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Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee Hardcover – March 30, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In the introduction to his latest effort, Barra (The Last Coach: A Life of Paul Bear Bryant) says that one of his goals was to create the first comprehensive work written about Yogi Berra, the greatest ballplayer never to have had a serious biography. The result is not only comprehensive but also incredibly engaging, as Barra narrates the life of one of the most eccentric ballplayers of the 20th century. Starting with his modest Italian upbringing in St. Louis, Mo., Berra quickly took a liking to what his father called a bum's game. And after a short career in the navy, he parlayed his talents into one of the most decorated athletic careers in history, leading the New York Yankees to 10 World Series championships and winning three MVPs. Each of Berra's baseball highlights is meticulously described, as are his stints as a manager for both the Yankees and crosstown Mets, his relationships with men like Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle and George Steinbrenner, and his ability to create some of the most famous catchphrases of our time, Yogiisms, as they're called. Barra's love of the catcher with the similar name is evident throughout this deserving biography of Yogi. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Barra brings to his sporting version of the Everyman story an encyclopedic knowledge and warm understanding of the game of baseball; meticulous research into business, sociology, and history; and a fluid writing style. The rough gem in this setting is Lorenzo Pietro Berra, the most beloved Yankee and one of the greatest players of all time. Barra makes that argument forcefully as he tells the story of the boy on “Dago Hill” in St Louis who only ever wanted to play ball. We are amazed again at how young Berra was and how cannily he played. The author calls 1947–58 the Yogi Berra era (a period that produced 10 pennants and 8 World Series championships) while giving ample credit to Casey Stengel as manager and Berra’s teammates, from DiMaggio to Mantle. The chapter on Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, which Yogi caught, is worth the price of admission. No anecdote is left unchecked, and the famous koans (“It ain’t over til it’s over”) are traced, investigated, and illuminated like holy writ. From Yogi on D-Day (he was there, on the beaches) to Yogi Bear the cartoon to Yogi’s postplayer roles as manager and coach, Barra covers it all, and what we embrace throughout is a great athlete and a good guy. Baseball biography taken to a higher level. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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The book also offers insight into how Yogi Berra helped promote the game of baseball on and off the field through family, friends, and fans. Indeed, he became a household name through various television appearances, advertisements, and baseball paraphernalia - cards, photographs, or anything that carried his trademark name; and even having a cartoon bear possess the name "yogi". One may say that he like Joe Dimaggio put the Yankee name and its players in the limelight.
Eternal Yankee is an exceptional biography that shows that the heart of the game of baseball definitely came through with its players and Yogi Berra was one example. For those who are interested or curious about the game and the close connections and relationships that are fostered with those who engage in sport, the book is recommended for those readers.
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!
Allen Barra wrote a great book about the really nice man and baseball legend Yogi Berra. The well written 453 page book is a page burner with no boring parts. Lots of nice B/W pictures too. I read the book in 3 days and had difficulty putting it down. The book reads smoothly and is a pleasure to read.
I just got done reading about HOF Joe Dimaggio. Both men HOF and Yankee legends. Joe D the self proclaimed "king of baseball" vs Yogi the fun loving, lovable very low ego guy. What a difference in egos!
We read Lawrence "Lawdie" Berra being brought up in the depression by his loving Italian decent parents in St. Louis, in an Italian section of "the Hill". We read "Lawdie" and other family members and having small jobs to add to the family income and "Lawdie" having boyhood fun especially baseball. "Lawdie" had little interest in school and droped out of the 9th grade. We see him eventually playing semi pro baseball and getting into the minors. Berra was an undisciplined hitter that would swing at almost anything even way out of the strike zone. Even so he develops into a good hitter with power. He is slightly clumsy and not too good at defense and doesn't develop into a catcher until many years later. He gets a very small bonus and near minimum baseball wages to join the NY Yankees.
WE see Lawrence"Yogi" Berra was a WW2 decorated( Purple heart and more) Navy Veteran that served on a small "rocket launching boat" on D day.
We see him learning baseball with great managers like Casey Stengel. Bill Dickey the Yankee great catcher takes now "Yogi" under his wing and teaches him the skills allowing Berra to use his athletic ability to become one of the greatest catchers of all ( if not the greatest). At the end of the book Allen Barra has a listing of the great catchers and their comparisons( INMO Johny Bench and Yogi were so close to being the greatest catchers of all time with Yogi the more important big game player. He played in more World Series games than any other player with ten World Series rings. Its also shown the pitchers Yogi caught and the pitchers record before and after Berra caught them and the great success these pitchers enjoyed while Berra caught them and called the pitches. Yogi is shown as a great baseball "quarterback" knowing how to pitch various pitchers in the league and calling great games. We see the only ever World Series perfect game by Don Larson and caught and called by Yogi Berra.
The book is full of the many Yankee great players that played with Berra and with other great players too. The reader will learn much more than Yogi Berra.
We see the legend of the Yogi "Isms" like "It ain't over till its over" and "If you come to and fork in the road take it" and many many more.
We see the multiple MVP awards Berra earned and eventually managing the Yankees to the pennant only to be fired for not winning the World Series. Yogi was crushed and was mad Steinbrenner didn't have the decency to fire him face to face. For about 14 plus year Yogi refuses to set foot in Yankee stadium while George Steinbrenner is in charge. With only a few months to live and dieing Joe Dimaggio influences Berra to met with Steinbrenner. Eventually Yogi forgives Steinbrenner for not firing him face to face.
We also see Berra as the Mets manager and helping them to win a pennant. Later we see him coaching with the Houston Astros.
We see Berra a national celebrity helping sell many products, doing commercials like the famous Aflac commercial, becoming a VP for the Yah Hoo chocolate soda company and even being in a movie. We see him and HOF Phil Rizzuto opening and owning a big bowling alley complex,allowing financial security for Berra's kids and beautiful, loving wife Carmin. We see Yogi developing into a very good businessman. He also had a museum named for him in Montclair NJ where he lived. Yogi loved watching movies and reading comic books.
Yogi did it all in baseball except winning the World Series as a manager. Here's is a man you loved playing the game, managing and coaching. The vast majority of players got along with him ( notable exceptions Tom Seaver and C Jones on the Mets). Yogi was a fun loving guy that millions world wide fell in love with as he was so down to earth, honest and didn't put on airs and had a very low ego.
One of my favorite Yankee MLB players, a great warm lovable low ego human being. Yogi Berra The Eternal Yankee 5 stars and recommended.
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.