Yogi Berra was one of a kind
As a little boy, I remember my dad talking baseball with friends over dominos, cigars, and Cuban coffee.
Most Cubans were Senators fans because of Camilo Pascual and Pedro Ramos, two of the best Latino pitchers ever. They pitched for bad Washington teams until they moved to Minnesota and started winning. Unfortunately, Pascual and Ramos did not enjoy pitching for those Twins teams that featured fellow Cubans Tony Oliva and Zoilo Versalles, a young Rod Carew, and Harmon Killebrew in his prime.
My dad and friends were huge admirers of the Yankees, the top sports team of the time. I remember my dad telling stories of the Dodgers-Yankees rivalry and those World Series that he followed on radio, and then on TV. Yogi Berra was one of those players that they talked about.
Like a lot of kids of my generation, we got to know the post-baseball Yogi Berra. We remember him on Johnny Carson or other baseball events. We remember laughing and admiring the wisdom of his quotes.
Berra died yesterday at age 90. It's worth remembering just how great a player he was:
1) 13 World Series rings, three American League MVP Awards (1951, '54, and '55) and World Series records;
2) He batted .285, hit 358 home runs and drove in 1,430 runs. No player whose primary position was catcher has driven in run more runs. He averaged just fewer than 5.5 strikeouts per 100 at-bats, never striking out more than 38 times in a season, and 102 RBIs per season in an 11-season sequence that began in 1948, the first year he appeared in more than 100 games.
3) He was a teammate of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle; and
4) He played for the Yankees that won the Series 5 years in a row: 1949-53.
He was a great player, as those three MVPs confirm. Like Pete Rose, he made the best out of his skills.
Of course, you can't write his story without one of his quotes. My favorite is one about life that is so profound, especially those of us who had Little League kids:
I tell the kids, somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose. Just don't fight about it. Just try to get better.
RIP, Yogi Berra. Wonder how St Peter greeted Yogi. He probably said: Thanks for your generosity, loved your quotes, and a lot of your Yankee teammates are waiting over there.