By David Cruz
Lawrence Peter Berra was born on this date in 1925. The record will show that he batted .285, won three MVPs and 10 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees. But even those amazing statistics fail to give the full measure of the man whose tenacity on the field and wisdom off the field made him an icon who transcended the sport. Today at the Yogi Berra Museum, his biggest fans celebrated his 90th birthday.
“Having had him as a grandfather my entire life, I’ve been so lucky because he taught me so much about those things, about teamwork and respect, about being a good person. And I really think if everybody tried to be one- one hundredth of the person this man is, this world would be a really much better place. So happy birthday grandpa. I love you very much. You’re adorable,” said granddaughter Lindsay Berra.
Lindsay spoke for Yogi and the family, which lost its matriarch, Carmen, last year. Then vandals stole World Series rings and memorabilia from the museum. Today celebrated the return of replicas of those items.
“I’ve said this over and over again, the support that we got from the entire baseball community was just absolutely amazing. I was out at the World Series shortly after the museum robbery and I swore everyone I saw just had something amazing to say and something so supportive. It was really like we gotten a big collective hug,” Lindsay said.
“This is a case of good triumphing over evil. This is a case of adversity being pushed aside by kindness and generousity,” said Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center Interim CEO Kevin Peters.
Surrounded by a throng of media — many of whom were probably too young to remember Yogi’s playing or coaching days — the Yankee great seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the fuss, but he’d probably be pleased to know that there was a line of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of him outside.
“Yogi Berra played for Newark Bears. Unfortunately, I had his autograph and some Newark Bears score cards but my mother threw them away,” said Somerset resident Sy Grossman.
“I’ve got a 7-year-old who can pick out his number and all the other guys like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. And they watched the old footage of him playing and catching no-hitters and just his short little body hitting home runs and running around the bases,” said Bristol resident Dave Stevens.
“Déjà vu all over again,” said Ray Norbut of Belleville.
“When you arrive at a fork, take it,” said Ernesto Milani of Milano, Italy.
With both the Yankees and Mets leading their divisions, the man who classed up both organizations has everything to smile about. Seeing the crowd gathered to celebrate his life and legacy, Yogi might’ve said — as he did to a Yogi Berra Day crowd 50 years ago — “I want to thank you for making this day necessary.”