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Yogi Berra

Interview: Yogi Berra
Baseball Hall of Fame

June 1, 2005
New York City

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What was it like growing up on the Hill in St. Louis when you were a kid?

Yogi Berra: Well, it was very nice. In fact...

We played ball all the time. I played every sport there was in St. Louis. Not basketball, I was too short. I played a lot of soccer. I played football. I played softball. And, we had a game called "cartball." Did you ever play with bottle caps? We'd played with bottle caps, with broomsticks. Softball, everything. I played every sport. I actually didn't know I liked to play baseball until I was 14.

Did you do anything besides play sports?

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Yogi Berra: Oh yeah. I went to school, and I got out of school, and I went to work. I had to get a working permit.

What about school? Were you a good student?

Yogi Berra: No. Not too good. You see, I break up the English a little bit. I don't mean to do it, but it just comes out that way.

What was your favorite thing about school?

Yogi Berra: When you had recess and could play a little softball.

Were you a tough kid?

Yogi Berra: No, I'm not that tough. I could take care of myself if I have to.

When you were growing up, did you have to take care of yourself?

Yogi Berra: Well, I took a little boxing lessons. I had fought in the clubs and the whole thing. I fought a little. I liked the sports. I love to watch sports right now. I love to watch hockey, I like football. Basketball? I'm not much of a fan. I admit that. I watch it, but I'm not much of a fan because I wasn't that good at basketball.

Why did you choose baseball?

Yogi Berra: Baseball? Where could you go and work three hours and make that kind of money? It's just like Whitey Ford said. You know, they asked me, "What would you have done if you hadn't been a baseball player?" "Work in a shoe factory." They asked Whitey Ford, "What would you do?" "I'd probably be a bartender," he says.

Thousands of kids have that dream of playing big-league baseball and never make it. You made it. How were you able to do that?

Yogi Berra: Well, it's not an easy game. You got to stay at it. You really do. You know, a lot of people just think - we had guys - kids today, they're organized today. We weren't organized. Like you and I, you pitch to me, and I'd throw to you after. And, like I said, that cartball taught me a lot, softball. You got to keep your eye - you can't swing hard in softball, that's another thing. I never swung. If I swung hard, I would swing and miss a lot. And, you play with bottle caps, that ain't gonna make you swing hard, neither. And one strike, you were out. And you had to get four hits before you get a run. And we played it day and night. We loved it. Whatever was in season. I played a lot of soccer. I love soccer. I love to watch soccer games on TV. And back there on the Hill, we played against - soccer, we had Spanish living there, the Italians and Germans and Irish. We played against each other. And, I used to enjoy it. That was good. That's a good conditioning game, that soccer. It is.

What about your family? Tell us about your father and your family.

Yogi Berra: My father came over first. He came from the old country. And he didn't know what baseball was. He was ready to go to work. And then I had three other brothers and a sister. My brother and my mother came over later on. My two oldest brothers, they were born there -- Mike and Tony. John and I and my sister Josie were born in St. Louis. My father believed in working. You know, bring that check home! At that time, it was the Depression and everything, and he didn't know what baseball was. And if I ever came home with dirty pants, I really caught a beating. But that's funny.

I got started around 14. I worked in a shoe factory at 14. I had to get a working permit to work there. My brother Mike worked there too, and I used to go into work with him at 14. And then, I got a chance to play American Legion ball. I kind of skipped work a little bit, and I started to play. At fifteen and sixteen, I played American Legion ball. And, I said, "I'm going to play in the big leagues one of these days."

Did you ever want to be anything else but a ballplayer?

Yogi Berra: No. I loved baseball. I loved it. I still love it.

What did your father think of that?

Yogi Berra: He didn't think nothing about that. "You go to work and bring that check home!" Like in the old country.

How did your father earn a living?

Yogi Berra: Worked in a brickyard. My brother Tony worked with a baker. Mike worked in a shoe factory. My brother John was a waiter.

The 5-foot, 8-inch son of an Italian immigrant, you grew up to reach the Hall of Fame? What made you think you could do this?

Yogi Berra: I didn't think I could. Not actually that.

