If you’ll pardon the expression, Joe Garagiola—who died at 90 Wednesday—made it necessary for the Yankees to sign Yogi Berra. And, in turn, the U.S. Senate made it necessary for Garagiola to transition from a journeyman catcher to a broadcaster. Which story would you like to read first?
From your ancient baseball history, 1949 to be specific, a little story: In his third major league season, a still very young Yogi Berra has been the target of much veteran needling. Part of it has been due to his squat, homely appearance. But sometimes it has nothing to do with his appearance and everything to do with continuing the young man’s baseball education.
When Yogi Berra turned 90 in May, I wrote, “There are those who walk among us in their twilight and inspire us to think that, warts and all, our world still remains a lovely place to be simply because such people still walk among us.” Unfortunately, our world is now a little more empty by a lot, as the man himself might say, thanks to Berra’s death Tuesday night. It’s gotten late early out here.
There are those who walk among us in their twilight and inspire us to think that, warts and all, our world still remains a lovely place to be simply because such people still walk among us. In a time when sports seems to yield up more dubious and disreputable characters among its active players, we are comforted to know that some of our past athletic subjects prove better people than they did players, however great they were as the latter.
Once upon a time New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica asked Yogi Berra at home what he thought was his greatest accomplishment. Berra’s comely wife, Carmen, had just left the room, and he pointed to the door through which she had just passed. “Getting her to marry me,” Berra replied. “Who’d have thought?”
Prior to an All-Star Game, a group of American League pitchers held a strategy meeting at which the main topic was how to pitch to Stan Musial. Yogi Berra happened to be walking past the open door while the pitchers talked. As if on cue, Berra broke in: “Forget it. You guys are trying to figure out in fifteen minutes what nobody’s figured out in fifteen years.”
ESPN’s Gordon Edes, running with something the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman floated, hoists another name into the pool of Bobby Valentine’s prospective successors by direct way of Sherman himself:
I am not here to fire Valentine, a man I like and think had the thinnest possible chance for success in a soap-opera environment poisoned well before his arrival. But fair or not, if he truly is one and done, then my managerial suggestion for Boston would be Jason Varitek. He would allow the Red Sox to co-opt the idea of their main rival while honoring what is in vogue in the sport right now.
When Bryce Harper dropped his famous (yes, it’s famous) “That’s a clown question, bro,” the scribes, pundits, Pharisees, and even a few politicians pounced. For all anyone knows, by the time Harper finishes his baseball career he may well prove to have sent “clown question” into the dictionary. He’ll have no further to look for precedent than the late Gary Carter.
Even the distinctly non-profane, clean living Hall of Fame catcher had his scattered moments. Famously enough, he was quoted as telling his Mets first base coach, Bill Robinson, upon pulling up at first on the two-out single that launched the Mets’ transdimensional Game Six (1986 World Series) comeback, “There’s no f-bombing way I’m making the last f-bombing out of this f-bombing World Series.”
Most baseball analysts blurt out observations that beg for further examination here and there. Ken Rosenthal, the Fox Sports writer and commentator, and one of the best analysts of the breed, is one of them. Here he is, musing about Don Mattingly’s growth as a manager in light of having had “three strikes” against him when he took the command post for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year: He had never managed in the majors or minors. He had to exert greater authority over players who knew him only as a coach. And he had been a great player — a drawback, seeing as how great players rarely make great managers.