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Yogi Berra: 1925-2015

Press, family celebrate Yogi at museum memorial

MLB.com

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- I was drafted, for lack of a better term.

Dave Kaplan, the program director at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, approached me on Sunday afternoon and asked if I would participate in a Q&A about Yogi with two long-time colleagues, Phil Pepe and Bob Klapisch, at the museum. My response was immediate and succinct: "Of course." Anyone who ever had covered Mr. Berra for more than an inning would jump at the opportunity to share thoughts about the man.

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- I was drafted, for lack of a better term.

Dave Kaplan, the program director at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, approached me on Sunday afternoon and asked if I would participate in a Q&A about Yogi with two long-time colleagues, Phil Pepe and Bob Klapisch, at the museum. My response was immediate and succinct: "Of course." Anyone who ever had covered Mr. Berra for more than an inning would jump at the opportunity to share thoughts about the man.

Telling tales about him is the most effective and efficient way to do what Yogi always did best -- make folks smile.

So, of course, I accepted the invitation, as Phil and Klap had. The three of us and former Yankees, Rangers, Mariners and Brewers pitcher Paul Mirabella, a New Jersey native and resident, passed around a microphone for a while, sharing anecdotes, perspective and our own cackles. And the folks who had gathered in the grandstand room at the museum did their part. They laughed, smiled, chuckled, smirked and generally enjoyed the hell out of another day of celebration.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

Truth be told, one older woman, Mary Ann De Aquino from nearby Roseland, N.J., sobbed. Tears of joy, the joy routinely prompted by yarns about Yogi. She's primarily a Willie Mays devotee, her daughter, Trish Perrotta, said. But on this Sunday, 12 days after the death of baseball's greatest grandfather, everyone reveled in No. 8.

The Q&A was part of the memorial salute to Yogi at the museum on Sunday afternoon. Folks, mostly middle-aged -- though a dozen who were bona fide graybeards attended -- came together to celebrate baseball and the man whose name appeared near the entrance. "Casey at the Bat" was recited. An a capella group, Passing Notes, from the high school attended by the three Berra boys, performed nicely. (I wanted to tell them Yogi once confused a capella with Acapulco. He wasn't the first to make that mistake). Former Jet Bruce Harper was there, and a few older gentlemen provided brief, impromptu tours of the place, pointing out poignant pictures and regaling their small audiences with other yarns of Yogi.

In the latter moments of the Q&A, a young girl asked a terrific question, "If Yogi Berra were here today, what would you say to him?"

The mike was in my hand at that moment. My response was: "Thank you."

The man certainly deserved my gratitude. It was Yogi and Mickey and Whitey and Ellie and Casey -- Mickey more than the others -- who had filled my childhood with wonder and who, unwittingly had shaped my adult life and my career. If Yogi hadn't hit one off Harry Byrd on May 20, 1955, in my first game at the old Yankee Stadium, maybe I wouldn't have caught the baseball bug. If Whitey hadn't been blond, I probably wouldn't have tried to throw left-handed. And if Mickey hadn't been ... well, if Mickey hadn't been Mickey, then there wouldn't have been the seven dailies -- all second-hand acquisitions -- that my father brought home six nights a week, and I might have ignored baseball as a pre-teen and not ventured into the business that has afforded me seats at thousands of baseball games and one with Phil, Klap and Paul.

So, thanks, Yogi. And thanks, too, for your tolerance. Some of the questions I asked in '72, months after your took Gil Hodges' place in the Mets' dugout and weeks into my first steady baseball gig, probably weren't as on-point as they could have been. And, yes, I did snicker when you said to Joe Valerio of the New York Post, "Joe, you tell the stupidest questions." And I did laugh out loud when Valerio's retort was, "Yeah, Yogi, and you ask the stupidest answers."

I don't recall being involved in so harsh an exchange with Yogi because I always held him in the highest regard and recognized his knowledge of the game exceeded mine by a lightyear or two. He, Mick, Whitey and Ellie all served as Yankees coaches in my time. I always extended them the benefit of the doubt for the same reason. Otherwise, they'd be grilling us.

It seemed right, at the time, to defer. They weren't playing anymore. Only Yogi managed during my years in the press box. It still seems right. I found out quickly and uncomfortably in 1970 that the ability to recite Mickey's Triple Crown stats didn't mean I knew the game. They answered my questions. And I always marveled at the insights they provided when the damn microphones weren't making them self-conscious.

* * * *

My "thank you" response was quite appropriate, I thought, because Yogi, as much as anyone in uniform, made my job pleasant. I covered him when he managed the Mets and later when he managed the Yankees. It was a joy, and it would have been had I been raised in Kansas City and not the Bronx. Unlike some of his managing contemporaries, he trusted folks from the outset. Getting to know him required less than a homestand.

His comments sometimes made the job fun. But so did the words of Danny Ozark, Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson.

The first Yogi-ism experience I recall was in June 1975. Yogi's Mets had been shut out in three straight games. Understand that when players speak of batting practice, they refer to it as "hitting." If a player was unaware of the time scheduled for BP, he would say, "What time do we hit?"

On this night, reporters gathered in Yogi's office at Shea Stadium after the third shutout and before he entered. As he walked toward his desk, he let us know he had called off batting practice for the following day. But he said it this way: "'We ain't gonna hit tomorrow."

We knew what he meant, but one of us said, "Tell us something we don't know." He smiled.

* * * *

The anecdotes that Yogi's boys (Larry, Tim and Dale) and his grandchildren (Lindsay and Larry) shared on Sunday at the museum were terrific. They provided more insight into the man. And we're still sculpting our images of Mr. Berra.

I particularly enjoyed the one about the banana. (Seems that someone in the Berra household had eaten a banana that Yogi had thought was designated as his. From that point on, some pieces of fruit came to carry Yogi's treasured autograph).

Now, reporters do not -- nor should they -- ask players for autographs. But I have Yogi's, from a time when he was catching for the Yankees and I was rooting for them. Alas, it appears on pages of lined loose-leaf paper. Asking that he sign a banana never occurred to me. So my Yogi autograph lacks distinction. It has only sentimental value. And that is quite enough.

Thanks, Yog.

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.

