Yogi Berra had a special way of using the English language to express not only himself, but also the world around him. The further he became from his playing and managing career the more he became known for his Yogi-isms. Those odd, but truthful sayings that were usually funny but were also spot on. Yogi Berra had grown into the loveable grandfather for all of baseball, and it has become clear with his passing that as much as he was beloved, he was respected even more.
I never saw Yogi Berra play a game in person or on television, except through some old reruns of World Series games. I never saw him coach, except for some highlights of him being ejected. My understanding of Yogi Berra’s greatness comes from the stories and the statistics that he left behind. His statistics are incredible, as you can see here. It does not take too much digging to see how special of a player Yogi was. In five different full seasons he hit more home runs than he had strike outs, and in each of those seasons he hit at least 27 home runs. His career high in strikeouts was 38. Think about that for a minute, he struck out no more than 38 times a season over a 19-year career, or said another way he struck out once every 18.2 at bats in 7,555 career at bats.
1950 was the beginning of a seven-year run where Yogi Berra was a dominating force. In those seven seasons from 1950 to 1956, he averaged a .295 BA, .364 OBP, .502 SLG, .866 OPS, hit 191 home runs, had 756 RBI, scored 650 runs, collected 1,129 hits, including 166 doubles, and 27 triples. Yogi won three Most Valuable Player Awards, finished second twice, third once, and fourth once. He collected at least 31% of the MVP votes in each of those seven seasons. Yogi was this dominant at the plate while handling a pitching staff that had a 3.45 cumulative ERA from 1950 to 1956. The New York Yankees won six American League Pennants and five World Series during this stretch. He was the engine for the Yankees domination.
The true measure of a man does not show up in a box score or in any statistic. It shows up in those that he encounters and influences along the way. A person who does nothing to help others along the way is not worth much. After I heard that Yogi Berra had passed away, I started reading and listening to the tributes that came pouring in. Obviously no one was speaking ill of Yogi, but it was not in a manner of let’s remember the good time; rather it was this man was amazing. In nearly every tribute to Yogi, his playing career was almost an afterthought. People wanted to talk about the man much more than the player. One of the greatest players to every play baseball, regardless of position, and no one wants to talk about his playing career. This is how you know he was special. Yogi, in my opinion, is what everyone should strive to become. He was a fierce competitor, a loyal friend, a friend to strangers, a great family man, an honest man, a man willing to do what he was called to do, and above all he was himself.
Yogi Berra fought on the shores of Normandy on D-Day. He was married to his wife Carmen for 65 years. He used his fame to help others in ways many of us will never know. The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center does more than just chronicle his baseball career; it focuses on youth and turning them into better citizens and people. Yogi Berra was great in so many ways, but for me he will be remembered for his love of life, his smile, and above all for simply being the type of person everyone should strive to become.
Rest in Peace Mr. Berra. You were worth was more than a nickel or a dime. You were priceless.