Yogi Berra, the great New York Yankees catcher and long-time Yankee manager, passed away the other day at the ripe old age of 90. The Internet and the media has been flooded with Yogi Berra stories…as well there should be! Yogi was a terrific baseball player.
Baseball is a game of statistics. Everything on-field exploit is measured and recorded and one player’s stats are compared against another player’s stats in determining who the better player was, or is. Yogi had few who were his equal. He appeared in 18 All-Star games. He played in 14 World Series…and he won 10 of them.
In addition to what he was able to accomplish on the field, Yogi was a newspaper reporters dream come true. In addition to everyone quoting his accomplishments on the field, there have been an equal number of people recalling some of the scratch-your-head moments Yogi provided with his famous quotes. I have listed a few of his most famous. In David Letterman fashion, here are tonight’s top 10 list…
Number 10... When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Number 9... You can observe a lot by just watching.
Number 8... It ain’t over till it’s over.
Number 7...It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Number 6...No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
Number 5...Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.
Number 4... A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
Number 3...Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
Number 2...We made too many wrong mistakes.
Annnnnnd the number 1 Yogisim... Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.
But what he did on the field, or said into a microphone cannot compare to what he did for his friend, Phil Rizzuto…a teammate of Yogi on the Yankees. This story was told by Michael Kay, who was the play-by-play man for Yankees. I was lucky enough to have spied it through much of the superficial media stories about Yogi’s life.
Yogi and Phil played together on the Yankees for 11 years. During that time, Yogi won the Most Valuable Player Award 3 times and Phil won it once. They played together on 6 World Series teams together. During and after baseball, they formed an unbreakable friendship and bond.
In the latter part of Phil Rizzuto’s life, he became very sick and needed to be placed in an assisted living facility located about 30 minutes from Yogi’s home. According to Michael Kay, Yogi made that 30 minute trip to visit his friend daily. Kay said the following about Yogi’s devotion for his friend, “And every single day, because teammates were important to him, he would drive there, and he would play cards with Phil. And then when Phil would start to fall asleep, Yogi would hold his hand and when Phil would finally go to sleep, that’s when Yogi would leave.”
This more than anything Yogi ever did on a baseball diamond, or ever said in a baseball clubhouse is the measure of Yogi Berra as a man. There is lesson here for all of us. None us will ever don Yankee pinstripes and take our place on the field, but all of us can be a friend. All of us can be there for someone, to hold their hand, to offer comfort and companionship…and to stay until they fall asleep.
I will end with another one of Yogi’s famous quotes, “We have deep depth.” Yes, Yogi…you really did have deep depth!