on the beach in the Throg’s Neck section of the Bronx. My dad knew several of the Yankee players from that era and my sister and I were playing on the beach that day with Johnny Lindell, Jr., his sister, Terry (children of then outfielder Johnny Lindell), a couple of Vic Raschi’s kids (as best I can recall), and Yogi, who was having more fun than any of us. He would stick a firecracker in the sand, light it with a burning cattail (or “punk” as we called it), and then run, run, run back over to where we were standing and giggle when the firecracker exploded. His joy was contagious and I can remember his smile and laugh to this day. After 25 years of living in New England I am now a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation, but Yogi is still number one in my book.
    Sorry, Pudge.

  9. POSTED BY yougottalovehim  |  July 06, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    I was traveling to St Louis a lot on business a few years back. I bumped into Yogi at a local fundraiser and asked him where I should eat on The Hill, the old Italian neighborhood in St Louis. His eyes lit up and he told me just where to go. Told me that he and Carmen try to get back there every year. I went to the place the following week and of course pictures of Yogi all over the place. And the place was great. A down to earth red sauce neighborhood spot. Brought 6 or 7 people and it was a blast.

    Yogi Carmen and Dale give a lot to this town. Never decline a request for autographed stuff for fundraisers. They get invited to so much and make more than their share of fundraisers. Last year Dale spoke to the Montclair baseball club. A real major league star who grew up on Nishuana Field. imagine that.

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