Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yogi Berra. One of a kind

It's sad that Yogi Berra just died but, hey, it's going to happen to all of us someday, and it can certainly be said Yogi lived a full life. He beat the average in many respects.

First, he was 90. That's WAY above average.

He was an 8th grade drop-out that went on to become a beloved icon. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY didn't like Yogi Berra. How many others have you heard of that ever achieved such status?

And then there was the baseball thing. After a stint in the WWII era Navy, Berra caught on with the NY Yankees. One must remember times were different back then. This was long before "expansion" was even thought of in the major leagues. Obviously, fewer teams meant less guys made it to the big time. That's likely why so many from Yogi's era remain revered to this day as baseball "greats". The talent pool wasn't as watered down.

[True, modern day players are much more highly skilled than their predecessors. As an example, Willie Mays' "sensational" catch of Vic Wertz's drive to centerfield was a jaw-dropper back in the day, but such plays -- and better -- are routinely made by current outfielders. They make the highlight reel once, maybe, and then are quickly forgotten.]

And what were the chances some 5 foot 8 chubby guy from St. Louis would become the starting catcher for the NY Yankees? But Yogi did and went on to greatness indeed.

Nineteen years in the big leagues and eighteen times an All-Star. Three-time American League MVP winner. 10 time World Series champion while with the Yankees. Yes, he was part of a formidable team with many other stars, but nobody else in baseball has 10 rings and probably never will. Like it or not, free agency and exorbitant salaries have pretty well sounded the death knell for dynasties.

Yogi would later go on to lead both the Yankees and cross-town Mets to World Series' as a manager. Overall, he was there for 21 if them, winning 13. Truly impressive stuff. Was he in the right place at the right time? Sure. In team games, one player, regardless of how good he is, can't propel them to championships. See Lebron James in his early Cleveland Cavalier years. And even the brightest and shrewdest manager can't lead his team to a parade unless he's got some serious studs playing for him.

As a player, Berra's career stats are good but not eye-popping. He batted .285, had 358 home runs, and 1430 RBIs. Over 19 years, that means he averaged 19 homers and 75 RBIs a season. He was a good but not great "defensive" catcher at the time, had an average throwing arm, and was rather slow of foot. Hey, remember he was 5-8 and chubby. Yet all in all, doing what he did for the Yankees year in and year out during their glory years of times long past made him a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. Though it took the usual gang of stodgy old voting farts -- sometimes known as the BaseBall Writers Association of America -- a couple years to figure out the obvious, Berra was finally inducted in 1972.

Ever wonder if Yogi Berra and the lovable cartoon character Yogi Bear had a connection? After all, the picnic basket swiping Jellystone bear debuted in 1958 as a sidekick to Huckleberry Hound during the catcher's hey day. Yogi the Yankee sued Hanna-Barbara for defamation of character. He would later drop the lawsuit, while the cartoon company maintained the similarity of names was just a coincidence. Most believe Yogi Bear was patterned after Art Carney's Ed Norton character of the classic early TV show "The Honeymooners". For those old enough to remember, the voices certainly match up. Besides, only one Yogi was really Yogi. The Yankee player's real name was Lawrence Peter Berra.

Yet perhaps Yogi Berra's most lovable attribute was his frequent "words of wisdom". They were many, and classic themselves.

Come to think of it, the Jellystone bear had a pal named Boo Boo -- right? Given Lawrence Peter's many hilarious malaprops (boo-boos) over the years, maybe Hanna-Barbara should have counter sued for the same defamation. Can a cartoon character claim he was slandered? Hmm.

Nevertheless, you were a good man Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra. Maybe not exactly a class act, but an American icon that was beloved by all. He finally came to his fork in the road and took it.

It's not over til it's over? Well, it most certainly is now.


No comments:

Post a Comment