Yogi Berra

Fans get chance to say farewell to Yogi today

MLB.com

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- A final farewell to Yogi Berra and another celebration of his remarkable life will come Sunday at the museum that bears his name on the campus of Montclair State University.

Beginning Sunday at noon ET, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center will open its doors for five hours, affording the public an opportunity to immerse itself in the legend, legacy and likability of the baseball icon who died Sept. 22 and whose death prompted an outpouring of affection comparable to that of any sports figure and to all but a few American luminaries.

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- A final farewell to Yogi Berra and another celebration of his remarkable life will come Sunday at the museum that bears his name on the campus of Montclair State University.

Beginning Sunday at noon ET, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center will open its doors for five hours, affording the public an opportunity to immerse itself in the legend, legacy and likability of the baseball icon who died Sept. 22 and whose death prompted an outpouring of affection comparable to that of any sports figure and to all but a few American luminaries.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

Lawrence Peter Berra, the beloved Hall of Famer, unwitting philosopher and master of misstatement, was expertly eulogized by Joe Torre on Tuesday at a mass in Montclair, N.J., where he and Carmen, his wife of 65 years, had lived for decades until her death in 2014. His cremated remains were buried that day at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover, N.J.

The memorial tribute is for the multitude of folks who weren't invited to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which couldn't have handled the masses wanting to salute, celebrate and, yes, mourn the unique nonagenarian whose mere mention would prompt smirks, smiles, chuckles and anecdotes of the seemingly preposterous. Those with little appreciation of the game Yogi mastered, managed and made memorable readily recognized his countless contributions to American culture.

It is for them to express in person their gratitude to baseball's great, great grandpa. Members of the immediate and extended Berra families are to be involved. A reading of "Casey at the Bat" is scheduled. Bands will perform.

"We expect a real celebration," museum director of programs Dave Kaplan said Friday.

Weather permitting, the program is to be staged inside and outside -- mostly inside -- the museum that filled Yogi with pride upon its opening in December 1998.

Until his health prevented him, Berra was a regular presence at the museum that includes, among its exhibits, memorabilia from his playing, coaching and managing years, photographs of Berra's baseball and actual families and, of course, some of the malapropisms that reinforced his image long after he left the game. Video: Berra's sons, granddaughter share memories of Yogi

Those remarks -- some he actually spoke and others that he was purported to have said -- and occasional commercial endorsements kept Berra current. Younger folks who never witnessed his on-field grandeur or watched the teams he managed nonetheless became aware of him.

And stories about Berra, widely shared and endlessly repeated in the past 12 days, underscored his undisputed niceness.

"He outnices everyone," Torre said in May at Yogi's 90th birthday. "He never tells anyone how to act, he just acts the way he is and he's such a great influence."

Video: Family and friends gather for Yogi Berra's funeral

Included in Torre's touching eulogy were these words: "We celebrate his uncanny ability to make people smile, even those who really don't care for baseball. We also celebrate that he and Carmen are together again. And Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Yogi Berra personified the American dream."

So, yes, Sunday is the day to acknowledge all that Yogi was and salute Seaman Second Class Lawrence Berra. The program at the museum begins at noon and runs until -- well, as Yogi is quoted as having said, "We're open 'til we close."

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

Torre shares memories at Yogi's funeral

Many former players, coaches gather to honor Yankees Hall of Famer
MLB.com

Montclair, N.J. -- Yogi Berra was without even the slightest pretense. An anecdote Joe Torre shared during his splendid eulogy Tuesday morning said as much. Torre noted that while he was managing the Yankees, Berra made every Spring Training trip, even the seemingly endless trip from Tampa to Fort Myers, Fla.

"We'd drive and follow the [team] bus," Torre said. The passengers included Berra, the late Don Zimmer, Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry. "At that time, Yogi was the same age I am now [75]. I can tell you, you don't pass up bathrooms very often. Well, we had to stop, and Yogi was out of the car quick. He just walks into a 7-11 and asks, 'Where's the men's room?' He's in his uniform, No. 8, walking into a 7-11.

Montclair, N.J. -- Yogi Berra was without even the slightest pretense. An anecdote Joe Torre shared during his splendid eulogy Tuesday morning said as much. Torre noted that while he was managing the Yankees, Berra made every Spring Training trip, even the seemingly endless trip from Tampa to Fort Myers, Fla.

"We'd drive and follow the [team] bus," Torre said. The passengers included Berra, the late Don Zimmer, Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry. "At that time, Yogi was the same age I am now [75]. I can tell you, you don't pass up bathrooms very often. Well, we had to stop, and Yogi was out of the car quick. He just walks into a 7-11 and asks, 'Where's the men's room?' He's in his uniform, No. 8, walking into a 7-11.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

"Absolutely priceless."

* * * *

Torre says he can't recall the specifics of his first meeting with Berra. "I don't think we were formally introduced. I was a first baseman [with the Cardinals] and he was the Mets' first-base coach. By the second inning, I thought we were good friends."

* * * *

Dale Berra, the youngest of Yogi's three sons, spoke first and briefly at the church and made a point of mentioning Joe Garagiola, the former NBC-TV baseball announcer and big league catcher who had grown up with Berra on Elizabeth Street in St. Louis. "Friends for 85 years," the son said. Late Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck also lived on Elizabeth, subsequently renamed Hall of Fame Place.

Garagiola, 89, was unable to travel and didn't attend the mass for Berra.

Dale also said his dad had known for two weeks before his death that he was "in the on-deck circle of life."

* * * *

Torre also noted Berra's Midas Touch and recalled how he had debated with himself "what thing to take West" as he packed for the Yankees' trip to Oakland after they had lost the first two games of the best-of-five American League Division Series in 2001. He had a variety of caps from the days that followed the 9/11 attacks, from the New York City Police and Fire Departments and so many other services.

The one he chose was one from Yogi's museum, with these words: "It ain't over till it's over." The Yankees won the next three games.

Video: Fans talk about what Yogi Berra meant to them

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

Jeter pens appreciation of 'magician' Yogi

MLB.com

Derek Jeter paid tribute to fellow Yankees legend Yogi Berra on Tuesday in a piece published on The Players' Tribune.

Berra passed away on Sept. 22, the 69th anniversary of his Yankees debut, and a funeral service was held Tuesday. He was 90.

