20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Yogi Berra was arguably one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game of baseball, and probably one of the most well-known names in all of sports. There have been many books written about him including a couple (Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons,Yogi: It Ain't Over: Yogi: It Ain't Over) co-authored by Yogi himself. In my opinion this biography, "Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee" by Allan Barra may be the most comprehensive of them all. Starting from Yogi's childhood days growing up in St. Louis and moving through his stint in the Navy during World War II, his couple of years in the minor leagues, and all through his playing, coaching, and managing years in Major League Baseball, the author doesn't skimp when detailing each and every period of Yogi's life. Unfortunately this is not always a good thing as at times the writing style has the same feel of a text book. Lots of information but sometimes delivered in a dry, sterile style. I had the hardest time getting through Part I, childhood to 1947 (about 80 pages). If you can get past the occasional dryness of the text then this becomes an extremely interesting life story of the Yankee Great.
For me, what made this an enjoyable read were some of the details of Yogi's life I was unaware of. For instance, I didn't know that as a 17 year old he turned down a contract offer from Branch Rickey, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, because Rickey wouldn't give him the same signing bonus ($500) as he gave Yogi's childhood friend, Joe Garagiola. Or that Yogi was most definitely in harm's way during the Normandy Landings on D-Day. The author continues to take us in great detail through the events in Yogi's life, both on-&-off the field. From his early playing days with the championship Yankee teams of the 1950's, to his days as a manager or coach for the Yankees, Mets, and Astros, and into his self-imposed 14 year estrangement from the Yankees because of George Steinbrenner's 1985 broken promise to him.
Along with the biography the author includes four Appendixes'. Appendix A tries to answer the question whether Yogi Berra was the greatest catcher of all-time, comparing him with Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Roy Campanella, and Johnny Bench. Not sure I agree with his opinion as it's hard to compare players from the 1920's to those playing in the 1950's or 1970's. It's just not "apples-to-apples" in my humble opinion. Appendix B has a list of "Yogi-ism's" as they compare to other famous quotes. Appendix C is an interesting transcript of a short 1960 radio broadcast that has Casey Stengel interviewing Yogi. The final appendix is titled "Distant Replay: Watching the 1956 perfect game with Yogi & Don Larson." This appears to have happened in 2007 and is the first time either player had watched a complete replay of the game. It's interesting to read their comments along with others who attended the showing.
All-in-all, I would strongly recommend this to baseball fans. While the writing style is at times dry the subject never is. It's a great book about a baseball legend during an era long gone.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Ted Williams was once quoted as telling a prospective biographer of Yogi Berra "If you don't write a good book about Mr. Yogi Peter Berra I will have you killed!" Alan Barra has nothing to worry about from Teddy Ballgame. His new book Yogi Berra-The Eternal Yankee, along with his excellent biography of Bear Bryant establishes him as one of the premier sports biographers in the market.
The book is lovingly written in an excellent prose style. He covers Yogi's life from childhood, dwells extensively on his Yankee career, and gives us a great picture of Yogi's post managerial career. He writes with a clear point of view-Yogi Berra is the greatest catcher in the history of the game and if you don't like it I'll prove it. He doesn't avoid Yogi's weaknesses, but he clearly shows his strengths as person, husband, player and businessman. He covers the controversies in detail and tries to draw conclusions about events such as the Copacabana incident and Jackie Robinson's steal of home in 1955. He takes time to tell stories about significant games-especially Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. He also deals with Yogi's firing by Steinbrenner and the 20 year feud that followed.
Barra touches all the basis in this excellent biography. I highly recommend it to any baseball fan and anyone who loves a well written and researched Biography
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Yogi Berra is a former baseball player that has always presented two distinct personalities. There was the baseball superstar that some argue with justification was the best catcher in the history of the game. Yogi was not only a solid offensive player, he was also superb on defense and his knowledge of the opposing hitters and ability to call a game made many mediocre pitchers good to great. For years, Yankee manager Casey Stengel regularly referred to Yogi as his assistant manager.
However, the other side of Yogi was that of the clown, a man who supposedly uttered ridiculous phrases that somehow made sense and that are repeated on a regular basis. Statements like, "It gets late early out there", "Deja vu all over again" and "It ain't over till it's over" are repeated by people talking about sports to politics. This personality was even captured in a cartoon character, Yogi Bear, whose catchphrase was "Smarter than the average bear."
There is also a third side of Yogi Berra, the solid citizen that avoided the wild nightlife of other Yankees such as Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. While Yogi himself may not have understood business, he was smart enough to seek out those who did and as a consequence, his business activity off the field was a success. He has been married to his wife Carmen for decades and there has never been a hint that he was ever anything but a faithful and loving husband and father.
All three sides of this man are presented in roughly equal portions in this biography of one of the greatest players and Yankees of all time. Barra does an excellent job in summarizing the amazing run of the Yankees while Yogi was a player without bombarding the reader with details and statistics. Entire books have been written about single seasons of those years, so the temptation to be more specific must have been great. Barra also praises Yogi for his contributions and pushes him a little higher on the baseball recognition ladder. When Yogi first joined the Yankees Joe Dimaggio was the penultimate Yankee and his place was immediately taken by successor Mickey Mantle with Roger Maris included for a few seasons.
