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.