Story of the Week
Branch Rickey didn’t make many mistakes, but passing up "Yogi" Berra for all of $250 was a real beauty.
In 1942, Rickey was the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He offered Berra $250 to sign with the Cards, refusing to pay him the same $500 offered to Yogi’s buddy, Joe Garagiola. Yogi, who, like Garagiola, grew up in St. Louis and was an avid Cardinals fan, turned Rickey’s offer down, despite the fact that he wanted to be a St. Louis Cardinal. He felt he was worth that additional $250, and stood his ground.
Soon after, the Yankees signed him for the very same $500. Not very long thereafter, the Yankees turned down an offer from Giants manager Mel Ott for $50,000 for Berra’s contract; Ott had seen Berra play for the Newark Bears in the International League, and knew Yogi would be a winner.
Berra eventually became a 15-time All-Star, a three-time MVP, and a Hall-of-Famer. He also holds numerous World Series records including games played by a catcher, hits, and times on the winning team. Though lightly regarded as a manager, he was the first big league field boss to win pennants in both leagues in nearly 40 years.
Berra got his nickname when childhood friends watching a movie noted his resemblance to a Hindu practicing yoga; the name Yogi stuck. Following stints in the Navy and the minor leagues, he became a Yankee and shared catching duties with Aaron Robinson and Sherman Lollar. After being tutored by Bill Dickey, he became a standout catcher.
Berra led catchers in putouts eight times, assists and fielding three times each, and handled the Yankees pitching staff masterfully. Although he never led the AL in home runs or RBI’s, Berra, a notorious bad-ball hitter, was a constant threat offensively, particularly with men on base and in the clutch. He was named MVP in 1951, and repeated the feat in 1954 and 1955.
Named to manage the Yankees in 1964, he won the pennant but lost both a seven-game World Series and his job to Cardinals manager Johnny Keane. (See the Sports Junkie article dated February 14.) He joined the Mets as a coach, and became manager in 1973, taking the Mets from fifth place to the NL pennant, ultimately losing the Series to the A’s.
Yogi returned to the Yankees as coach and manager, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, and ended his career as a coach with the Astros.
Lawrence "Yogi" Berra is one of the most recognizable celebrities anywhere. He is a best-selling author, something I am not, and makes many personal appearances. Berra is noted for his Norm Crosby takes, but make no mistake about it; this great former All-Star laughs all the way to the bank.
Last Week’s Trivia
What is the record for base hits by a major league team for a nine-inning game? On August 28, 1992, the Milwaukee Brewers collected 31 base hits against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Skydome. The Brewers thought it was still batting practice. It was!
Trivia Question of the Week
What quarterback engineered the largest comeback ever in NCAA football? What quarterback engineered the largest comeback ever in NFL football? Would you believe----it’s one in the same player?! See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.