The Yogi Berra Museum has been called a mini Cooperstown, except you just have to drive to Montclair State University’s campus to visit it.
“Yogi raised his family in Montclair. The museum has been open for 20 years. We’re heading into our 20th anniversary and it’s an exciting accomplishment for us,” said the museum’s Executive Director Eve Schaenen. “The museum was originally established just after Yogi received his honorary doctorate at Montclair State University, which is one of the reasons why we are on the campus.”
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, made his debut with the New York Yankees in 1946. He went on to win 10 World Series Championships, becoming one of the greatest catchers in history. He was even posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom after he died in 2015 at the age of 90.
Berra’s baseball memories and accomplishment are documented in the one-floor museum, next to a stadium also named after the Yankee icon.
“Beautiful, beautiful artifacts, whether it’s his love letters to his wife Carmen that he wrote when he was on the road playing ball, or the unbelievable collection of World Series rings. We have all of Yogi’s rings, and in addition all the rings that were given to the New York Yankees for their World Series wins,” Schaenen said. “We all have to remember that for many people, Yogi is best known for his sayings. He’s the most quoted American athlete in history, whether it’s, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’ or, ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.'”
The museum has interactive exhibits like a Mitt Mobile that allows visitors to try on catcher’s mitts from different eras, but the museum isn’t just about baseball.
“He himself had an eighth grade education and despite that went very far in life. He really wanted his museum to be a place where children could learn. Yogi was famous for his play with language, so we have kids doing spoken word poetry and rap. We have kids learning about velocity and trajectory,” Schaenen said.
But the museum’s executive director says it was his accomplishments off the diamond that Yogi was most proud of.
“Yogi served at D-Day, that’s such a significant piece of his biography. We use that part of his story and leverage it to reach out to the military and the veterans community in the area. And I think Montclair as a community really is a community that strives towards excellence and respect and inclusiveness, so the Yogi Berra Museum is really a perfect fit,” Schaenen said.