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If you like Yogi Berra's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Julius Erving,
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Yogi Berra - Official Website

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Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra
Profile of Yogi Berra Biography of Yogi Berra Interview with Yogi Berra Yogi Berra Photo Gallery

Yogi Berra Biography

Baseball Hall of Fame

Yogi Berra Date of birth: May 12, 1925
Date of death: September 22, 2015

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  Yogi Berra

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Lawrence Peter Berra was born in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents and two older brothers were born in Italy. His father worked in a brickyard and had little use for sports and games, but the Berra brothers, like their neighbors in the district known as the Hill, were soon captivated by American baseball and spent every day they could in the neighborhood sandlot. By age 14, Berra was playing in a youth league sponsored by the American Legion. His teammates gave him the nickname he was to make famous.

The manager of his team saw professional potential in Berra, and drew him to the attention of Branch Rickey, then the general manager of the St Louis Cardinals. Rickey was more impressed with Berra's teammate, Joe Garagiola, and offered Garagiola $500 a week to sign with the Cardinals. He offered Berra half the sum, and reportedly observed that Berra would never be more than a Triple A player, not good enough for the major leagues. Berra refused to take less than Rickey was offering Garagiola, and turned him down. Shortly thereafter, Rickey moved from the Cardinals to the Brooklyn Dodgers and finally offered Berra the $500 a week he had insisted on, but by then Berra had accepted an equivalent offer from the New York Yankees. Berra would remain associated with the Yankees for most of his career. At first he was assigned to the Norfolk Tars farm team, in the Class B Piedmont league. The 17-year-old Berra immediately showed signs of his talent as a hitter by driving in 23 runs in a single game.

Before Berra could make good on his promise, he came of age for military service. With World War II raging, Berra volunteered for the United States Navy. He served in North Africa and Europe, participating in the D-Day landing in Normandy. He continued to play baseball in the Navy after his reassignment to the United States. Not long after his discharge from the military, Berra was assigned to the Yankees' New London, Connecticut club. There, Mel Ott, General Manager of the New York Giants, offered the Yankees $50,000 for Berra's contract. Yankees' general manager Douglas McPhail immediately took a closer look at Berra and moved him to the Newark Bears of the International League in 1946. That autumn, he was promoted to the major league New York Yankees. Berra was to play with the Yankees for the next 17 seasons.

Yogi Berra Biography Photo
The Yankees made Berra a catcher, a position he had seldom played before. He found the transition to a new position difficult at first, but in time he would become the most celebrated catcher of the era. He made a more immediate impression as a hitter. In 1947, he set the first of his many World Series records, as the first pinch hitter to score a home run in World Series play. He soon became famous for swinging at seemingly impossible pitches. "If I can see it, I can hit it," he explained. Pitchers found him almost impossible to strike out. In the 1950 season, he only struck out 12 times in 597 times at bat.

Berra's ebullient personality made him a favorite of fans and sportswriters, who delighted in his trademark aphorisms, the so-called Yogi-sms that made him the most-quoted athlete in history. "It ain't over 'til it's over," "It's déjà vu all over again," and "You can observe a lot just by watching," may sound like artless redundancies at first hearing, but they encapsulate attitudes of optimism and common sense that Americans admire in their heroes and strive for in themselves.

While Berra was on the team, the New York Yankees won 14 American League championships, and triumphed 10 times in the World Series, unequaled records for a player in either major league. He holds World Series records for most games played by a catcher, most times at-bat, most hits, and most doubles. Only two players in the history of the game have scored more home runs in World Series play. Among other records as a catcher in the regular season, he played 148 consecutive games without an error. Berra played in 15 All-Star games, and was named Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1951, 1954 and 1955.

Berra played his last season as a Yankee in 1962. He became the Yankees' manager in 1964, leading the team to victory in the American League pennant race that year, but losing to the Cardinals in a seven-game World Series. Berra was dismissed, and for the first time in his major league career was no longer a New York Yankee. He remained in New York however, signing on as a player-coach with the New York Mets in 1965, under his longtime friend and mentor, Casey Stengel. That season, Berra took to the field as a player for the last time, but he remained with the Mets' coaching staff throughout the decade.

Yogi Berra Biography Photo
Berra became the manager of the Mets in 1972, the same year he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In the last month of the 1973 season, Berra led the Mets from last place to win a National League championship. He is one of the only managers in history to have won pennants in both the National and American Leagues. Yogi Berra returned to the Yankees as a coach in 1976, and managed the team during the 1984 and 1985 seasons. He then coached the Houston Astros from 1986 until his retirement in 1992.

In 1998, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center opened its doors at Montclair State University in New Jersey. In the words of its mission statement, the museum was founded " preserve and promote the values of respect, sportsmanship, social justice and excellence." These are qualities Yogi Berra exemplified throughout his career. The Yogi Berra Museum insures that future generations will be inspired by the talent and determination of a legendary athlete, and the warmth and wisdom of an American hero. In 2015, shortly after his death at the age of 90, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

This page last revised on Apr 01, 2016 11:24 EDT
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