Remembering Yogi Berra, an American icon

Baseball today mourns the passing of Yogi Berra. Yogi was an American icon, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and a Hall of Fame catcher with the Yankees whose record of 10 World Championships will never be equaled. But above all that, Yogi was a great husband, a loving father, and a wonderful man, whose kindness, humility and sincerity touched all who knew him.

Yogi Berra played in the first baseball game I ever saw, in the summer of 1958 at Yankee Stadium. Yogi batted fifth and played right field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. And although the Yankees lost to the White Sox that day, I was hooked on baseball for life.

Yogi was a walking Bartlett’s who said everything from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It gets late early out there” to “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”

On a personal note, I played competitive softball until I turned 60. In the later years I became a catcher, and proudly wore #8 in honor of Yogi.

Yogi’s passing hits home for me. My father was born in 1925, the same year as Yogi. My dad passed on his love of baseball to me. No doubt, he’ll be watching the Yankee game tonight.

We used to argue about who was the best catcher in Yankee history, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra. My father, who saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play, would say Dickey. Sorry pops, it was Yogi.

RIP Lawrence Peter Berra.

Sorry Pops, Yogi Gets the Nod over Dickey

Yogi Berra, who has 10 rings and three MVPs, is the greatest Yankee catcher ever.

The other day I got into a discussion of the all-time Yankee team with my father, who  knows more about sports than anyone. Dad has seen ’em all, from Ruth to A-Rod.

For the most part, compiling a list of the best  Yankees by position is a relative cinch.

Plenty of great outfielders have worn the pinstripes, but you’d have to be crazy not to select Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

The infield is pretty much a no-brainer too — Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig at first base and Tony Lazzeri at second, and current players Derek Jeter at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third.

Whitey Ford would be the choice as left-hand pitcher, and Mariano Rivera as reliever. There are a whole bunch of candidates for right-hand pitcher – Jack Chesbro, Waite Hoyt, Bob Shawkey, Red Ruffing, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Mel Stottlemyre, Catfish Hunter, David Cone, Mike Mussina and more are at least in the conversation.

Dickey vs. Berra
When it comes to catcher, my father surprised me when he said Bill Dickey, not Yogi Berra, was the Yankees best ever.

Let’s compare, Both Dickey and Berra are Hall of Famers, and they are the only Yankees to share a retired number, #8.

Dickey, right, played for the Yankees from 1928 through 1943 and closed out his career in 1946, the same year Berra first appeared on the scene. His career batting average was .313 with 202 home runs, 1209 RBIs and 1969 hits.

Dickey hit .362 in 1936, the standard for catchers until it was equalled by Mike Piazza 61 years later and surpassed by Joe Mauer’s .365 in 2009. He was an 11-time All-Star and won seven championships.

Berra’s career for the Yankees ran from 1946 through 1963. (He had nine ABs with the Mets in 1965). Yogi has a .285 career batting average with 358 homers, 1430 RBIs and 2150 hits.

10 Rings for Yogi
Berra was an American League All-Star every year between 1948 and 1962. He has 10 World Series championships, more than any other player in baseball history.

Yogi is still the career leader in World Series games and hits, and his 12 homers rank third all-time between a couple of guys named Mantle and Ruth.

Dickey clearly has the edge in batting average, but doesn’t have the power numbers or post-season pedigree of Berra. Yogi hit at least 20 homers in 11 straight years, including 30 in 1950 and 1952. Dickey hit 20 or more four times but never hit 30.

The tiebreaker that puts Berra over the top comes in MVP consideration. Dickey never won an MVP; his best finish was second in 1938. Berra had a seven-year stretch between 1950 and 1956 where he won three MVP Awards (1951, 1954 and 1955). Berra finished second twice, third and fourth once in that stretch, one of the best MVP runs in baseball history.

Sorry Pops, but Yogi Berra gets the nod as best Yankee catcher ever.