Derek Jeter paid tribute to fellow Yankees legend Yogi Berra on Tuesday in a piece published on The Players' Tribune.

Berra passed away on Sept. 22, the 69th anniversary of his Yankees debut, and a funeral service was held Tuesday. He was 90.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

Jeter recalled going through a slump as a young player, and he wrote that Berra came to his locker with a simple solution that lit up the room: "Swing at strikes."

"Yogi was a magician when it came to making people feel comfortable," Jeter wrote. "He made everyone he interacted with feel at ease. Yogi always wanted to know how I was doing, whether I was playing well on the field or not. He was so easy to be around that you could actually forget you were talking to a baseball legend."

Jeter's five World Series championships spanning his 20-year career are an impressive feat, but not nearly as impressive as Berra's 10 titles in 19 years. One time Jeter pointed out that Berra's 10 championships only counted as five, because the playoffs were shorter in his days as the American League and National League champions each went straight to the World Series.

Berra, who was lying on the training table, responded: "If you're having trouble with math, you can come over to my house and count the rings yourself."

"Yogi's baseball numbers speak for themselves," Jeter concluded. "He was a great Yankee, a great man and a great husband to Carmen, whom he praised every chance he got. To me, he was a great friend.

"My locker may be gone now, but I can still see Yogi next to me, smiling and ready to light up the room with a response."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

At home, Yogi was normal; on field, anything but

MLB.com

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- It was the first day of Spring Training, 1985. Yogi was beginning the second year of his second run as Yankees manager. He was armed with an exceptional roster: Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Willie Randolph, Ken Griffey Sr., Ron Guidry, Phil Niekro and Dave Righetti. And, more importantly, he had a promise in his back pocket. George Steinbrenner had vowed -- publicly and to Yogi's face -- that No. 8 had all season to prove himself worthy.

The players had been called together for a lay-of-the-land discussion in the clubhouse. And, after the manager had addressed his guys and reviewed the few rules he had, a new player wanted to make certain of some Yankees protocol. So he raised his hand and spoke up: "Ah ... Skip," he said, using the generic word for a baseball manager.

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- It was the first day of Spring Training, 1985. Yogi was beginning the second year of his second run as Yankees manager. He was armed with an exceptional roster: Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Willie Randolph, Ken Griffey Sr., Ron Guidry, Phil Niekro and Dave Righetti. And, more importantly, he had a promise in his back pocket. George Steinbrenner had vowed -- publicly and to Yogi's face -- that No. 8 had all season to prove himself worthy.

The players had been called together for a lay-of-the-land discussion in the clubhouse. And, after the manager had addressed his guys and reviewed the few rules he had, a new player wanted to make certain of some Yankees protocol. So he raised his hand and spoke up: "Ah ... Skip," he said, using the generic word for a baseball manager.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

Before the new man could form a question. Guidry interrupted. "He's your dad," he said to the new man. "He's not Skip for you. It's 'Dad.' Call him 'Dad.'"

Dale Berra, Yogi's youngest son, accepted Guidry's order and, for the rest of Yogi's time in the Yankees' dugout, he referred to his manager as "Dad." Problem was, the remainder of Yogi's second Yankees tenure didn't make it to May Day. Three years after breaking his Lemon pledge -- Bob Lemon was dismissed as Yankees manager after 14 games in 1982 -- Steinbrenner discarded Yogi after all of 16 games. Evidently, the Boss had become two games more patient in the interim.

Steinbrenner famously -- or infamously -- had his lieutenant Clyde King give Yogi the verbal pink slip that Sunday afternoon at Comiskey Park, initiating an extended estrangement that tore at the fabric of Yankees tradition. The Yankees remained in the Bronx. And, for all practical purposes, Yogi, as prominent as any figure in the club's pantheon, stayed in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife, Carmen.

Even when he ventured over the George Washington Bridge to visit Shea Stadium to watch his Astros play the Mets, his car didn't even slow down as he passed his former workplace.

The divorce lasted 14 years. And during that time, the Yankees tried to lure Yogi back. He resisted. "That was the amazing part," Dale said on Thursday morning. "Dad loved Yankee Stadium. That was his place, his baseball home. But he wasn't going back until he got an apology from George. And he didn't want an apology because he'd been fired. He accepted that. Managers get hired and fired. What [bothered] him was that George had someone else do it."

The Yankees, Dale said, occasionally tried to circumvent the old man. They inquired whether any one of the sons or Carmen would visit Yankee Stadium. Yogi told his family members they were free to attend. But "not in my name." That was a powerful restriction.

And years later, when Lindsay, the daughter of Yogi and Carmen's son Larry, was invited to accompany a girlfriend to a Yankees game, she sought Grandpa's approval. "You can go," Yogi told her. "You don't have a beef with George."

* * * *

Those anecdotes and dozens more came to light on Thursday when Lindsay, her father and her two uncles spent some 90 minutes with members of the media here at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University. The event was, in no way, a news conference; it was a celebration of the remarkable athlete and charming gentleman who had died at age 90 late Tuesday night.

Larry, the eldest son -- who most resembles Yogi in appearance, body language and voice -- said that family members had been with Yogi at the nursing home he and Carmen had moved into a few years earlier until about 5 p.m. that day. Yogi's breathing had become erratic and labored. Larry received a call at about 10, alerting him. His father had taken a turn for the worse. "I got there in time," he said. "I took his hand. He took four more breaths..."

And then the world lost one of its special citizens. As Lindsay and the boys spoke, they nearly exhausted an ample supply of adjectives -- secure, confident, generous, sincere, fair, unassuming, respectful, color-blind, pleasant, accomplished, humble, iconic, great, sensitive, nice, funny, friendly and, the word Dale used repeatedly, normal.

Lindsay said, "The scope of reach was astonishing."

"He was humble, yet confident, all at the same time," Dale said. "What you saw is what you got. He talked to everyone. That's just the way he was. He was a wonderful guy."

Each of the four acknowledged the informal get-together had been therapeutic for all. How could 90 minutes spent praising a great and beloved man be anything else? They were neither surprised nor terribly distressed two days after his passing. Lindsay had cried on Wednesday, and she cracked once as she regaled her audience. But she also found a positive. Tuesday had been Carmen's birthday. "Grandpa got there in time to celebrate with her," she said.

