By Matt Straub
Over the next couple of days you’ll hear them all.
“It’s not over til it’s over.” “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” “It gets late early here.” “Déjà vu all over again.” “Ninety percent of the game is mental. The other half is physical.”
None of those statements, however, should define Yogi Berra. Until his death at age 90 very early Wednesday morning, Berra was the holder of one of the coolest and most significant titles in all of sports.
He was the greatest living Yankee.
Berra’s debut with the Bronx Bombers came after he’d been a real life bomber, serving on one of the ships which helped lead the way during the invasion of Normandy, a battle which was much harder and longer than some realize.
Not long after becoming a Yankee, it was clear Berra was special. He would go on to finish fourth or higher in the MVP vote every year from 1950-57. During that time he won the award three times, one of only a handful to ever do so.
Here’s the list of people to win more than three MVPs: Barry Bonds.
That’s it. He’s the list.
You know about all his World Series records. Yes he was on a great team, but he was a big part of those teams, not, as some believe, someone who was just along for the ride with other Hall of Famers. The guy was an offensive machine. A look at his similarity scores, a stat on baseball-reference.com which compares stats to players and decides a player’s “comp,” something we all like to do, springs up names like Bench, Carter, Piazza, Cano and Tulowitzki.
As a first-year manager he took the Yankees to Game 7 of the World Series, and then got fired. It took him two seasons to take the lowly Mets to the World Series before later guiding a poor Yankees team to 87 wins.
Berra will be remembered for all the things he may or may not have actually said, but people should take time today to learn about what he did. One of the best catchers of all time, Berra was a leader and perhaps the greatest winner in baseball history. He never got enough chances to manage, but proved in the few shots he had he could do it.
All this on top of being a war hero.
Yogi Berra left us as the greatest living Yankees, but he was also a great American and a much-loved person, and someone whose actions spoke much louder than his words. I hope people realize that.