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Baseball legend gets his due


WORLD Radio - Baseball legend gets his due

New documentary says Yogi Berra’s baseball legacy deserves to be remembered

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, May 19th. We’re glad you’re listening to WORLD Radio! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: A new documentary about a baseball legend. It’s called It Ain’t Over, and it’s in theaters now. The movie takes a fresh look at the life of Yogi Berra and tries to set the record straight about his legacy.

Because, you know, you may have heard it before. It’s like dejavu all over again as someone famously once said.

Here’s WORLD’s arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino.

COLLIN GARBARINO: The opening ceremony of the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game honored the four greatest living baseball players as determined by 25 million fan votes: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays.

And sitting at home watching the game on TV with his granddaughter was 90-year-old Yogi Berra. Yogi’s granddaughter, Lindsay, was stunned that baseball fans across America had forgotten her grandfather’s accomplishments.

LINDSAY BERRA: Wait a second. He’s got more MVPs than any of these guys. He’s won more World Series rings than all four of them combined.

How could Yogi’s baseball legacy have been forgotten? That moment of confusion sparked the new documentary It Ain’t Over.

JOE MADDON: To have Yogi not included in the greatest living players in 2015. I mean that makes no sense to me whatsoever. I don’t quite understand it.

It seems Yogi’s status as a cultural icon had eclipsed his legacy as one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game.

Yogi started life as Lorenzo Pietro Berra in the Italian section of St. Louis. His immigrant father wasn’t excited about his son’s obsession with baseball, but the boy proved to be quite a slugger.

Yogi tells the story of how his teammates in St. Louis gave him his unique nickname.

YOGI BERRA: Bobby Huffman played with the Giants. We played on the same American Legion team. And I was sitting on the ground with my legs crossed and my arms crossed. And he said, “You look like a yogi.” That stuck.

Yogi’s hometown St. Louis Cardinals snubbed him, so the kid ended up signing with the New York Yankees in 1943.

Before he could play a game with the Yankees, the then 18-year-old Yogi signed up to fight in World War II. Berra manned a rocket boat during the D-Day invasion of Normandy despite not knowing how to swim.

The movie introduces us to a man from the Greatest Generation whose virtues and values were shaped by the war. He’s an everyday guy, not a superstar, who stays grounded and never seems to have forgotten what’s important.

VIN SCULLY: Yogi was representing, not the big guys, but he was representing, kind of us, the stick ball kids in the street.

Having a proper perspective on sport didn’t keep Yogi from working hard. He didn’t start out as a catcher, but after learning the position, he quickly became one of the best. He was also one of the most reliable hitters for the Yankees.

MARTY APPEL: There are only two people with more than 350 home runs and fewer than 500 strikeouts in the whole history of major league baseball. And their names are Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.

Despite his heroics on the field, the media portrayed Yogi as a clown. With his rounded shoulders and five-foot-seven-inch frame, Berra didn’t resemble a baseball player. He didn’t have the classic good looks of other Yankees players, like Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. The good-natured Yogi was only too happy to play along with the media’s mockery.

He had a big personality and he used to ham it up for interviews and commercials. His famous Yogi-isms furthered his image as a comic figure. Even presidents on both sides of the political aisle loved quoting him.

RONALD REAGAN: It isn’t over until it’s over.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

BILL CLINTON: We may be lost, but we’re making good time.

Yogi spent much of his career as the butt of the joke, but he was a smart player who knew how to run a game. He kept every player’s strengths and weaknesses in his head, allowing him to call for the right pitch for each batter. When Don Larsen pitched his perfect World Series game in 1956, Berra sat behind the plate calling the pitches. Larsen didn’t shake off his catcher a single time.

ANNOUNCER: Here it comes. Strike three! The perfect game. Not a man reaches first base. No one has ever done this in World Series history.

The movie is rated PG, but be warned it includes a little profanity at one point. Even so, it’s a treat for both baseball fans and fans of American pop culture. It features vintage footage from baseball’s yesteryear and plenty of endearing interviews from the self-deprecating Berra. Children and grandchildren offer personal glimpses into his life. I especially appreciated how the film celebrated Yogi’s 65 years of marriage to wife Carmen. The documentary also includes numerous interviews with friends and fans including Vin Scully, Bob Costas, Billy Crystal, Derek Jeter, and Joe Torre.

JOE TORRE: He may be overlooked, but he certainly wasn’t overlooked by the people who know what they’re looking at in baseball.

It Ain’t Over successfully makes the case that Yogi Berra was one of baseball’s greatest players. But it also confirms that America’s collective consciousness was sort of right about him all along. Yogi really was bigger than baseball. He became an institution—a humble, quirky man of integrity embraced by Americans from all walks of life.

ANNOUNCER: There’s one. It is going… Gone!

I’m Collin Garbarino

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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