* * * *

Yogi's dismissal in 1985, and its immediate aftermath, made lasting impressions with Dale. Yogi's son recalled walking into the tiny office that visiting managers used in Comiskey. He had witnessed Baylor's attack on a trash can and Guidry's overturn of the table that carried the postgame meal. Players were upset not only by Steinbrenner's impulsive move, but also by the pending return of coarse Billy Martin.

Dale's intent was to commiserate with his dad. "Don't worry about me," Yogi said. "I'll be playing golf tomorrow."

The lessons Yogi inadvertently taught that afternoon continued. The team was to move on to Texas. They were to fly out of O'Hare Airport. Yogi had a flight from O'Hare to Newark. "Instead of taking a cab and going off on his own, Dad wanted to take the team bus," Dale said. "He sat in the manager's seat for the last time. The bus drove him to the terminal at the airport, and as he got off, the players all applauded. Then, he stood there on the sidewalk, holding his bag at the terminal and waved to us."

It's called grace. The image is as powerful as Yogi's lefthanded swing.

"He was such a normal, regular guy to the people he met," Dale said. "I think because he grew up with immigrant parents during the Depression, and he had to go to work when he was in eighth grade. He never went to high school. I think that made him humble."

"I think it makes him unique," Larry said. "He never wanted to make anyone upset with him. If someone wanted to take a picture with him or get an autograph, that was fine."

Tim, Yogi's middle son, who briefly played in the NFL, said, "People felt comfortable with dad, they laughed with him. Dad had a great way of relating to everyone. Sure, he was this iconic, great baseball player, but to me, he was Dad. He was a buddy of mine. I wanted to be like him, a sensitive guy with an air of confidence and friendliness."

The sons talked, Lindsay talked. And with each word, the image of Lawrence Peter Berra was enhanced. The story of Bill Mazeroski's 1960 World Series home run -- a Game 7 walkoff -- was told. The baseball sailed over the head of Yankees left fielder Yogi Berra and the wall. "Dad told me," Dale said, "he was okay with it. He'd won a lot by then. It didn't bother him that much."

Clearly, "normal" didn't fit Yogi in every instance.

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.

Yogi Berra

Yanks remember Berra in pregame ceremony

Girardi, catchers place floral No. 8 at home plate during moment of silence
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Yankees honored Yogi Berra with a remembrance ceremony on Thursday prior to the team's 3-2 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium, placing a floral arrangement in the shape of the catcher's No. 8 behind home plate.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi along with catchers Brian McCann, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez brought the flowers from the dugout to home plate during a moment of silent prayer. The three-time Most Valuable Player and Hall of Famer passed away on Tuesday at age 90.

View Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- The Yankees honored Yogi Berra with a remembrance ceremony on Thursday prior to the team's 3-2 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium, placing a floral arrangement in the shape of the catcher's No. 8 behind home plate.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi along with catchers Brian McCann, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez brought the flowers from the dugout to home plate during a moment of silent prayer. The three-time Most Valuable Player and Hall of Famer passed away on Tuesday at age 90.

View Full Game Coverage

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

"It's been a tough couple of days for us," Girardi said. "Yogi meant so much to the organization, to the city, to all of us. For me, personally, I miss him. I had a chance to talk to him on Saturday before the game, and you never think that's going to be the last time you're going to talk to someone.

"I miss him. I miss having him around here. The laughs that we had. The knowledge that he gave me. How he always made you feel comfortable. It's just not going to be the same."

All flags flew at half staff at Yankee Stadium. Outside Gate 4, directly behind home plate, wreaths and flowers were laid over the interlocking "NY" Yankees logo, with fans leaving candles and remembrances in honor of the 10-time World Series champion.

Following a tribute video, the Color Guard from the Navy Operational Support Center New York City presented the United States Flag, with the playing of "Taps" by U.S. Navy Musician First Class Vince Beard.

The national anthem was performed by U.S. Navy Musician Second Class Laura Carey. Berra volunteered to join the Navy during World War II and was present for the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

For Leyland, Yogi went from idol to close friend

MLB.com

DETROIT -- Jim Leyland can let out a good cry, as some of his postseason celebrations showed. But sometimes in the moments of greatest sorrow, he doesn't want to. When it comes to remembering the late Yogi Berra, who passed away at age 90, Leyland would rather celebrate a life.

"It's a tough loss," Leyland said, "but I think about the great times that I had with Yogi and the most unbelievable thing -- that I got to know him. He was my childhood hero, and not only did I get to know him, but we became pretty good friends.

DETROIT -- Jim Leyland can let out a good cry, as some of his postseason celebrations showed. But sometimes in the moments of greatest sorrow, he doesn't want to. When it comes to remembering the late Yogi Berra, who passed away at age 90, Leyland would rather celebrate a life.

"It's a tough loss," Leyland said, "but I think about the great times that I had with Yogi and the most unbelievable thing -- that I got to know him. He was my childhood hero, and not only did I get to know him, but we became pretty good friends.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

"I thought that was a helluva thing that worked out. When I was a kid and bought my first Yogi Berra catching mitt, I never imagined we'd be friends."

It was an unlikely friendship: a Hall of Fame catcher who will go down as one of the greatest Yankees of all time and a manager from Ohio who never played in the big leagues. But once they met during Leyland's coaching days, they not only stayed in touch for 30 years, they made a point to visit each other.

Early in Leyland's career, they'd talk about managing, Berra recalling his days in charge of the Mets and Yankees, Leyland getting a grasp of managing in the Majors. But they'd also talk about life, trade jokes and stories and share laughs.

"He gave me a lot of advice over the years," Leyland said. "He didn't come out and say, 'You've gotta do this, you've gotta do that.' He talked about handling players, the way baseball's gonna change. He talked about his experiences, the way he did things. And then you put it in your own personality. It was a treat."

Leyland heard the Yogisms, sure, and he laughed. But he also heard his hero talking about what made him great, an All-Star every year from 1948-62, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, a 14-time World Series participant and 10-time champion. And Leyland took it to heart.

