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If you like Yogi Berra's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Julius Erving,
Peyton Manning,
Willie Mays,
Pete Rozelle,
Bill Russell and
John Wooden

Related Links:
Yogi Berra - Official Website

Yogi Berra Museum

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Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra
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Yogi Berra Interview (page: 2 / 6)

Baseball Hall of Fame

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  Yogi Berra

The 5-foot, 8-inch son of an Italian immigrant, you grew up to reach the Hall of Fame? What made you think you could do this?

Yogi Berra: I didn't think I could. Not actually that.

I'm very happy about it. You know, a kid from the Hill being elected to the Hall of Fame. Proud of it. And actually, I could tell you something else. My brother Tony was the best ballplayer in the family. My dad wouldn't let him go. And, I always kidded my dad, I said, "See that, Pops? You let all your sons go, you'd have been a millionaire." He said, "Blame your mother."

He was a tough man, but he'd treat you right. When I'd go out at night, he'd say, "What time are you coming home tonight?" He made me make the time. If you weren't home at that time, you'd get it. That taught me discipline. I had to telephone.

We had clubs on the Hill, we played against each other. My brother Tony played semi-pro ball. My brother Mike played semi-pro ball. My brother John played semi-pro ball. But, they only played on Sundays. And us kids, we played every darned day, you know, because they had to go to work. They really -- every chance they had. And, they're the ones that taught my dad to go and play baseball. They said, "We're all working, give..." They called me "Lawdies" then, instead of Yogi. Lawdies. "Give him a chance to go out and play ball." And, he says, "Okay."

So, I signed up. Leo Browne ran the American Legion team. See, I wanted to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, either that, or the St. Louis Browns. I wanted to play for St. Louis. It's home.

You were christened "Lawrence." How did you get the nickname "Yogi?"

Yogi Berra: Playing American Legion ball.

You know who gave it to me? Bobby Hoffman, who played with the Giants. We played on the same American Legion team. And, you know, we didn't have no dugouts when we played. We sat on the ground, or a bench was full with the players. And, I was sitting on the ground with my legs crossed and my arms crossed. And he says, "You look like a Yogi." And that stuck.

My mother used to call me "Lawdies." Even Joe Garagiola called me "Lawdies." That was the name before I played American Legion ball and they called me Yogi.

Did you ever mind being called Yogi?

Yogi Berra: No. Not at all. It don't bother me. A lot of guys called me different names. But, we had our own nicknames on the Hill, anyhow, in St. Louis.

And when you said to your father, "I want to be a professional ballplayer," what did he say to you?

Yogi Berra: "Well, we'll give it a chance." I wanted to sign with the Cardinals. That's my home town. And the St. Louis Browns were there, but they didn't want me. Leo Browne's the one that got in touch with George Weiss. He knew George Weiss from umpiring up in New Haven, Connecticut. And he says, "I got a kid, he's a pretty good ballplayer." They were very close friends, because they umpired in a game in Connecticut, and he asked. "Okay, we'll take a chance on him."

Now, we've read that the Cardinals would have signed you, but you wanted more money.

Yogi Berra Interview Photo
Yogi Berra: Well, Garagiola got $500. The Cardinals gave him $500. They didn't want to give me $500. They wanted to give me $250. And, I wouldn't do it.

What was it Branch Rickey told you when you were a teenager and he was General Manager of the Cardinals?

Yogi Berra: He told me that I'd never be a ballplayer. I'd be a Triple A ballplayer, that's about it. And, I said, "Nope. I won't sign for that." But it's funny, when I signed with the Yankees, I get a telegram from Branch Rickey. He knew he was going to the Dodgers. So, he told me he didn't want me to sign with the Cardinals. That's what you want to hear. And, he sent a telegram, "Report at Bear Mountain for spring training with the Dodgers." It was too late, though. I already signed with the Yankees.

Did that discourage you, when Rickey told you you'd never make the majors?

Yogi Berra: No, I would have signed with anybody because I loved to play the game. I didn't like to work that much, either!

You didn't doubt your ability?

Yogi Berra: No, I didn't.

Were you ever worried about your size?

Yogi Berra: No.

I just like to hit, and the fun of the game is hitting. Well, you got to play a little defense, too. But hitting, I was very fortunate. You know, a lot of guys, "You're a bad ball hitter." I said, "No, the ball looked good to me. I swung at it." I could leave a pitch alone the first time like that. The next time, I hit at it, and I do something with it. I have fun with [Derek] Jeter. You know, sometimes he strikes out on that ball up here. And, I get on him. I say, "What'd you swing at that ball for?" I says. "It looks good." And he says, "You used to swing at it." I said, "Yeah, but I hit it. You don't."

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on Apr 28, 2008 09:12 EDT
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