Some people shouldn’t be allowed to die. They mean too much to us. We need them right here on Earth – always. There needs to be a way that we can keep these people – these treasures – with us forever, because it hurts too much to see them go.
And so it is with Yogi Berra.
Yogi came into my life somewhere in the late 1950’s, when I was first introduced to baseball on a huge black and white television that was more like a piece of furniture than a piece of technology. It had rabbit ears (look it up) and a picture that was most definitely “low-def.” The images on the screen were full of “snow” and would occasionally roll its frame upwards until it finally stabilized. No, it wasn’t easy to fall in love with baseball with a picture like that. But I did – and it was worth it.
Somewhere in the middle of the 1960 season, my dad took me to my first game and the 1961 Yankees squad became my boyhood team. This was the team I idolized and the men who became my heroes: Mickey, Whitey, Roger – and Yogi. Three of these guys are now in the Hall of Fame; a fourth should be (look it up to find out who). And now, only Whitey is with us.
It’s hard to put my finger on why everyone loved Yogi. Some people made fun of the way he looked. Some people made fun of the way he talked. But he was so down to earth and lovable, that he made everyone feel good. And he was certainly smarter than people gave him credit for being.
In some ways, Yogi was like baseball’s Forest Gump. His life was magic. He survived the D-Day invasion where bullets whizzed by his head. He was to be awarded the Purple Heart but he refused it because he thought that it would worry his mother too much that he was in danger.
Yogi Berra was on more World Championship teams than any other man in the history of baseball: 10. Only two teams (not players – teams!) have more than Yogi: the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees (on which he played or coached on many of them). He won three Most Valuable Player awards on a team filled with MVP’s. Many regard him as the greatest bad-ball hitter the game ever knew, and the best catcher ever to play in the American League.
But that’s not why I loved him so much. I loved him for him. I loved him because he was family to me.
Whenever I saw him, I felt good. He was a security blanket for me. He reminded me of all the good times I spent with my father watching baseball, and how it connected us and our family to the Yankees, who became our family, too. Yogi was our grandpa, the wise old man who was always happy, always willing to tell us a story of the old days, and teach us how the best things in life are pure and simple.
Everybody loved Yogi.
And today I am sad because he is gone. His passing reminds me of all the people who I can never see again. It reminds me that I can never watch another game with my father, because he is in Heaven welcoming Yogi. But his death also reminds me that I was wrong: some people can live forever.
Bye ,Yogi, from a BIG fan.