"He really in some ways gave hope to all little guys," Leyland said. "He wasn't a very big guy. I loved him because I used to ask him questions like, 'Why you were such a great hitter? What was your philosophy?' And he said, 'I looked for the ball, and if I thought I could hit it, I'd swing at it.' I just appreciated his straightforward approach to the game, nothing too tricky. …

Video: The MLB Tonight crew discusses Yogi Berra's legacy

"I think people have that image of him being a character and the Yogisms and everything, and that's part of it. But there's so much more than that. I knew there was so much more there than that. There was a great substance to Yogi, a bright mind talking about baseball, experiences and such."

And through it all, they bonded.

"When I got to know him, he treated me like I'd been a big leaguer all my life, like you'd treat a teammate, and I couldn't get over that," Leyland said. "He was a left-handed-hitting Hall of Fame catcher, and I was a right-handed-hitting, can't-hit-nothing catcher. I met a lot of great people in baseball, and Yogi was right up there."

Video: CWS@DET: Kaline visits the booth, remembers Yogi

Every time Detroit headed to New York during Leyland's tenure, the Tigers manager would have a visitor in his office, usually before the first game of the series. That was Yogi. Later, he invited Leyland to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in New Jersey for dinner. Leyland went back a couple of years ago to join Tony La Russa, Joe Girardi and others for a managerial roundtable.

But if there's one favorite memory of Yogi that sticks with Leyland, it's from October. It wasn't Yogi's postseason, but Leyland's. When the Tigers had to go back to Yankee Stadium for a winner-take-all Game 5 in the 2011 AL Division Series, having lost a potential clinching Game 4 in Detroit, Yogi was there to see it, just like another series.

"'May the best team win, kid,'" Leyland remembers him saying. "He congratulated me after that, too. I'll never forget it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Detroit Tigers, Yogi Berra

Jackie safe at home? Not according to Yogi

MLB.com

One thing the baseball community can agree on: Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra were two of the best to ever play the game. One thing the two greats disagree on: the outcome of a play that occurred when Robinson and Berra met in a pivotal World Series moment in 1955.

Berra was in his 10th season (wrapping up his second consecutive American League MVP Award-winning campaign) and Robinson in his ninth when Berra's New York Yankees and Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers met yet again in the World Series.

One thing the baseball community can agree on: Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra were two of the best to ever play the game. One thing the two greats disagree on: the outcome of a play that occurred when Robinson and Berra met in a pivotal World Series moment in 1955.

Berra was in his 10th season (wrapping up his second consecutive American League MVP Award-winning campaign) and Robinson in his ninth when Berra's New York Yankees and Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers met yet again in the World Series.

Video: 1955 WS, Gm. 1: Robinson steals home

In the top of the eighth inning of Game 1, with the Yankees leading by two runs with two outs and a 1-0 count on pinch-hitter Frank Kellert, Robinson broke for home against Yanks left-hander Whitey Ford.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

That much comes without debate. What happened next prompts disagreement, particularly on Berra's part.

Ford went through with his over-the-head windup delivery and made a precise throw home to Berra, who was ready to lay the tag on Robinson, who slid in feet first. Robinson was quickly called safe by home-plate umpire Bill Summers, and Berra was incensed.

Berra never quite let it go (though the Yankees won that game, 6-5, the Dodgers won the World Series in seven games). In fact, according to Politico, once after President Barack Obama mentioned Robinson's famous steal of home in 2010, Berra sent the president a signed photo of the play.

Ben Walker of The Associated Press writes that every time Berra would walk past a photo of the play at his museum in Montclair, N.J., he would mutter, "You're out." And according to NBC Sports' Joe Posnanski, Berra and Robinson's wife, Rachel, continued to greet each other warmly the same way when they would see each other for the next 60 years.

"Safe," Rachel would say. "Out," Berra would say.

The two teams had met in the World Series four times in the previous eight seasons before that 1955 Classic, and the Yanks had won each time. Brooklyn went on to take the '55 crown, and it proved to be its only title before departing for Los Angeles after the '57 season. It's hard to say if Robinson's steal of home sparked something in the Brooklyn club. And even harder to say what would have happened if the call went Berra's way.

Tweet from @MLB: Welcome to Cloud 8. Now, one of baseball's great debates gets closure. pic.twitter.com/zkWAfcEAKK

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson

Hurdle lauds Yogi's legacy

Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- Early in his career, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle crossed paths a few times with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. He was a coach then, his illustrious playing career behind him.

After hearing the news Tuesday night that Berra, 90, had died, Hurdle wanted to read about Berra's life and career and went on MLB.com, searching for his obituary.

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DENVER -- Early in his career, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle crossed paths a few times with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. He was a coach then, his illustrious playing career behind him.

After hearing the news Tuesday night that Berra, 90, had died, Hurdle wanted to read about Berra's life and career and went on MLB.com, searching for his obituary.

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Complete coverage: Yogi Berra"I think I read Marty Noble's article on him twice," Hurdle said, "because I do think over time there's probably a large percentage [of people] that have lost their grip on what a legendary player this guy was."

Since Berra played in his final game in 1965, Hurdle said many people remember Berra for his "Yogi-said stuff," adding that was far from the essence of Berra.

"This man was a great ballplayer," said Hurdle, citing Berra's height, he was 5-foot-7, his 358 home runs and his 10 World Series rings.

"Incredible," Hurdle said. "And he continued to touch people. He managed. He coached. He still stayed in the game and still stayed involved and engaged. When you talked to him, it was always like he knew you, had seen you before and always had a minute for you.

"That's an iconic loss. That's a sad day for the game. He was a great guy to have in the game, and I'm sure he'll be missed by many, many people."

Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Yogi Berra

Swisher shared special bond with Yogi

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Braves outfielder Nick Swisher was heartbroken when he received a call early Wednesday morning that informed him that Yogi Berra had passed away. During the four years that he spent playing for the Yankees, Swisher had come to recognize the beloved Hall of Famer as a grandfatherly figure.

"It's sad for me and I know it's sad for his family and everyone else," Swisher said. "But I can't just pick up the phone and call him anymore. That just makes me sad. I know he did so many things for so many different people. Regardless of how good of a player he was, people need to know how good of a man he was."

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NEW YORK -- Braves outfielder Nick Swisher was heartbroken when he received a call early Wednesday morning that informed him that Yogi Berra had passed away. During the four years that he spent playing for the Yankees, Swisher had come to recognize the beloved Hall of Famer as a grandfatherly figure.

