July 18 is National Yogi Berra Day. In commemoration of this special man, I took a trip to the Yogi Berra Museum on the Montclair State University campus in New Jersey. For those of you who don’t know much about him, Berra was a baseball legend. He is a Navy veteran. He is a philanthropist, and his “Yogi-isms” have become well-known everywhere.
Yogi is a man of such talent that it is hard to imagine him ever being rejected. However, in 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Joe Garagiola, Berra’s best friend, instead of him. Like a true champion, Berra didn’t stop trying. He was assigned to the Norfolk Tars and then to the Newark Bears.
In between his time with those two minor league teams, World War II broke out. In 1943, he enlisted in the United States Navy at age 18. He participated in the D-Day invasion and in 2009 was awarded the Lone Sailor Award.
Returning to his original passion, Berra signed with the New York Yankees and played 17 seasons with the Bronx Bombers. While with the Yankees, he caught Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, won the MVP award three times and was a 15-time All-Star.
Berra’s playing career ended in 1965, but his influence on the game of baseball was far from over. As a manager he won pennants with both the Yankees and the Mets. Berra was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972 for being an all-around great player, but his greatness has extended to more than baseball.
Many athletes say they want to help people and give back to communities. However, saying and doing are very different things. Berra has found ways to give and get others to do the same. Berra’s second-favorite sport is golf. In 2003, he founded the Yogi Berra Museum Celebrity Golf Classic that supports kids with special needs. He and his wife Carmen have helped many youth groups, including the Boys and Girls Club. To commemorate his hard work for others in need, he was named the first Classic Ambassador for the Bob Hope Classic.
Berra inspired the classic cartoon Yogi Bear, he is quoted more times than the modern poet, and he even has a stadium named after him. This is all very impressive, but his community and military service, his phenomenal baseball career, and his ability to overcome whatever stands in his way makes him an outstanding role model and mentor.