The United States Postal Service honored Yankees legend, Hall of Famer, and World War II hero Yogi Berra with a commemorative forever stamp this morning at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey.
If you’re a regular reader of Pinstripe Alley, you certainly don’t need a full review of Berra’s playing career, but as a quick reminder, he played on 10 World Series winners, appeared in 18 All-Star games, and won 3 American League MVPs — no small feat with Mickey Mantle was a teammate. As a member of the U.S. Navy in World War II, Berra was not yet a celebrity who could move around from base to base playing sports or giving pep talks to troops (with all due respect to those who did). He was a 19-year-old gunner’s mate on the attack transport USS Bayfield in the D-Day invasion, 300 yards off the beach for 12 days in 1944, in what turned out to be a huge turning point in our country’s history.
Longtime MLB and Emmy award-winning sportscaster Bob Costas was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. He touched on Berra’s “unique way of expressing himself,” mentioning a few of the more famous “Yogi-isms,” and also did a great job of adding on to the Yogi legend beyond what many in attendance may or may not have known.
In speaking of Berra’s ability as both a great receiver (which couldn’t be measured in Berra’s era) and Berra’s ability to call a game and work with the pitching staff (an ability that still can’t truly be calculated), Costas related a conversation he had with former pitcher Don Larsen. The late Yankees postseason hero told Costas that during his perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, “not once” did he shake off Berra’s signs. That was the extent of trust that Larsen had in his catcher’s judgment.
Eve Schaenen executive director of the Yogi Berra Museum said “Yogi wasn’t only great – Yogi was also good” when describing the museum’s mission with specific regards to Berra’s respect for everybody he met on and off the field, as well as the good sportsmanship he embodied as a player.
The Honorable Ron A. Bloom, Chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors unveiled the new stamp, which was then followed with brief words from Berra’s sons Larry Jr., Tim, and Dale, the latter of whom played for the Yankees from 1985-86. Dale finished his remarks with a tongue-in-cheek Yogi-ism of his own. After detailing how Yogi quit school to help support his family, made the Major Leagues, became a war hero, and then went on to be inducted into Cooperstown and named to MLB’s All-Century Team, etc., etc., the Berra kids used to say to each other…
“Other than that, he didn’t do very much…”
Stamps went on sale immediately after the event. If you’re interested, customers may purchase stamps through the Postal Store at usps.com/shopstamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), by mail through USA Philatelic, or at Post Office locations nationwide.
The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s a nonprofit sports education organization on the campus of Montclair State University, and its mission is to preserve and promote the values that made Yogi Berra a national treasure: Perseverance, respect, sportsmanship, and excellence, through inclusive, culturally diverse sports-based educational exhibits and programs. For additional information about the Museum, please visit www.yogiberramuseum.org or call 973-655-2378.
Events such as these, are always a learning experience, so on a personal note I’ll share a piece of sage advice from Yogi that I’ve never heard previously:
“Always go to your friends' funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”