"It's sad for me and I know it's sad for his family and everyone else," Swisher said. "But I can't just pick up the phone and call him anymore. That just makes me sad. I know he did so many things for so many different people. Regardless of how good of a player he was, people need to know how good of a man he was."

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Shortly after Swisher joined the Yankees for Spring Training in 2009, he began a daily morning ritual of sharing a cup of coffee with Berra and Ron Guidry at the ballpark. It was within these conversations that Swisher developed an indelible bond with the Hall of Fame catcher.

Once, when Swisher asked Berra why he kept his bat in constant motion before swinging, the legendary figure provided one of his simple, yet sound responses: "Well Nicky, if I stopped it, I couldn't get it going again."

"That man was so amazing to me," Swisher said. "I had just come over to New York after losing my grandfather. After the time we spent together, I said, 'Hey, Yogi, why don't you just be my adopted grandfather?' He was like, 'You know what Nicky, I'd love that.' From then on, I think there was just a crazy bond with him that I had. I'm pretty sad today."

Swisher feels fortunate that he remained in contact with Berra over the past few years and even visited him at his New Jersey home this past winter.

"I'm from this little town in West Virginia and just a nobody," Swisher said. "Somehow, I ended up being tight with a man like Yogi Berra, a living legend. So I think, just for myself, I tried to soak that up. He could talk to me in a way that would just simplify everything. He was just a very simple man and he loved life. He always had a smile on his face."

Video: ATL@NYM: Braves look back on Yogi Berra's legacy

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Yogi Berra, Nick Swisher

Nearly a Cardinal, Yogi remembered in native St. Louis

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Long before he was a Yankees legend, a Hall of Fame catcher and the source of so many beloved malapropisms, Yogi Berra was a young boy growing up in The Hill, a St. Louis neighborhood that many Italian immigrants once called home.

That neighborhood -- and this surrounding city -- joined the baseball world in mourning the loss of Berra, who died of natural causes late on Tuesday. He was 90.

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ST. LOUIS -- Long before he was a Yankees legend, a Hall of Fame catcher and the source of so many beloved malapropisms, Yogi Berra was a young boy growing up in The Hill, a St. Louis neighborhood that many Italian immigrants once called home.

That neighborhood -- and this surrounding city -- joined the baseball world in mourning the loss of Berra, who died of natural causes late on Tuesday. He was 90.

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Members of the Berra family still own the modest home on Elizabeth Street where Yogi, the youngest of Pietro and Paulina Berra's four sons, grew up. On Wednesday, locals stopped by to pay their respects to the St. Louisan, some of whom left flowers, pictures and notes.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

"Yogi Berra was a great ambassador for both the game of baseball and St. Louis," Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a team statement. "With courage, humility, and of course, a wonderful sense of humor, he was a true American original. While we will miss him, we will always remember him."

As a child, Berra lived across the street from Joe Garagiola, who, like Berra, went on to become a Major League catcher. Garagiola is said to have once quipped of his childhood friend: "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street."

Berra may have stayed in St. Louis, too, had things gone differently at a 1942 workout that then-team president Branch Rickey organized for the St. Louis Cardinals. Garagiola and Berra were invited, as was Red Schoendienst, the son of a coal miner in Germantown, Ill.

Schoendienst recalled throwing batting practice to Berra during that tryout. He added "that everything you threw up there, he hit."

The Cardinals offered Garagiola a contract that day. Schoendienst would later sign with St. Louis, too, and become a Hall of Fame second baseman for the club. Berra did not get an offer, and it has since been suggested that Rickey was planning to sign Berra when he took over as president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Before he could, Berra latched on with the Yankees.

Berra, during an interview with St. Louis Magazine a few years ago, said he would have "loved to play in St. Louis."

Despite never playing together, Schoendienst became lifelong friends with Berra.

"Yogi was just a winner," Schoendienst said. "He could have been a polo player and been a winner. That's the kind of athlete he was. He knew the game real well. I know [Yankees manager] Casey Stengel loved him. I've been with Casey a number of times and he said, 'Boy, that guy from the Hill in St. Louis where you're from, he's some kind of a guy.' They loved him in New York. They loved him here in St. Louis.

Video: CIN@STL: Cards TV talks about Yogi Berra's passing

"Yogi was just one of these players who was fun to be around -- not because he was a ballplayer, just because what he is."

Berra remained a present figure in The Hill throughout much of his life, though his trips to St. Louis waned in recent years. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny recalled how Berra would visit the Cardinals' clubhouse while in town. During one such visit, Matheny, a collector of old catcher's mitts, plucked one from his collection to have Berra sign.

It now hangs on Matheny's wall.

"What a great ambassador for the game and obviously the St. Louis roots he has here," Matheny said. "You hate to see any good people go, and he was obviously one of the great ones in our game. ... What stands out the most is when you start counting up the rings. That's a lot of hardware. And that isn't by mistake. It isn't by coincidence that great players end up being parts of great teams."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yogi Berra

Maddon shares his memories of Yogi

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon remembers the day he met Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, and he remembers all the times he had the chance to speak with him since that day.

Yankees legend Berra passed away on Tuesday night at the age of 90. He was a part of 10 World Series championship teams with the Yankees as a player following his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He also won three titles as a coach -- two with the Yankees and one with the Mets.

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CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon remembers the day he met Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, and he remembers all the times he had the chance to speak with him since that day.

Yankees legend Berra passed away on Tuesday night at the age of 90. He was a part of 10 World Series championship teams with the Yankees as a player following his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He also won three titles as a coach -- two with the Yankees and one with the Mets.

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After he took over as Rays manager, Maddon asked Don Zimmer, the special adviser at the time, "Do you know Yogi?" As Maddon recalls, Zimmer laughed at him.

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

So Zimmer set up a dinner with himself, Berra and Maddon, along with Mike Butcher -- the Rays' pitching coach at the time.

"From that moment on, we hit it off," Maddon said.

And, as Maddon says, that was the start of a friendship that continued for years. Every time the Rays traveled to Yankee Stadium, Yogi was there to chat with Maddon on the couch in the visitors' clubhouse.