Yet, through all the glory years where Casey Stengel was at the helm, Yogi was consistently the most valuable player on the Yankee team. There is also a somewhat bitter streak to this story based on the actions of Yankee management. The modern follower of sports generally has no idea how poorly paid baseball players were until the seventies when the reserve clause was finally overturned. In the fifties, Yankee management was ferocious in keeping salaries down, even to the point that it was detrimental to the team. There were some seasons when the money the players received from making the World Series was nearly equal to their salary for the entire season, even for some of the stars of the team. This is an aspect of the history of baseball that is often overlooked and it was pleasing to see Barra deal with it.
Despite the caricature that he was a bit of a buffoon, Yogi Berra was a class act all through his years in and out of baseball. The way he was treated while he was a manager, both by management and his players, was atrocious and Barra also deals with that fairly and honestly. This is one of the best and most honestly accurate biographies of a sports figure ever written.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee" is an excellent biography of perhaps the greatest catcher in baseball history. It is well written and makes the point of Yogi's greatness and, yes, intelligence.
Yogi Berra was born in "The Hill", the Italian neighborhood in St. Louis. Amazingly this tightly knit neighborhood of small yards spawned, at the same time, Yogi and his friend Joe Garagiola. Their fathers had come from the same town in Italy. For a St. Louisan, the early parts of the story are filled with familiar venues and personalities. Yogi worked at Ruggeri's and Biggie's, how many times was I there? The colorful phrases associated with Yogi started with others. When he first became famous a proud Hill matron told him "You the firsta boy what comes from the Hill with a name witha ends a, e, I, o getta name in the paper and no killa somebody." He went to Saint Louis University basketball games, as I did last week, and went to many other places with which we are all familiar.
The interesting thing about Yogi's early career is that he was not signed by either the Cardinals or the Browns. The probable reason is that Joe Garagiola was a better catcher at that time. Yogi signed with the Yankee organization and worked his way up to New York. On the way up he spent time in the Navy and was aboard ship off shore on D-Day.
Yogi's era with the Yankees lasted from 1946-64. Starting in the DiMaggio era, Yogi was the mainstay who bridged the gap into the Mantle era. Although a "Berra Era" is not often thought of, that is what the 1950s were. The 50s were an era of Yankee dominance, largely because of Yogi. Although the Yankees dominated in the end, this book shows how each season was a struggle in which Yogi's contribution was crucial.
Author Allen Barra takes the reader through the highlights of season after season. He makes several good points. Besides going through Yogi's offensive milestones, Barra explains Berra's valuable contribution by handling pitchers so as to maximize their effectiveness. We often focus on the pitchers, but overlook the catchers who made them great. Yogi's unofficial role as Casey's "assistant manager" contributed to keeping the team working together to achieve the results which all remember.
Eventually Yogi had to quit as a player but, with his extensive knowledge of baseball, went on to a career as a coach and manager. His first manager's job was the Yankees in 1964, after which he was fired for losing the World Series to his home town Cardinals. He then went over to the Mets where he served as coach and manager. It was there that the famous Yogism, "It ain't over till its over" was born.
Eventually he came back to the Yankees where he tangled with George Steinbrenner and, like most who tangle with George, lost. It left Yogi with a bitter taste in his mouth, but they eventually they made up.
Barra does a good job of using Yogisms to tell his story. Many times he mentions that someone "taught him all of his experience" and observed that "you can observe a lot just by watching. The reader will learn where several of the others originated. Where was the place that "nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded? Ruggeri's!
Yogi's family, his parents, brother, wife Carmen, sons and some just friends all get their supporting roles in the story.
For any fan of Yogi Berra, The Yankees, baseball or St. Louis, this book is a great read!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is an EXHAUSTIVE tome on the man who has won more World Series Rings than any other player ever. The book goes in great detail about Yogi's early life in the neighborhood of St. Louis, and chronicle's the evolution of his deep love of Baseball, and sense of family.
The book details many of the interactions between the players, and also peppers the text with Yogi's wit and wisdom.
This would be a wonderful gift for fathers day, or for any lover of baseball.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book will introduce those who never saw Yogi play (or manage) and gives a wonderful retrospective on his career, his colorful character and, more, the basic integrity and honesty of a kid from St. Louis who went on to become one of the truly great all-time stars of baseball. Yogi's colorful presence is balanced with a well-written, thorough story of his life and career in baseball and beyond. The book is studded with photographs, many never seen before by this long-time Yankees fan, and this book is highly recommended.
