Yogi Berra passed last night at the age of 90. The man who famously said that “it’s never over til it’s over,” played his final inning. He was a hero of the Yankees. There could be no doubt about that. Casey Stengel said that he was his man, the guy he never played a game without having him on the field. He was a great tactical mind when it came to the game, and was easily one of the finest players to play the game. Although he stopped playing before I was born, and therefore way before I came to learn of the game, which only happened after watching the 86 world series in Ireland, it took no time for me to learn of the impact he had made on the success of the team.
But he was also as famous for his use of the English language, having the ability to twist the logic of a phrase better than his mentor and manager Casey Stengel. He even once famously said that ” you should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” That is an example of what you got with Yogi, a pithy phrase that belied a sort of wisdom based on simplicity, but expressed with great humour.
There have been many legends to have played for the Yankees, those who have lived in the mind of the fans. The Babe, Gherig, Di Maggio, Mantle, Munson, Mattingly, the Core four, and Williams. All of these guys carried the team to greatness, from the 1920s right up to the modern day. But none compete with the impact that Yogi had on the team. He is lauded as the back bone of the most successful dynasty in the Yankee history. He even called the famous perfect game of the 1956 World Series which was pitched by Don Larsen. While the pitcher was crucial, is crucial in winning games, the fact that Larsen was not a pitcher with the kind of stuff to pitch a perfect game shows just how great a catcher Berra was. Not that I want to put down what Larsen did. He still had to pitch. That he won ten world series rings tells you about his skill, and the teams he played on.
Yoggi Berra was a legend. It is that simple. He more than played his part in making the team a success. He will be mourned tonight, and when the Yanks play the White Sox he will be remembered in the Stadium the way he should, by the Yankees fans. He moves now from living legend to the pantheon of great players who one can imagine coming out of the cornfield to play on the Kinsella farm in Iowa. But perhaps the best way of remembering him will be to win number 28 this fall. It is the only fitting way to do so.