Yogi Berra, N.Y. Yankees
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star, and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Berra was a native of St. Louis, and signed with the Yankees in 1943 before serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He made his major-league debut at age 21 in 1946 and was a mainstay in the Yankees’ lineup during the team’s championship years beginning in 1949 and continuing through 1962. Despite his short stature (he was 5′ 7″ tall), Berra was a power hitter and strong defensive catcher. He caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
During World War II, Berra served in the U.S. Navy as a gunner’s mate on the attack transport USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France. A Second Class Seaman, Berra was one of a six-man crew on a Navy rocket boat, firing machine guns and launching rockets at the German defenses at Omaha Beach. He was fired upon, but was not hit, and later received several commendations for his bravery. During an interview on the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, Yogi confirmed that he was sent to Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion as well.
Following his military service, Berra played minor-league baseball with the Newark Bears, surprising the team’s manager with his talent despite his short stature. He was mentored by Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, whose uniform number Berra took. He later said, “I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey.”
From Baseball in Wartime:
Lawrence P “Yogi” Berra was born on May 12, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri, and played American Legion junior baseball. He picked up his nickname from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu holy man (yogi) they had seen in a movie.
Berra served in the US Navy during World War II. In February 1944, he sailed for the British Isles on the USS Bayfield, where he was as a gunner’s mate on board a rocket-launching landing craft in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, “It was just like a Fourth of July celebration,” he later recalled. Berra also served in North Africa and Italy, and was sent home to the United States after suffering a hand wound. He was then stationed at the New London Sub Base until his discharge.
Berra played minor league baseball with the New London, Connecticut team after leaving the Navy and was promoted to the Newark Bears of the International League before being called up for seven games with the Yankees in 1946. The following season he played 86 games.
By 1948 he was the New York Yankees’ first-string catcher. Berra played 18 seasons with the Yankees, was a 15-time all-star, a three-time MVP, and appeared in 14 World Series.
Berra was a coach with the Yankees in 1963 and managed the team in 1964. He returned to coaching with the Mets in 1965 and took over as manager in 1972. In 1984 he became manager of the Yankees. He has also coached with the Astros. His son, Dale, was an infielder with the Pirates, Yankees and Astros in the 1970s and 1980s.
Yogi Berra was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.