Many of us start the day dreaming and end the day with the dream unfulfilled. We all dream of different things such as a different career, happy family, and improved health. One of my dreams has been achieved and has been removed from my “bucket list.” I have interviewed Yankee Legend Yogi Berra. Yogi played in 14 World Series and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1972. We are all aware of the Yogi Berra that played for the legendary New York Yankees. My interview was geared more towards the Pre-Yankees and Post- Yankees career with a little discussion about family. Yogi turns 88 on May 12th and will be celebrating the birthday like most of us do; with family and friends. Yogi is extremely humble. When asked how he would describe his legendary baseball career, he answers, “Not Bad.”
Yogi’s brother Tony was the best ballplayer in the family. Tony didn’t play professionally because dad didn’t want two kids playing ball. Berra’s father earned a living in the brickyard and recognized the value of getting your hands dirty to put food on the table. He was also the role model that taught Yogi a strong work ethic. Yogi obtained a workers’ permit to start working at age 14 inside a shoe factory. Shortly thereafter, Yogi joined an American Legion team and would be ditching work to play ball at the age of 15.
The owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, has been forever associated with bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers to break the color barrier in baseball. Before the Dodgers, Rickey was the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942 when Yogi was playing ball for the Legion. Rickey offered Yogi $250 which Yogi immediately rejected. Rickey had just signed Yogi’s neighborhood friend, Joe Garagiola, to a $500 contract and Yogi thought he justified the same dollar value. Yankees bullpen coach,and St. Louis native John Schulte, saw the potential in Yogi and convinced ownership to pay the $500 and Yogi quickly signed the contract. Yogi’s idle growing up was Joe Medwick for two reasons. Medwick was Berra’s newspaper customer and he was a “bad ball hitter.” When I asked Yogi about advice he would provide to an aspiring catcher coming up thru the minor leagues, I expected something profound and long winded. The answer was “work hard.”
Berra could talks for weeks about his career in the minors’, but I was more interested in the Yogi Berra Museum which is a place that Berra frequents on a very regular basis. The museum is located on the campus of Montclair State University which is 30 minutes away from Yankee Stadium. Yogi will be attending the museum on his birthday to host a 1978 Yankees reunion and autograph signing. David Kaplan is the Director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. Kaplan described the museum and learning center as “a place where kids’ learn the values of respect, sacrifice, perseverance, and integrity.” Kaplan has been at the helm since inception in 1998 and has co-authored several books with Berra.
As this young writer has learned, always be dreaming.
“Go out live your life like every day is opening day,” by Yogi Berra as told to the graduating seniors at St. Louis University in 2007.