"We'd just start talking," he said. "And the incredible thing about it -- you go there the next time, and he remembers everything from the previous conversation. We talked about growing up -- the Italian component, growing up in St. Louis. We talked about his hitting, how he did that and how special that was."

Berra attended Maddon's first banquet in his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., for the Hazleton Integration Project. Along with Zimmer, the duo served as "co-stars" and helped Maddon's project get its start.

"Five [hundred] or 600 people showed up, which we could not have done without Yogi or Zim," Maddon said.

Maddon remembers his last "strong" conversation with Berra before his health made visits difficult. He was invited to Berra's charity golf tournament, and when the event was rained out, the two spent the entire day chatting.

"We've all lost him," Maddon said. "Not many people are recognized by one name only. He was special.

"All the stuff that you read about that he says, he says. He'd throw something out at you and you just feel very fortunate. We're going to miss him."

Video: Bob Costas shares his memories of No. 8 Yogi Berra

On Wednesday, Maddon tweeted out his favorite "Yogi-ism," along with a message: "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours." Our sympathies to the Berra Family. Miss our talks."

Tweet from @CubsJoeMadd: "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours." Our sympathies to the Berra Family. Miss our talks

"He just had incredible insight and common sense," Maddon said.

Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Yogi Berra

Current Yanks recall Yogi's genuine humility

Girardi among those to share stories of Hall of Famer's kindness in clubhouse
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Yogi Berra was riding in the passenger's seat of Joe Girardi's rental car one March morning, muttering to himself as the vehicle crawled toward the Astros' Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla. They were going the wrong way to the game, the Hall of Famer insisted, because there was a shorter route to the ballpark.

Girardi shrugged and promised Berra that he would ask the Astros' visiting clubhouse manager for the best way to avoid traffic lights on the way back. Before Berra buckled his seatbelt nine innings later, he made sure to ask if Girardi had gotten the proper directions toward the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla.

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TORONTO -- Yogi Berra was riding in the passenger's seat of Joe Girardi's rental car one March morning, muttering to himself as the vehicle crawled toward the Astros' Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla. They were going the wrong way to the game, the Hall of Famer insisted, because there was a shorter route to the ballpark.

Girardi shrugged and promised Berra that he would ask the Astros' visiting clubhouse manager for the best way to avoid traffic lights on the way back. Before Berra buckled his seatbelt nine innings later, he made sure to ask if Girardi had gotten the proper directions toward the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla.

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"We proceeded on the drive home, and I knew the directions were the same way we came," Girardi said. "We make all these turns and I said, 'Yogi, it's the same way we came. I didn't take the long way.' And he said, 'I told you my way was faster.' It was just another Yogi-ism, and it really made me laugh."

The Yankees will miss Berra's presence for countless reasons, but it is his general warmth and deep love for the organization that stands out most. Berra could not attend Spring Training this year for health reasons, but he had long been a mainstay in camp, shipping his golf clubs to Girardi's office and enlisting Ron Guidry as his personal chauffeur.

Seeing Berra shuffle around the corner from the manager's office always seemed to be a thrill for the players, who genuinely enjoyed the chance to interact with the legend. Berra did his homework and knew the players on the roster, even telling Girardi each year that he was keeping his eye on a new hot prospect.

"He always called me 'Shorty,'" said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. "It's Yogi Berra. He can call me whatever he wants. It's something I'll always cherish."

Alex Rodriguez said that one of the highlights of any spring was the opportunity to sit down for a meal with Berra, which he guessed that he had the opportunity to do a half-dozen times.

"Every room he'd walk into, the room would light up, and everyone would be a better person for it," Rodriguez said.

Girardi said that Berra had a knack for instantly making everyone in a room feel comfortable, telling stories in a humble way. Though Girardi was always in awe of Berra, he said that Berra never made him feel like he should have been.

Video: Yogi Berra talks about his famous Yogi-isms

"When you were in his presence, I always felt like I was talking to my grandfather," Girardi said. "I just felt comfortable. I always felt he was going to pull something out of his pocket, a piece of licorice, and give it to you. It was a joy to be around him, and that's who Yogi was."

"He was like walking into a family Italian restaurant, and all of a sudden the kitchen and bar opens up to you, and it's, 'Have a seat,'" general manager Brian Cashman said. "He was just very warm, welcoming and kind. He was very special."

Video: NYY@TOR: Yankees remember Yogi Berra at Rogers Centre

Rodriguez described Berra as consistently supportive, while offering moments of wit and humor. He often marveled at Berra's stature, wondering how he had produced such eye-popping statistics during his playing career.

"To see him, and how small he was -- and what a big impact he made," Rodriguez said. "The other thing is, if Yogi was here today, I don't think he would want us all to mourn on this day. He'd want us to play with joy, to celebrate his 90 years and to be happy going about our day celebrating his great life."

Video: Bryan Hoch reflects on the legacy of Yogi Berra

Berra was fiercely proud of the Yankees and their winning tradition, and as the Yankees prepare to wear the No. 8 on their left uniform sleeves, Gardner said that the best way to pay tribute would be to put a victory on the scoreboard.

"Yogi probably played as big of a part in the Yankees organization being what it is today as any other person on the field," Gardner said. "I think that he'll be pulling for us. He always has. He's always kept up with us, so I think he'll pull for us and root for us. I know that if we can not just play well today, but finish strong and accomplish some of our goals that we want to accomplish, I think it will make him proud."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

Yogi's Mets years remembered fondly

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Rummage for a photograph of Yogi Berra in uniform, and the interlocking "NY" on his cap will typically shine white on a dark blue background. Berra, who passed away Tuesday at age 90, has always been and will always be a Yankee.

But Berra also spent a number of colorful years with the Mets, where he won a pennant and ingrained himself into franchise lore. The Mets released the following statement upon Berra's passing:

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NEW YORK -- Rummage for a photograph of Yogi Berra in uniform, and the interlocking "NY" on his cap will typically shine white on a dark blue background. Berra, who passed away Tuesday at age 90, has always been and will always be a Yankee.

But Berra also spent a number of colorful years with the Mets, where he won a pennant and ingrained himself into franchise lore. The Mets released the following statement upon Berra's passing:

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"Yogi Berra was a baseball legend who played a key part in our history. He was kind, compassionate and always found a way to make people laugh. With us he was a player, coach and managed the 1973 'Ya Gotta Believe' team to the National League pennant. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

The Mets held a moment of silence for Berra and played a video tribute before their game against the Braves on Wednesday night.

