Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra was born on May 12, 1925 in St. Louis, Mo. and grew up on Elizabeth Street in a neighborhood called "The Hill".
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Yogi got his "nickname" from Bobby Hofman, a childhood friend. While watching a movie about an Indian snake charmer, Bobby noted that Yogi had a striking resemblance to the hindu man, saying "That yogi walks like Lawdie ( Larry) Berra," and the name stuck. Joe Garagiola tells a funny story about Yogi giving Carmen an anniversary card signed 'Yogi Berra.' She asked him if he thought he had to sign his last name so she wouldn't think it came from some other Yogi."
In 1942 Yogi was playing minor League ball and was approached by the then Cardinals General Manager, Branch Rickey. Rickey had just signed Garagiola for $500, but Rickey offered Yogi $250 and Yogi turned him down. It was reported that Rickey said of Yogi, "He'll never make anything more than a Triple A ballplayer at best." Yankees scout Leo Browne disagreed and convinced the Yankees that Yogi was worth the $500, so the Yankees signed him.
Yogi was assigned to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League. During a double header, Yogi had perhaps his most productive game ever. He is credited with driving in 23 runs that day.
When Yogi turned 18 he joined the Navy. He is pictured here with his father and brother John in St. Louis in 1944.
World War II was in full swing and Yogi played his part. He participated in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, served in North Africa and Italy, and then was finally stationed back in the States. The Photo on the right is of Yogi and two GI's taken somewhere in Italy 1945.
After the war, Yogi returned to baseball and played with the New London, CT club. It was there that Mel Ott, the Giants Manager saw him play and attempted to offer the Yankees $50,000 for Yogi's contract. Yankee GM Larry MacPhail had no idea who Yogi was, but figured that if Mel Ott wanted him that badly, he had to be worth keeping. In 1946 Yogi was apprenticed to the Newark Bears of the International League before beginning his career with the Yankees in late 1946. He joined the team as a platoon catcher with Aaron Robinson, Charlie Silvera and Gus Niarhos.
Yogi was known as a wild swinger, perhaps equal to Hall of Famer Joe Medwick, and he was very difficult to get out. Paul Richards said of Yogi." He is the toughest man in baseball in the last three innings." In spite of his 'wild' swing, Yogi didn't strike out often. In 1950, he fanned only 12 times in 597 at bats.
Yogi was also a talker behind the plate. He used to talk to the opposing batters in order to distract them. Hank Aaron tells the story about the 1958 World Series, with Yogi behind the plate. Yogi kept telling Aaron to 'hit with the label up on the bat'. Finally Aaron turned and said "Yogi, I came up here to hit, not to read."
Yogi went on to become a Fifteen-time All Star, winning the AL MVP three times, in 1951, 54 and 55. He played in 14 World Series and holds numerous World Series records including most games by a catcher (63), hits (71), and times on a winning team (10), first in at bats, first in doubles, second in RBI's, third in home runs and BOB's. Yogi also hit the first pinch hit home run in World Series history in 1947.
One of Yogi's most memorable moments came in 1959 at "Yogi Berra Day" at Yankee Stadium. Here Yogi is pictured with the gifts given to him by his team and friends, displayed right on the field. Just a great shot!
The photo on the right is the famous shot of Yogi and Joe DiMaggio taken that day.
Yogi was named the Yankees Manager in 1964 and went on to win the AL pennant, but was fired after losing to the Cardinals in a seven-game series. Yogi then signed with the NY Mets as a player-coach in a public relations coup that can only happen in New York. Yogi was reunited with his long time friend and mentor Casey Stengel, the current Mets manager. Following Gil Hodges's death in 1971, Yogi was named as the Mets manager in 1972. In 1973, Yogi brought the "You Gotta Believe" Mets from last place in the final month of the season to win the National League pennant.
Yogi was dismissed from the Mets in 1975 and returned to the Yankees as a coach the following year. In 1984, George Steinbrenner hired Yogi to manage the Yankees; they finished third that year. After 22 games of the 1985 season Yogi was replaced as manager. In 1986 Yogi signed on as a coach with the Houston Astros, and remained with them until his retirement in 1992. Yogi is one of only a few managers to have won pennants in both the American and National Leagues.
Yogi was elected the the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
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