Yogi Berra

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Yogi Berra : biography

May 12, 1925 –

Berra made a very brief return to the field as a player-coach for the crosstown Mets, playing in just four games. His last at-bat came on May 9, 1965, just three days shy of his 40th birthday. Berra stayed with the Mets as a coach for the next eight seasons, including their 1969 World Championship season. He then became the team’s manager in 1972, following the sudden death of manager Gil Hodges.

The following season looked like a disappointment at first. Midway through the 1973 season, the Mets were stuck in last place but in a very tight divisional race. When the press asked Yogi if the season was finished, he replied, "It ain’t over till it’s over."

A late surge allowed the Mets to win the NL Eastern division despite an 82–79 record, making it the only time between 1970 and 1980 that the NL East was not won by either their rival Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates. When the Mets faced the 99-win Cincinnati Reds in the 1973 National League Championship Series, a memorable brawl erupted between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose in Game Three. After the incident, fans began throwing objects at Rose on the field. Sparky Anderson pulled Rose and his Reds off the field until order was restored or a forfeit was declared. Berra walked out to left field with Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones in order to plead with the fans to desist.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyUXJ4Exlh8 Yogi’s Mets went on to defeat the highly favored "Big Red Machine" in 5 games to capture the NL pennant. It was Berra’s second as a manager, one in each league.

In the 1973 World Series, Yogi’s Mets had a 3-games-to-2 lead on the Oakland Athletics. Berra chose Seaver and Jon Matlack, each pitching on 3 days rest, to start for games 6 and 7. When the Mets lost both games, Berra was criticized for not using George Stone in Game Six as a starter, thus giving him a fully rested Game Seven pitcher. Berra expressed no regrets: "What better situation would you want to have? Seaver and Matlack having to win one game! I have no regrets or second thoughts. I went for the kill. It just wasn’t in the cards."

Berra’s tenure as Mets manager ended with his firing on August 5, 1975. In 1976, he rejoined the Yankees as a coach. The team won its first of three consecutive AL titles, as well as the 1977 World Series and 1978 World Series, and (as had been the case throughout his playing days) Berra’s reputation as a lucky charm was reinforced. (Casey Stengel once said of his catcher, "He’d fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch." Cited in: ) Berra was named Yankee manager before the 1984 season. Berra agreed to stay in the job for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be fired, but the impatient Steinbrenner did fire Berra after the 16th game of the season. Instead of firing him personally, Steinbrenner dispatched Clyde King to deliver the news for him. ESPN This caused a rift between the two men that was not mended for almost 15 years.

Berra later joined the Houston Astros as bench coach, where he again made it to the NLCS in 1986. The Astros lost the series in six games to the Mets. Berra remained a coach in Houston until 1989.

In 2000, after George Steinbrenner ventured to his home in New Jersey to apologize in person for the way his firing as Yankee manager was handled, Berra ended his 14-year estrangement with the Yankee organization and worked in spring training camp with catcher Jorge Posada. Although the Yankees had a similar need for catching help in 2013, at 87 Berra was too old to contribute.

Quotations

Berra is also well known for his pithy comments and witticisms, known as Yogiisms. Yogiisms very often take the form of either an apparently obvious tautology, or a paradoxical contradiction.

Examples

  • As a general comment on baseball: "90% of the game is half mental."
  • On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded."
  • "It ain’t over ’til it’s over." In July 1973, Berra’s Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East. The Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season. See also the namesake song "It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over" by Lenny Kravitz and the album It Ain’t Over till It’s Over by Fast Eddie Clarke.
  • When giving directions to Joe Garagiola to his New Jersey home, which is accessible by two routes: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
  • On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet: "Thank you for making this day necessary."
  • "It’s déjà vu all over again". Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the Yankees’ seasons in the early 1960s.
  • "You can observe a lot by watching."
  • "Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours."