More than a Hall Of Fame pro baseball player, Yogi Berra like my Dad and maybe yours were men who personified what journalist Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation. These were men who put their life aside ( Berra was drafted by the Yankees in 1943) to enlist and serve their country during World War Two. As a teenager, he enlisted in the U.S. navy and Served as a gunners mate protecting soldiers and marines landing ashore on D-Day. These were men who would return home and somehow pick up where they left off and resume life. They would marry ( once and forever almost always), begin a workmanlike career, have children, raise them, and serve their family with virtually no personal rewards except perhaps the inner satisfaction they held for a “life well done”.
This was Yogi Berra. These were the fathers of the Greatest Generation. They spawned the Baby Boomers. That was me and perhaps many of you. We swept through the fifties and sixties unaware of the sacrifices made by our fathers and mothers – and perhaps even sneered at the sacrifices still being made by men too young to die (Vietnam). These were turbulent times.
However, YogI Berra was the catcher for the New York Yankees though and he (still) had a job to do. And, he did it well…..Ten World Championships. Say no more – he was a proven winner with a track record that will never be challenged ever in the future. And for this, he was paid a mere pittance by today’s standards (Mickey Mantle earned 100K at the height of his career).The rest of the team relied on and played for “bonus” money for winning the World Series. He didn’t care – he simply did his job as the everyday catcher for the Yankees.
Following his retirement from baseball, Yogi established a museum in New Jersey and started a second career in Baseball as a unnamed but invaluable Ambassador for MLB. Following DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle’s death, he became the singular attraction of every Yankee Old Timers Day. His terse but effective “Yogiisms” became part of the American fabric and culture. Yogi Berra, like most of the Greatest Generation (quietly) simplified life and boiled it down to what really matters. And all through it all, he maintained a sense of humor and wit that marks him as a true American icon. Rest in peace Yogi, you did good.