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Remembering Yogi Berra

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I never saw Yogi Berra play. I was but a toddler when he retired after the 1964 season. The first memories I have of him, then, were when he was managing the Mets to the 1973 World Series, a 7 game thriller that they lost to Oakland, during the Athletics' run of 3 straight titles. I remember the commercials he made for Yoo Hoo, Miller Lite, and Aflac, the latter two playing off his reputed penchant for roundabout statements.

When the late George Steinbrenner fired Yogi 16 games into the 1985 season, it bothered me, because Yogi was hailed as a Yankee legend, and Steinbrenner's quick trigger dismissal of a Yankee legend, a Hall of Famer, was to me a sign of disrespect. 16 games was too early to judge a team's performance, and still is. Steinbrenner catered to and fed the NY fans' obsession with success, and at the time had all the patience of a broken rubber band. Small wonder, then, that Berra boycotted the Yankees for several years after that. The Steinbrenner era gave rise to a generation of bottom-line-obsessed owners who put business ahead of the joy of the game. The simplicity of athletic competition on the field was slowly eroding, and if a respected Hall of Famer like Yogi Berra, who had taken past Yankee teams as both player and manager, as well as the '73 Mets, to the World Series, was not immune to the short-sighted vision of a carpetbagger like Steinbrenner (who came from Cleveland), then the innocence of the game was lost.

In today's Daily News, Seth Rogen hailed Yogi as "a comedic genius". Rogen, like me and like many of us, never saw Yogi play, but found inspiration from the oft-quoted remarks, such as "If you see a fork in the road, take it." and "It ain't over 'til it's over". The Yanks wasted little time patching Berra's long-retired #8 onto the current uniforms, plus the traditional black armbands, in time for the game at Toronto. If today's Bombers need any more inspiration for a push to the post-season, it would be to dedicate the final 10 games or so to the memory of Yogi Berra.


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