Yogi Berra, baseball Hall of Famer and New York Yankees catcher, dies at 90
Baseball player Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, one of the most successful catchers of all time, has died at the age of 90, the Yogi Berra Museum has announced.
Berra, who died of natural causes on Tuesday at his home in New Jersey, was part of the New York Yankees dynasty that dominated baseball through the 1950s. He played almost his whole career for the club, making only four appearances for the crosstown New York Mets while he was managing them.
“While we mourn the loss of our father, grandfather and great-grandfather, we know he is at peace with Mom,” Berra’s family said in a statement released by the museum. “We celebrate his remarkable life, and are thankful he meant so much to so many. He will truly be missed.”
He retired after 2,120 major league games with a batting average of .285, and hit 358 home runs in his career. He played in more World Series games than any other Major League Baseball player, was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
He won 10 World Series with the Yankees, and a further three after his playing career finished in coaching roles.
Berra also became well known for an array of colourful quotes, such as: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else”; “When you come to a fork in the road … take it”; “It’s like deja vu, all over again”; and, reflecting on his reputation: “I never said most of the things I said.”
His “Yogi-isms” were repeated by presidents, businessmen, celebrities and anyone else who wanted to sound wise, funny, folksy, or all three. The cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after him, something he did not appreciate. “I don’t know why I say these things,” he once told Reuters. “But people understand me.”
Born in St. Louis on 12 May 1925, the son of poor Italian immigrants, he was forced to drop out of school in the eighth grade and go to work to help support his family. He took jobs in a coal yard, as a truck driver and in a shoe factory. At the same time, he played amateur baseball, which brought him to the attention of major league scouts.
He often told the story of a friend who said he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat, and the name stuck.
In 1943, his first professional season with the Yankees’ farm team in Norfolk, Virginia, was interrupted by the second world war. He joined the navy and later served on a gunboat supporting the D-Day invasion. After the war he became a Yankee regular by 1947.
He married his wife, Carmen, two years later. The couple, who met in St. Louis, had three sons, including Dale, who played in the major leagues as an infielder.
He published three books: his autobiography in 1961; “It Ain’t Over” in 1989; and “The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said” in 1998. The last made The New York Times’ best seller list.
In 1996, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the state university in Montclair, New Jersey, where he and his family lived. The university also named its baseball stadium for him, while the adjoining Yogi Berra Museum opened in 1998.
Colleagues said Berra always maintained a sunny disposition. “There are probably a half a dozen people in the world that are universally loved. Everybody loves Yogi,” former teammate Jim Bouton told the Boston Globe. “There’s an essential sweetness about him. He’s without guile. That’s about as kind of a thing you can say about a human being. He’s one of the great people in the world.”
Berra, survived by three sons – Larry, Tim and Dale – as well as 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, was once asked by Carmen: “Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?”
Berra replied: “I don’t know, surprise me.”