Yogi

Now it’s over.
Yogi Berra died yesterday.
When he turned turned 90 last spring, I wrote most of what follows. Seems appropriate to share it once again.
I was never much of a Yankees fan but always a Yogi fan. Who isn’t?
After all, Pittston is a town with an actual fork-in-the-road. Do you know how often I’ve repeated the Yogism, “When you come to the fork-in-the-road, take it?”
I met Yogi twice.
The first time was in New Orleans on the day after Super Bowl VI in January of 1972.
I was 22 years old and my Uncle Eddie (Strubeck) treated me to a trip to the game with the Hughestown Sports Club. It was played at Tulane Stadium. No Super Dome back then. That was the game when the Dallas Cowboys won their first Super Bowl beating the Miami Dolphins. Game tickets, if I recall accurately, were $15.
It was surprisingly cold in New Orleans and I distinctly remember shivering in my camel hair sport coat, the warmest thing I had with me, as I went out for a stroll by myself on Bourbon Street early one morning. The street was nearly deserted and I considered hightailing it back to the comfort of the hotel when I spotted Yogi Berra walking right toward me. We chatted for a few minutes and I snapped a photo. He was warm and friendly, but what I remember most was his size. He seemed even shorter than the 5’7 he was purported to be.
The second time was in Cooperstown, New York, about 15 years ago.
My friend Mike Caputo and I often drove up to Cooperstown on Hall of Fame weekend to meet the old players who traditionally lined Main Street on Saturday greeting fans and signing autographs. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were seated at adjacent folding tables outside one of the memorabilia shops.
Mike got Yogi’s autograph and I took the picture of them, but the best was yet to come.
Right after Mike said goodbye, he took a step back toward Yogi and said, “And, Yogi, one more thing. He was out.”
“I know he was!” Yogi barked, not missing a beat.
It was just the reaction Mike had hoped to get.
He was referring, of course, to the famous Jackie Robinson steal of home in the opening game of the 1955 World Series. Robinson was called safe and Yogi went ballistic.
The Yanks wound up winning that game, by the way, but the Dodgers won the series.
But the only thing that seemed to matter as time went on was that controversial play at the plate. At least it’s the only thing that mattered to Yogi, as Mike’s little exchange bore out.
It was not until Yogi’s death that I learned he had participated in the Normandy Invasion. It was something he rarely mentioned, the Sportscaster said. Just one more reason to admire him.

Ed Ackerman