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Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (born May 12, 1925) is a former catcher and manager in Major League Baseball who played almost his entire career for the New York Yankees and was elected (with Sandy Koufax) to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. He is one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times, and one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. He has lived in Montclair, New Jersey since his playing days.
Born in a primarily Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called "The Hill", Berra was the son of immigrants and originally nicknamed Lawdie, derived from his mother Paulina's difficulty pronouncing Lawrence or Larry correctly. He picked up his more famous nickname from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu holy man (yogi) they had seen in a movie, whenever sitting aground with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or sad after a losing game. (Years later, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after Berra.) He began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues, where he learned the basics of play as a catcher.
The St. Louis Cardinals spurned Berra in favour of his boyhood best friend, Joe Garagiola, in 1942. On the surface, the Cardinals seemed to think Garagiola the superior prospect---but team president Branch Rickey actually had an ulterior motive: knowing he was soon to leave St. Louis to take over the operation of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and more impressed with Berra than he let on, Rickey apparently planned to hold Berra off until he could sign him for the Dodgers. But the plan was ruined when the Yankees got to him first, signing him for the same $500 bonus the Cardinals offered Garagiola.
Berra is generally considered to be perhaps the greatest all-around catcher in baseball history, with Johnny Bench an extremely close second. In two recent (2004) approaches by sabermetricians Berra is ranked first by the Bill James Win Shares method and third by the Total Baseball Total Player Rating method. Another analyst, Allen Barra, has written an analytical book, Brushbacks and Knockdowns, that rates Berra as perhaps the single greatest team player in the history of team sports, analysing Berra that way through a combination of his run productivity, his overall hitting, his defensive ability, and perhaps his least-appreciated ability: nearly all the pitchers he caught did better with Berra behind the plate than they did with any other pitcher, and Barra determined that Berra produced more such improvements across a pitching staff than any other catcher who has ever played the game.
Yogi has been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Berra, who quit school at age fifteen, is also quite famous for his tendency toward malapropism and fracturing the English language in highly provocative, interesting ways, even though---by his own malapropping admission---"I never said half the things I really said"; see Yogiisms.
Following a spell in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he played minor league baseball with the Newark Bears before being called up for 7 games in the major leagues in 1946. The following season he played 86 games for the Yankees, and he would play more than 100 in each of the following 14 years. During his 19-year career as a Yankee, the Bronx Bombers dominated baseball, appearing in 14 World Series and winning ten championships, both of which are records. Berra himself was a 15-time All-Star, and won the league's MVP award in 1951, 1954 and 1955. He caught Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the only no-hitter ever thrown in postseason play.
In 1946, he wore uniform number 38 on the Yankees, switching to 35 the next year. In 1948, he changed to number 8, which became well-known as his number for the rest of his career on the Yankees and Mets. The number 8 was retired in 1972 by the Yankees, jointly honoring Berra and Bill Dickey, his predecessor as the Yankees' star catcher. On August 22, 1988, he and Dickey were honored with plaques to be hung in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Berra's plaque calls him "A legendary Yankee" and cites his most frequent quote, "It ain't over till it's over."
In 1972, while he was manager of the Mets, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, he placed number 40 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and a fan balloting elected him to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
Coaching and Managing career
- 1963 - New York Yankees player-coach
- 1964 - New York Yankees manager (won American League pennant)
- 1965-1972 - New York Mets coach
- 1972-1975 - New York Mets manager (won National League pennant in 1973)
- 1976-1983 - New York Yankees coach
- 1984-1985 - New York Yankees manager
- 1986-1992 - Houston Astros coach
In February 2005 Berra filed a lawsuit against Turner Broadcasting System. He alleges that they used his name in a racy advertisement for Sex and the City. The advertisement asks what the definition of a "yogasm" is: a) a type of yo-yo trick, (b) sex with Yogi Berra and c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class. The answer given was c). He is requesting $10,000,000 in damages.
- Signed as an amateur free agent by New York Yankees (1943).
- Released by New York Yankees (October 29, 1963).
- Signed by New York Mets (April 27, 1965).
- Released by New York Mets (May 17, 1965).
- AL MVP: 1951, 1954, and 1955
- All-Star Games: 15 times from 1946-1962
- World Series Champion: 10 times in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962
- Appeared in 4 other World Series, but lost in 1955, 1957, 1960, and 1963]]
- Had 358 career home runs, 66th all-time, 3rd best for a catcher
- Had 1430 RBI, 54th all-time, most for a catcher
- Berra has a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character named after him. See Yogi Bear.
- Berra is a recipient of the Boy Scouts of America's highest adult award, the Silver Buffalo Award.
Four books by Yogi Berra (with co-authors):
- ISBN 0761110909; (April 1998) The Yogi Book: 'I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said'
- ISBN 0786867752; (May 2001) When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball's Greatest Heroes
- ISBN 0743237684; (October 1, 2002) What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All
- ISBN 0070969477; (April, 1989) Yogi: It Ain't Over