On September 22, 2015, the world lost one of the best professional baseball players of all time. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball – all but the last year was with the New York Yankees. An 18 time All Star and 10 time World Series champion as a player, Berra had 358 home runs and 1,430 batted in. Berra is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Yankees retired the number eight to honor the star catcher.
Despite quitting school after the eighth grade, Yogi was known for his malapropisms as well as pithy and paradoxical quotes when he spoke to reporters. One of the most famous quotes is, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Yogi’s sayings came to be known as “Yogi-isms” and were words valued by others.
Yogi was the best – he was excellent at hitting poor pitches, covering all areas of the strike zone and he had great bat control. It didn’t matter if pitchers changed speeds or location, Yogi was able to adapt and hit a notorious home run. His professional circle raved about Yogi’s greatness. Rival manager Paul Richards referred to Berra as, “the toughest man in the league in the last three innings.” Others in the MLB have said Yogi’s “the real toughest clutch hitter and “the best clutch hitter in the game.”
Yogi was involved with many causes related to his Italian heritage. He was a longtime supporter of the National Italian American Foundation. The organization was founded in 1975, and provided the nation as a non-profit organization with educational and youth programs including scholarships, grants, heritage travel and mentoring. In addition, NIAF acted as the voice for Italian American in Washington, DC and worked closely with the Italian Embassy, Italian American Congressional Delegation and the White House.
Berra was also a recipient of the Boy Scouts of America’s highest adult award, the Silver Buffalo Award. The honor is a national level distinguished service award. It is presented for noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth on a national basis, either as part of, or independent of the scouting program.
On November 24, 2015, Berra was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House attended by members of Berra’s family, who accepted the award in his honor. At the ceremony the President said, “Today we celebrate some extraordinary people. Innovators, artists and leaders who contribute to American’s strength as a nation.” To further recognize Berra’s military service and remarkable baseball career, Obama used on of Berra’s famous yogiisms by saying, “One thing we know for sure: if you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
Whether it is the baseball legacy, philanthropic endeavors, or a popular yogi-ism Berra will forever be remembered as one of the great. He was a legend and a class act that helped to pave the way for many other greats in MLB history.