By Ernie Palladino
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The numbers and the funny sayings have all been placed in the correct boxes. The tales of the 10 world championships and moments like Don Larsen’s perfect game and Jackie Robinson’s steal of home have been told.READ MORE: Strome, Panarin Lead Rangers To Win Over Blackhawks
Yet, there was still one thing left unsaid about the sweet, funny, humble Yankees great that was Yogi Berra, who died on Tuesday at age 90.
His outlook on what held true importance in the world carried him through all those 70 seasons, from player to manager, to coach, to manager again. The kid who played his boyhood baseball on The Hill in St. Louis — a downtrodden Italian enclave then decades away from the upscale restaurants and shops that crowd that area today — knew his blessings. And he wasn’t afraid to tell anyone in his subtle way that a solid family, a roof over one’s head and a stable lifestyle were far more important than any win or loss on a baseball field.
He taught that lesson before one game in 1984, with one brief answer to one silly question asked in the privacy of his Yankee Stadium office.
Those were the days before managers waited for the entire media to assemble for pregame press conferences in the dugout. If the skipper’s door was open, you walked in and sat down. If a reporter got there early enough, he could spend 20 minutes of quality, one-on-one time with the man in charge.
The Yanks had hit a rough spot in a year that would ultimately end in second place. Some question about pressure came up.
Berra just smiled.
“This ain’t pressure,” he said. “The guy working two jobs to feed his kids, that’s pressure.”New York Weather: CBS2’s 12/5 Sunday Morning Forecast
No clever Yogi-ism there. No indication, either, that he was talking to an idiot. Just patient straight talk from a good-natured guy who rose from the poverty of the Great Depression to have it all — career, fame, money, a wife, kids and, most of all, contentment. Few appreciated the whole package more than Berra.
One of the writers of that era called him the “Cabbage Patch Manager” because everybody loved him. Had those dolls been around during Yogi’s playing days, they probably would have named one after him. The great, clutch, bad-ball hitter was certainly a lovable character, what with his funny phrasings and love for comic books. But then, the world probably wouldn’t have had Yogi Bear.
His was a calming influence, usually. Oh, there was the Phil Linz incident in ‘64 during Berra’s first go-around as Yankees manager. But he never would have slapped that harmonica from Linz’s hands had a mischievous Mickey Mantle not goaded Linz to play louder after a tough day.
There was the 14-year-long estrangement that probably wouldn’t have happened at all had George Steinbrenner fired Berra himself instead of sending his adviser, Clyde King, to whack him after a 6-10 start in ‘85.
Losing the job didn’t hurt half as much as the disrespect.
Yogi’s perspective didn’t keep him from having feelings, you see.
It did keep him grounded, though. Where his more famous teammate, Joe DiMaggio, turned angry and reclusive in his later years, Berra reveled in his celebrity until his old body no longer allowed him to swing a club for charity or shake hands at banquets, or host book signings and lectures at his beloved museum at Montclair State University.
He gave autographs freely. He smiled a lot.
He became an ideal elder statesman.
Best of all, he knew his blessings.MORE NEWS: LaVine, DeRozan Lead Bulls To Win Over Nets
He knew how lucky he was to be Yogi Berra.