Yogi Berra Biography

Yogi Berra is a former Major League Baseball player and manager. As a member of the New York Yankees, Berra appeared in 14 World Series and won 10 championships, both of which are records. Berra is widely considered the best catcher of all-time and was the first player to leave a finger outside his glove, a style that was later emulated by other catchers. During his career, Berra was an 18-time All-Star and three-time Most Valuable Player. As a manager, Berra is one of only six managers to lead both National and American League teams to the World Series. He was known for his "Yogi-isms," witty comments about baseball and life. Berra was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Early Years

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra was born on May 12, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. Yogi Berra was raised in "The Hill" section of St. Louis and was neighbors with future catcher Joe Garagiola. His nickname, Yogi, came from a friend who said Berra resembled a Hindu holy man, referred to as a yogi. Berra dropped out of school in the eighth grade in order to help support his family. He did find the time to play American Legion baseball. In 1942, Berra tried out with the St. Louis Cardinals and received an offer to sign for $250 from general manager Branch Rickey. Berra was seeking the same $500 offer that his friend Garagiola received and declined the Cardinals' offer. Berra would later sign with the New York Yankees for the $500 he had been seeking.

Berra put baseball on hold at the age of 18 and voluntary joined the United States Navy during World War II. He took part in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach and served in North America and Europe.

Professional Career

Minor leagues

After joining the Yankees, Berra was assigned to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League. In one doubleheader with the organization, Berra is credited with driving in 23 runs in two games. His minor league career was interrupted when he joined the Navy but, after his departure, he returned to the Yankees organization and played with a squad in New London, Ct. After a few games there, Berra joined the Newark Bears of the International League.

New York Yankees (1946-63)

Berra made his Major League debut in 1946 for the Yankees and hit a home run in his first at-bat against the Philadelphia Athletics. Berra split time behind the plate with a rotation of catchers and hit .280 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in his first full season with New York. During the 1947 World Series, Berra became the first person to hit a pinch-hit home run in the World Series off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca.

Starting in 1949, Berra led the New York Yankees in RBI for seven straight seasons. It was also the start of 10 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs. During the 1950 season, Berra struck out only 12 times in 597 at-bats. Five times in Berra's career, he had more home runs than strikeouts. He finished the season hitting .322 with 28 home runs and 124 RBI, good enough for third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. Berra won his first MVP award in 1951 after hitting .297 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI.

Berra hit a career-high 30 home runs in 1952, a mark which he tied in 1956 as well. At the time it was an American League record. In 1954, Berra drove in a career-high 125 runs en route to the MVP award. He also won the MVP in 1955 for the third time in his career. Berra came close to winning his third straight MVP award in 1956 but finished second in the voting behind teammate Mickey Mantle. He excelled during the 1956 World Series and even Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5. At the plate, Berra hit .360 with three home runs including a pair of two-run home runs in the Yankees 9-0 Game 7 victory.

Towards the end of his career, Berra moved from behind the plate to the outfield starting in 1960. Berra's final season with the Yankees came in 1963, where he hit .293 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI.

Berra holds World Series records for most games (75), at-bats (259), hits (71), doubles (10), singles (49) and is third for most home runs (12) behind former Yankees Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

Berra received a plague in Monument Park in 1988 with his slogan, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Due to a fall out with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner while Berra was manager, the player wouldn't step foot in Yankee Stadium until he issued an apology. Berra returned to Yankee Stadium on July 19, 1999, the day of David Cone's perfect game.

Managerial career

After retiring in 1963, Berra was hired as manager of the New York Yankees. He led the ballclub to an American League Pennant and 99-63 record, but the Yankees lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Berra was fired after just one season. He had lost control of the team and had an infamous incident with Phil Linz: The infielder was playing his harmonica on the bus, and Berra ordered him to stop. Mickey Mantle told Linz to play it louder, and Berra slapped the harmonica out of his hands.

After leaving the Yankees, he was hired as a player-coach for the cross-town rivals New York Mets but played in just four games. Berra was part of Casey Stengel's coaching staff during the Mets' World Series run in 1969 and was named manager of the team following the death of Gil Hodges in 1972. Berra led the Mets to the National League Pennant in 1973 after delivering his famous "It ain't over 'til it's over" quote when the team was stuck in last place. In the World Series, New York blew a 3-2 lead in the series to the Oakland Athletics after Berra decided to pitch Tom Seaver and Jon Matlack on three day's rest. He was eventually fired as manager of the New York Mets in 1975 after a 56-53 start.

Berra returned to the Yankees as a coach in 1976, and New York won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. Before the start of the 1984 season, Berra was named manager of the Yankees. He led New York to an 87-75 record and a third place finish in 1984 and was fired after just 16 games during the 1985 season. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner sent a member of his staff, Clyde King, to deliver the news to Berra. Berra vowed to never step foot in Yankee Stadium as long as Steinbrenner owned the team, but the two sides made up in 1999.

The Houston Astros signed Berra as a bench coach in 1986, and he served with the Astros until his retirement in 1992.

Retirement years

Yogi Berra, along with fellow New York Yankee Phil Rizzuto, opened a bowling alley in Clifton, N.J. called Rizzuto-Berra Lanes. The two eventually sold the bowling alley.

Berra has appeared in television commercials since the 1950s, advertising for such products as AFLAC, Stove Top and Yoo-hoo. He also has five books to his credit, most recently in 2003 with "Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons."

Yogi Berra filed a $10 million lawsuit in 2005 against Turner Broadcasting System for using his name in a "Sex and the City" television commercial. The commercial asked viewers the definition of "yogasm," and the possible definitions were: "(a) a type of yo-yo trick, (b) sex with Yogi Berra and (c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class." The lawsuit was eventually settled later in the year and Berra received a "substantial" amount.

Personal

Yogi Berra married his wife Carmen on Jan. 26, 1949. The couple has three children, and they reside in Montclair, N.J. Berra received an honorary degree in 1996 from Montclair State University in New Jersey. In 1998, Montclair State opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.