Of all the current and former players I've had the good fortune of meeting, there was nobody I would have preferred to meet more than Mr. Berra. His health began to fail around the time my Dad and I started attending sports card shows, and we've come just short of meeting him on several occasions through the years. I'll never get to say I shook his hand, however he was such a humble, graceful man to the point where it almost feels like I did. He treated the Yankees fans, players, and organization like family, and given the outpour of support and love shared across the world on his behalf today I know I'm not alone in saying that we all were impacted by his life.
Yogi played 19 professional seasons, all but one for the New York Yankees. Prior to his baseball career, he served in the US Navy as a gunner's mate on D-Day and throughout much of World War II. He was called up from the Newark Bears to the Yankees in 1946, and the rest was history. He batted .285 for his career while commanding a remarkable pitching staff; guiding them into the postseason every year but 1954 and 1959. Berra was a prolific postseason offensive force, and is the all time record holder in World Series games played, at bats, runs scored, singles, and doubles (he ranks second in Home Runs and RBI, only behind Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth).
I never got to watch him play, although I've seen plenty of his highlights over the years. My dad even said this morning that Yogi's playing career was overlooked by his cultural significance, which is a rare feat in baseball given the importance and relevance of statistics, stories, and history in general. Berra is at the forefront of such history, having connected generations of famous athletes who played generations apart. How many people got a chance to meet Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter?
As he departs, I want to remember Yogi Berra for all he was, on and off the field. He was the complete package, and the epitome of why we play and love this game. It's to root for people like him.
We're going to miss you, Yogi. Rest in Peace.
And PS, if you're reading this up there: He was out.
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