There is definitely a nostalgic flair about the book as well. Back in the day, when sports heroes WERE sports heroes and people you could look up to, Berra's story is much like the all-American dream for a kid growing up playing baseball and reaching for the stars. Who knew that he would shine as brightly as any star ever did on the diamond? I was a bit afraid I'd be disappointed in a bio done today about a highly regarded ballplayer; not to worry. This book gives a sparkling history not only of Yogi and his teammates, but the way that baseball was--and only should be, again. Definitely a 5 star read for any baseball fan.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
No question about it, Yogi Berra was an American original. Who hasn't heard some of his witticisms: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it," or "It ain't over till it's over," or "Half this game is ninety percent mental." And then there is my personal favorite, "We may be lost but we're making good time." That last one seems to sum up so much about our modern society. His folksy wit masked a keen mind, however, one that gets to the heart of any issue.
Aside from his knack for summing up great philosophical thoughts in pithy phrases, Yogi Berra was also one of the greatest baseball players of all time. As this biography--the first formal, sophisticated Berra biography to appear makes clear--Yogi led his team during one of its most legendary dynasties. During his time with the New York Yankees, 1946-1963, Berra played on more pennant winners, 14, and enjoyed more World Series victories, 10, than any other player in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. Sportswriter Allan Barra argues that Yogi was the greatest catcher ever to play, even more important than Johnny Bench, and is one of a handful of indispensible Yankees ever to take the field. Along with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and perhaps Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra's exploits have defined Yankee greatness through the ages.
Not bad for a kid from the Hill district of St. Louis, whose friend and baseball rival Joe Garagiola says was the best to ever play the game. Both played together and against each other while growing up in the Italian section of that city. Both were scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but Branch Rickey signed only Garagiola to a Cardinals contract. He did not think Berra had what it took to play beyond the minor leagues. In a Karmic sort of way that dumb decision ranks right up there with the Cardinals snookering the Chicago Cubs out of Lou Brock by trading Ernie Broglio for him in 1964. As a Cardinals fan I kick myself thinking about how Yogi Berra would have helped them in the 1940s, 1950s, and the early 1960s when they already had a good team that might have become a dynasty to rival the Yankees. With such a talented catcher as Berra on the field with Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, and Red Schoendienst, I would be surprised if they had not won several more championships.
But he became a Yankee, perhaps the quintessential Yankee. Even more than playing catcher better than anyone else of his era, Yogi also excelled both at managing and at life. He took the Yankees to the World Series in 1964, only to lose in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. At least the Cards got even in that one instance. Yogi also is revealed as a good and decent human being in this biography, a folksy sage who mentors the young and stays close to his family. "Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee" is altogether an enjoyable biography.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2011
This is the essential sports biography on a great player -- any player, for that matter. Allen Barra has done a great job of chronicling the life of a person who we all know, but we may not know all about his life. From the Hill in St. Louis to the hill in Yankee Stadium after Larsen threw his 1956 World Series perfect game, it's all in there. (There's a lot more after 1956, but the Hill parallel was what I was aiming for.)
I was pleased to see also that Barra included the rift and eventual make up between Berra and George Steinbrenner. I had heard about it, but never knew all the details about how the Boss traveled to Yogi's museum to meet with Yogi.
I read tons of sports bios and histories. This one, without a doubt, is the best biography I've read.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In order to put this review into the proper perspective, I have to admit that I am not much of a baseball fan. I know that sounds horrible, but I really am not that much into team sports. Although I will admit that I do tend to follow the World Series, Super Bowl, and other big events. So hopefully that will redeem me just a bit in the eyes of the diehard sports fans. Anyhow, on with the review.
Like I stated earlier, I am not much of a baseball fan, but I do appreciate the efforts and achievements of anyone who does something they like well, and well enough, that they become the best in their respective fields and in some cases, like this one, literally living legends. Yogi Berra will always be one of a select few names that baseball fans from any and all eras will easily come to mind as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
The author did a really great job at telling the story of the life of Yogi Berra with a superb writing style that kept the story very entertaining and interesting, even for those of us who are not baseball fans. And that in itself is quite the accomplishment to keep someone interested in a subject that really doesn't interest them. Kudos to the author for doing just that.
One of the many things that I liked about this book was also the first thing I noticed when I opened it up to read it, and that was the chronological order of events that took place in the life of Yogi Berra from his birth all the way up to the death of Phil Rizzuto. This provided a great highlight, so to speak, of the Yogi's life before you even got to the first chapter. A very nice touch!
Now to really go in-depth into the life of Yogi Berra in this review would be a great disservice not only to him, but the author as well. Therefore, I am merely going to add that this book is not only worth reading if you are a baseball fan, but also for every American who would like to read about the life and times of another great American, Yogi Berra. You won't be disappointed!
Creator of numerous books and DVD's.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
If you are a baseball fan, you'll love this book. Allen Barra has not only captured the essence of Yogi but has described and documented the entire era when Yogi, Phil, Reynolds, Whitey, Mickey (all of them and many more) made the Yankees a dynasty. You'll read about what really happened, who really said and did what - things you thought you knew about. Of course, Yogi's at the center of all of it. The book is highly detailed and tremendously entertaining all at the same time. Enjoy it - I did.