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If you like Yogi Berra's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Julius Erving,
Peyton Manning,
Willie Mays,
Pete Rozelle,
Bill Russell and
John Wooden

Related Links:
Yogi Berra - Official Website

Yogi Berra Museum

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Yogi Berra
 
Yogi Berra
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Yogi Berra Interview (page: 3 / 6)

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  Yogi Berra

Before your career really got started, you served in World War II. What did you do?

Yogi Berra: I went away when I was 17 years old. I was playing with Norfolk, Virginia when my birthday came. They let me finish out the season, and then I joined the Navy.


I got in the Navy when I was 18 years old. And, from there they sent me to Bainbridge, Maryland, for boot camp. Then they shipped me down back to Norfolk where I started from, Little Creek down there -- base down there. And, I got tired of sitting around. Then they said, "We're looking for volunteers to go in the amphibs." And they didn't tell us what kind of boat, just "in the amphibs." So, I joined in, I said, "Well, I want to join the amphibs." There, being 18 years old. And, then they said I was on a rocket boat -- 36-footer, with 12 rockets on each side, five machine guns, a twin-50 and the 330s. And only 36 feet, made out of wood and a little metal. And, when I went back -- we went back to Bainbridge to do some training. And, I couldn't write home and tell them what I was doing, because them boats weren't out yet, for the invasion of Normandy. So, we started training there, and then we came back to Little Creek again and we started to train a little bit what we were supposed to do. It's amazing what that little boat could do, though; that 36-footer. We could shoot out rockets. We could shoot one at a time, two at a time, or we could shoot all 24 at a time. We went in on the invasion. We were the first ones in, before the Army come in.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


This was on D-Day?


Yogi Berra: D-Day. Yeah. Normandy. And, we stand out about 300 yards off the beach, and we see what happens. If we ran into anything, we fire. First of all, we fire one rocket to find out if it reached the beach. And if it did, then we let out, shoot them all. And, we had extra rockets to fire. And, we had smoke pots on and everything. And, we did pretty good.


How long were you doing this -- firing rockets -- during the invasion?


Yogi Berra: We stayed on the water for ten days. They gave us C-rations to eat while we were on it, slept on it. And, we finally got back on the ship, the USS Bayfield, P833. We were so tired, so they said -- and no sooner had I got in the bed, we get a general quarters order. And, I said, "Tough luck. I'm not getting out of this bed. I'm staying right in it." Fortunately enough, nothing happened to us. We were lucky. But, you just get so tired, you got to say that. But then, I enjoyed it. I wasn't scared. Going into, it looked like Fourth of July. It really did. Eighteen-year-old kid, going in an invasion where we had - I've never seen so many planes in my life, we had going over there.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


So when you came back from World War II, did you go straight back to baseball?

Yogi Berra: Yeah. I had played one year in Norfolk, Virginia, and when I came back to Norfolk again, they said, "We're going to send you up to the submarine base." I said, "Wait a minute. I didn't volunteer for any submarines. I'm not going..."


"Now we're going to send you up to a ship's company, you get on the base up there." I said, "Okay." So I went in, and they had a ball team, and we were making the ball team there. And, Jim Gleason that played with the Cincinnati Reds was our lieutenant commander there. He was in charge of - the athletic director there. And he asked me, "What do you do?" I said, "I play ball." He thought I was a boxer at first, you know. And I said, "No, I play ball." And he said, "Who do you play with?" And I said, "I'm going to the Yankees." He didn't believe me. So, then we built our own ball park at New London submarine base, and we played there. And he would never use me, for a while. Then he finally put me in for a pinch hitter. I got a home run and then I stayed in. He made me play. He was a good man, that lieutenant commander. Jim Gleason, he was a good man. I made him a coach after I was manager. He was a great guy.


Who first saw the potential in you?

Yogi Berra Interview Photo
Yogi Berra: Well, what helped me a lot, that was like Triple A. You had people coming in from the service. I played with Junior Thompson, who pitched for Cincinnati; Jim Gleason, who played with Cincinnati. I had Walter Johnson, who pitched for Washington; Al Gettel, he pitched for the Yankees. We had a mix. Then we played some of the big league teams. We played the Browns. We played the New York Giants. I had a good day against the Giants.

But somebody had to have seen you as a kid in St. Louis and said, "That guy could be a big-league ballplayer." Who was that?

Yogi Berra: Well, actually, it was the one who managed our American Legion team. He was a scout. And he told Rickey, "Sign him. I know what he could do." And that's when he said I'd never be a big-league ballplayer. But he knew he was going to the Dodgers. I asked the Browns, "Why don't you give me that?" They said, "We ain't gonna give it to you."

Weren't you intimidated by the idea of playing for the Yankees?

Yogi Berra: I wanted $500. I didn't care who gave it to me.

Is it true that the Giants offered the Yankees $50,000 for your contract when you were still playing in the minors?

Yogi Berra: Yes, they did. (Larry) McPhail was our general manager. He wanted to know, "Who in the hell is this kid Yogi Berra that they want to give me $50,000 for?"

Was anything about baseball difficult for you? What was hard?

Yogi Berra: No, it wasn't that difficult.


I had fun. It's a fun game, to me. I don't know how other people take it. I could take it, you know. We'd get beat or something. Well, they were better than us today. We'll get 'em tomorrow. I could take a loss. I really can take a loss.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


You were still a kid in 1947, when you first went up to the big leagues. In the beginning, weren't you anxious?


Yogi Berra: I was a lousy catcher 'til they got Bill Dickey there. Dickey worked me hard. And, I liked it, though, what he did for me. I owe everything to Bill Dickey, I really do. He made me a good catcher. How to block balls. I try to do that to some of the kids today. They've got their own style, some today, you know. And, now everybody tells me, "Boy, you're so short." I say, "Well, I make a good target. I don't have to bend down so far. I'm in the strike zone all the time." But Dickey, he really worked me, boy. Worked me to death, and I loved him for it. And, then it came easy. It came easy for me. Like a lot of people, I try to tell them, I know they take that crow hop now, you know, when they throw to second base, but I don't. But see, I go into a ball. I can let you swing a bat, and I go across home plate, you won't hit me.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


You also had this reputation of swinging at bad pitches. Did managers try to get you to change your style?

Yogi Berra: No. Dickey also helped me.


I could hit the ball the other way, too. Two strikes, I always guard the plate. And then there's some pitchers out there, I don't care what he threw, I could hit it. And if he threw a curve ball, he's not going to fool me. Sometimes a pitcher gives away their pitches to a hitter, if you're paying close attention to their pitching. [Ramon] Manon, like, in a stretch, he could come down so far for a fast ball, comes down lower for a curve ball. You watch him. They had a pitcher on Baltimore, a black guy. When you see the white of his hand, it was a fast ball. When you didn't see the white, it was a curve ball. And he could tell you right away, what you're hitting.


Were you ever nervous playing the game?

Yogi Berra: You're always nervous at the beginning, the first pitch. You get a little tense. When the game starts, then it's all right.

What about your first World Series game?

Yogi Berra: Yeah, I was a little tense at the beginning. It's my first time. Look, my first year in the big leagues, I'm in the World Series!

What are you thinking if you're at bat, and it's the last of the ninth? The winning runs are on, and the count's three-and-two. What is going through your head?

Yogi Berra: Well, I feel that a good time to hit is with men on base, because the pitcher ain't got no place to put you. He's going to get that ball around there somewhere. He don't want to walk you. So, like I said, if I saw it, I hit it.

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This page last revised on Apr 28, 2008 09:12 EDT
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