As a kid, you knew who Yogi Berra was.
He was the catcher with the funny name. The one with the funny lines. The one who seemed closer to a cartoon figure than a baseball player.
Above it all, however, Berra was seriously a good baseball player for the New York Yankees.
With his odd sayings and unique appearance, that gets overlooked sometimes. Everyone remembers that Berra said no one went to a restaurant anymore because it was too crowded, but not everyone remembers that he made 15 all-star teams. Everyone can tell you how he said that “you can observe a lot just by watching” but not everyone can tell you about the three times he won MVP. No one won more than Berra (he reached the World Series in 14 of 17 seasons with 10 championships), but somewhere along the line, the funny lines took over.
Mickey Mantle? He was taken seriously. Whitey Ford? Him too. But Berra was portrayed as a fumble-mouthed sidekick on those teams. With his passing, it seems as if that image is selling him short somehow.
Today, following the death of Berra at age 90, the wrong things will be remembered. There have been a lot of great baseball players, but not many who filled the pages with pet sayings. It was popular to scoff at Berra; sportswriters often portrayed him as an anti-intellectual, the type of player who would say “I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”
Those who played with Berra, however, are sure to remember the player. He caught Don Larsen’s perfect game. He reached the Hall of Fame in 1972. He hit 358 home runs as a catcher.
In the legacy of Berra, however, that is all a footnote. He will be remembered for things for which he was quoted. He will be remembered for having Yogi Bear named after him.
“I never said most of the things I said,” Berra said.