Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"THE BEST CATCHER EVER''



''It ain't over 'til it's over.''


Yogi Berra was a lot more than a good quote. But when your observations get their own category -- Yogisms -- your legacy tends to get lost among twisted syntax and guffaws.

And on the day after baseball fans lost a larger-than-life character at age 90, perhaps we should take Berra seriously. For once. Portrayed as cute and cuddly, he was more scrap and iron. 

A three-time MVP, Berra didn't look like a remarkable athlete -- especially compared to stallion and teammate Mickey Mantle -- but he was the brains behind the Yankee dynasty of the 1950s and '60s.


"You can observe a lot by watching.''

Berra established the standard for all catchers. He slashed .285/.348/.482. A power hitter who smacked 358 homers in his 19-year career, he was a free-swinger who averaged only 54 walks but struck out only 32 times a season. 

Career walks: 704. 

Career strikeouts: 414.

World Series rings: 10.


''Pair up in threes.'' 

Berra was the focal point of several enduring World Series images. Who can forget the unmasked verbal venom spewed at umpire Bill Summers in Game 1 of the '55 World Series when Jackie Robinson was called safe on a steal of home? 


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

Then there was his pitch-calling and handling of a hung-over Don Larsen, who no-hit the Dodgers in Game 5 of the '56 World Series. The memorable scene is not of the game-ending strikeout of Dale Mitchell but of Berra triumphantly jumping into Larsen's arms near the mound.


"I want to thank you for making this day necessary.''

Berra went on to become a major-league coach and manager and success followed. As a player, coach and manager from '46 to '85, he appeared in 21 World Series. He led the '64 Yankees and '73 Mets to the World Series but his teams lost both.  


"We made too many wrong mistakes.''

He returned to the dugout to manage the Yankees in '84 but became the latest victim to owner George Steinbrenner's diabolic rule a year later. He was fired only 16 games into the season after being told he would be evaluated at the end of the season. 





He didn't utter a one-liner out the door, especially after Steinbrenner had a lackey deliver the news. Instead, Berra simply said he wouldn't visit Yankee Stadium while Steinbrenner was in charge. 


"If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be.''

That totaled 14 years of refusing to come back for the annual Old-Timers' Day festivities, Steinbrenner's second favorite event, right behind the annual new manager press conference.

Finally, in '99 Steinbrenner reached out and kissed up to bring Berra back into the family.

You don't mess with the Yogi.

But we'll certainly miss the Yogi.


"If the people don't won't to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them.''




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