Yankees icon Yogi Berra passed away on Tuesday night at the age of 90.
One of the greatest players of all time, Berra won 10 World Series titles and three American League MVP Awards, in 1951, 1954 and 1955.
Berra’s stats are very impressive, he hit .285 with 358 home runs and 1,430 runs, the most runs ever driven in by a catcher. The incredible thing is that he averaged just fewer than 5.5 strikeouts per 100 at-bats, never striking out more than 38 times in a season. He averaged 102 RBI per season in an 11-season sequence that began in 1948, the first year he appeared in more than 100 games.
As a manager, he took the Yankees to the World Series in 1964 and the “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets to the World Series in 1973. He managed the Yankees again in the 1980s, and when he was fired 12 games into the 1985 season, he vowed to never return to Yankee Stadium.
In 1999, Suzyn Waldman, current Yankees broadcaster who was with WFAN at that time, arranged for Berra to have a meeting with George Steinbrenner at the then-new Yogi Berra Museum. He returned to Yankee Stadium in the midst of one of the greatest eras in their history and influenced another one of the greatest catchers in their history, Jorge Posada.
Above all, Yogi is known for being a wordsmith, with such phrases as “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” “It gets late early out there,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” and about a St. Louis restaurant, “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
The Berra family released the following statement:
“While we mourn the loss of our father, grandfather and great-grandfather, we know he is at peace with Mom. We celebrate his remarkable life, and are thankful he meant so much to so many. He will truly be missed.”
Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Managing General Partner / Co-Chairperson released a statement on Wednesday morning:
“Yogi Berra’s legacy transcends baseball. Though slight in stature, he was a giant in the most significant of ways through his service to his country, compassion for others and genuine enthusiasm for the game he loved. He has always been a role model and hero that America could look up to.
“While his baseball wit and wisdom brought out the best in generations of Yankees, his imprint in society stretches far beyond the walls of Yankee Stadium. He simply had a way of reaching and relating to people that was unmatched. That’s what made him such a national treasure.
“On behalf of my family and the entire Yankees organization, we extend our deepest condolences to Yogi’s family, friends and loved ones,” said Steinbenner.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “Yogi Berra’s character, talent, courage, extraordinary experiences and inimitable way with words made him a universally beloved figure in baseball and beyond. Born to Italian immigrant parents in St. Louis, Lawrence Peter Berra grew up to serve his country on D-Day as a member of the U.S. Navy. Upon his return from his service, he often played in the substantial shadows of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, and yet he quietly became no less than one of the most accomplished players in baseball history himself.
“Yogi Berra was a beacon of Americana, and today Major League Baseball and all of its clubs stand together in mourning his passing and celebrating his memory. On behalf of the game he served with excellence and dignity, I extend my deepest condolences to Yogi’s children and grandchildren, his many friends throughout our game and his countless admirers,” said Manfred.
The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center released this statement:
“It is with a profound sense of loss and heartfelt sorrow that the Board of Directors of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center (YBMLC) shares the news that Yogi Berra has passed away at the age of 90 due to natural causes.
“Yogi conducted his life with unwavering integrity, humility and a contagious good humor that elevated him from baseball legend to beloved national icon. For all his accolades and honors as a player, coach and mentor, he remained completely true to himself — a rare example of authentic character excellence and a lasting role model for his peers, his public, and the thousands of children who visit the YBMLC each year to take part in programs inspired by his values.”
Ron Guidry became very good friends with Berra during their time spent as instructors in spring training. Guidry said in a statement: “It’s just a sad day. We’re losing a great man and I’m losing a great friend. He was always a very good friend of mine. All I know is every time I hear the word ‘baseball,’ I think of Yogi.”
Andy Pettitte said in a statement: “What an honor it was to have rubbed shoulders with Yogi. He embraced me from the first day I met him. Heck, he embraced everyone he met. Yogi loved talking baseball and sharing stories, and I was always excited to hear them. He was a special man who brought smiles to the faces of an awful lot of people.
“He served our country with honor, and I can’t think of a better ambassador to have represent this game.
“He will be sorely missed, and my heart goes out to his family during this difficult time,” said Pettitte.
Jorge Posada said in a statement: “When you were around Yogi, he had a way of bringing out the best in you. He made you feel good inside. That was his gift to so many of us, and why people always tended to gravitate to him. I don’t care what team you play for or what team you root for, if you love baseball, then you love Yogi Berra.
“My prayers go out to Yogi’s family, and to the countless people he touched over the years,” said Posada.
Berra’s teammate Bobby Richardson said in a statement, “Yogi Berra was my wonderful, long-time friend. Not only a teammate a lot of my career, but my manager in 1964.
“What can I say about Yogi? He was a friend and a wonderful clutch hitter. He had so many accolades in the world of baseball that it is almost impossible to realize how many. He was a World War II veteran and a great friend. It’s a deep loss,” said Richardson.
Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was influenced by Berra while he was a coach with the Houston Astros in the 1980s.
Biggio said of Berra, “I learned so much from that man. I can look back and see that a lot of what I tried to become can be traced to the lessons I learned from Yogi.
“But more than any of that was just the man he was. He was such a good man, such a kind man. He was one of those people you wanted to please, but you also knew you could learn so much from him.”