"One of the great legacies of the game, one of the most tremendous people," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "In my time with Houston I got to know Yogi. He had great relationships with Matt Galante and [Craig] Biggio. He would come in the clubhouse a lot. As I've been reading about today, everything they say is true. Wonderful man. Tremendous player. The game is not as good as it once was today."

"I thought, 'Wow this is Yogi Berra,'" said Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson, who has also played for the Yankees. "With all the championships and the accolades he has, he came up to me and introduced himself to me. He made me know he was approachable and that I could talk to him all the time. He also joked around with you, let you know you need to be loose and relaxed even though you're in the Major Leagues.

"... The number of people I saw commenting on social media today that were not athletes was amazing to me, and speaks to how he was known as a figure."

Video: ATL@NYM: Mets look back on Yogi Berra's legacy

A year after retiring as a player and serving as Yankees manager for the first time in 1964, taking them to the World Series, Berra joined the Mets as a player/coach. The player part did not last long; Berra, who had appeared in 2,116 games for the Yanks, the second most in history at that time, played in just four for the Mets. He hung up his spikes for good just shy of his 40th birthday.

But Berra stayed in Queens as a coach under such legendary managers as Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges, before taking over as manager himself in 1972 -- the same summer he was elected to the Hall of Fame. A year later, Berra guided the Mets to the National League pennant in the aforementioned "Ya Gotta Believe" season, never changing the personality quirks that furthered his legend. Berra finished his Mets managerial career with a 292-296 record over four seasons.

Video: ATL@NYM: Mets' broadcast on players remembering Berra

"They threw away the mold in regards to Yogi," Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, a member of the Mets during all four of Berra's managerial years there, said in a statement. "He was one of a kind. He loved the game. As a manager, he never tried to complicate things. He let his players play. He respected what you did on the field. He was an utter delight to be around."

Other former Mets had similar compliments to offer. Jerry Koosman called Berra "a true gentleman" who was "very reassuring" and "always stayed positive." Rusty Staub, who took part in a 2008 ceremony alongside Berra after the final game at Shea Stadium, described him as someone who "did so much good for so many people in the world."

"Every time I think of Yogi, I have a smile on my face," Staub said in a statement. "That's the effect he had on people."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Yogi Berra

Fellow No. 8 Ripken reflects on Berra's legacy

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Single digits tend to be especially hallowed numbers in Major League Baseball, and for Cal Ripken Jr., the No. 8 always took on extra importance because of Yogi Berra.

"Having the same number is cool," Ripken said Wednesday, not long after learning of Berra's passing at age 90. "I never had an affinity, necessarily, for No. 8. I was happy to get a single digit when they passed out the uniforms, but I take great pride that I shared his number."

NEW YORK -- Single digits tend to be especially hallowed numbers in Major League Baseball, and for Cal Ripken Jr., the No. 8 always took on extra importance because of Yogi Berra.

"Having the same number is cool," Ripken said Wednesday, not long after learning of Berra's passing at age 90. "I never had an affinity, necessarily, for No. 8. I was happy to get a single digit when they passed out the uniforms, but I take great pride that I shared his number."

Complete coverage: Yogi Berra

Berra is the latest of the "Great 8's" who have passed now, after Bill Dickey, Willie Stargell and Gary Carter. Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Morgan and Ripken are the three surviving Hall of Famers who wore No. 8, with Yaz wearing it the longest (23 years), followed by Ripken (21), Stargell (21) and Berra (19).

In '08, fittingly, Berra invited three of them -- Ripken, Morgan and Carter -- to a Great 8's event at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J.

"We lost a special man," said Ripken, an MLB on TBS analyst. "Yogi, despite all his baseball accomplishments, I think first and foremost, he was humble. We all looked at him as a special man. I had a chance to be with him a number of times. The one time I remember most intimately, I went up to his museum, and he invited us up there for the Great 8's event. ... Basically, he stole the show.

"During the time we were up there at his museum, I had many intimate moments where he could share his stories, and I was all ears. It made me feel like he brought the era of baseball that I played in back down to his era, and he included me. When I think of Yogi, we're all sad that he's left us, but I think we're all happy to have known him."

Dickey had worn No. 8 for 15 of his 17 years of Major League service as the Yankees' catcher. Berra broke in with No. 38 in 1946, wore No. 35 from '46-47, and began wearing No. 8 out of Spring Training in '48.

Morgan spent nearly his first decade in other numbers: 12 with the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, 35 with the Colt .45s in '64, and 18 with the Astros from '65-71. The Hall of Fame second baseman was one of five Astros traded after the '71 season to Cincinnati for Tommy Helms, Lee May and Jimmy Stewart, and he was assigned No. 8 that next Spring Training. Morgan wore it for a total of 13 seasons, with Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia and finally Oakland.

Another Hall of Famer, Andre Dawson, is remembered by many for No. 8. But in his case, many others remember him for No. 10, which he wore through most of his days with Montreal. He came to Chicago and wore No. 8 from 1997-82, finishing his career later as No. 8 with the Marlins (1995-96).

Bob Boone, another catcher, wore No. 8 for 18 years, matching Carter's length with that number and mostly over the same time period.

Gary Gaetti, Andy Etchebarren and Doc Cramer are the other three players who wore No. 8 for at least 15 seasons. If you're a Braves fan, you think of Javy Lopez, yet another catcher who wore it 12 seasons, throughout Atlanta's division-dynasty run.

Among active Major Leaguers, Ryan Braun has worn No. 8 for nine seasons with Milwaukee. Royals fans think of third baseman Mike Moustakas. Kurt Suzuki of the Twins has worn it six seasons, and Desmond Jennings of the Rays has worn it five years.

But for Ripken, now is a time to remember what made No. 8 so special for him.

"I wish I would have had a chance to see [Berra] play," he said. "When you spent time with him, sometimes you saw a smaller or more frail human being, but he was a very strong, stocky sort of built player -- small in height, but a lot of power in his bat. I wish I had a chance to see him play a bit more."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.

Yogi Berra