I'm very happy about it. You know, a kid from the Hill being elected to the Hall of Fame. Proud of it. And actually, I could tell you something else. My brother Tony was the best ballplayer in the family. My dad wouldn't let him go. And, I always kidded my dad, I said, "See that, Pops? You let all your sons go, you'd have been a millionaire." He said, "Blame your mother."

He was a tough man, but he'd treat you right. When I'd go out at night, he'd say, "What time are you coming home tonight?" He made me make the time. If you weren't home at that time, you'd get it. That taught me discipline. I had to telephone.

We had clubs on the Hill, we played against each other. My brother Tony played semi-pro ball. My brother Mike played semi-pro ball. My brother John played semi-pro ball. But, they only played on Sundays. And us kids, we played every darned day, you know, because they had to go to work. They really -- every chance they had. And, they're the ones that taught my dad to go and play baseball. They said, "We're all working, give..." They called me "Lawdies" then, instead of Yogi. Lawdies. "Give him a chance to go out and play ball." And, he says, "Okay."

So, I signed up. Leo Browne ran the American Legion team. See, I wanted to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, either that, or the St. Louis Browns. I wanted to play for St. Louis. It's home.

You were christened "Lawrence." How did you get the nickname "Yogi?"

Yogi Berra: Playing American Legion ball.

You know who gave it to me? Bobby Hoffman, who played with the Giants. We played on the same American Legion team. And, you know, we didn't have no dugouts when we played. We sat on the ground, or a bench was full with the players. And, I was sitting on the ground with my legs crossed and my arms crossed. And he says, "You look like a Yogi." And that stuck.

My mother used to call me "Lawdies." Even Joe Garagiola called me "Lawdies." That was the name before I played American Legion ball and they called me Yogi.

Did you ever mind being called Yogi?

Yogi Berra: No. Not at all. It don't bother me. A lot of guys called me different names. But, we had our own nicknames on the Hill, anyhow, in St. Louis.

And when you said to your father, "I want to be a professional ballplayer," what did he say to you?

Yogi Berra: "Well, we'll give it a chance." I wanted to sign with the Cardinals. That's my home town. And the St. Louis Browns were there, but they didn't want me. Leo Browne's the one that got in touch with George Weiss. He knew George Weiss from umpiring up in New Haven, Connecticut. And he says, "I got a kid, he's a pretty good ballplayer." They were very close friends, because they umpired in a game in Connecticut, and he asked. "Okay, we'll take a chance on him."

Now, we've read that the Cardinals would have signed you, but you wanted more money.

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Yogi Berra: Well, Garagiola got $500. The Cardinals gave him $500. They didn't want to give me $500. They wanted to give me $250. And, I wouldn't do it.

What was it Branch Rickey told you when you were a teenager and he was General Manager of the Cardinals?

Yogi Berra: He told me that I'd never be a ballplayer. I'd be a Triple A ballplayer, that's about it. And, I said, "Nope. I won't sign for that." But it's funny, when I signed with the Yankees, I get a telegram from Branch Rickey. He knew he was going to the Dodgers. So, he told me he didn't want me to sign with the Cardinals. That's what you want to hear. And, he sent a telegram, "Report at Bear Mountain for spring training with the Dodgers." It was too late, though. I already signed with the Yankees.

Did that discourage you, when Rickey told you you'd never make the majors?

Yogi Berra: No, I would have signed with anybody because I loved to play the game. I didn't like to work that much, either!

You didn't doubt your ability?

Yogi Berra: No, I didn't.

Were you ever worried about your size?

Yogi Berra: No.

I just like to hit, and the fun of the game is hitting. Well, you got to play a little defense, too. But hitting, I was very fortunate. You know, a lot of guys, "You're a bad ball hitter." I said, "No, the ball looked good to me. I swung at it." I could leave a pitch alone the first time like that. The next time, I hit at it, and I do something with it. I have fun with [Derek] Jeter. You know, sometimes he strikes out on that ball up here. And, I get on him. I say, "What'd you swing at that ball for?" I says. "It looks good." And he says, "You used to swing at it." I said, "Yeah, but I hit it. You don't."

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.

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.

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?

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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.

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.

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.

When you went to the Yankees, the Yankees had a lot of good Italian American ballplayers. Was that special for you, to be with DiMaggio, and Crosetti?

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Yogi Berra: You had Rizutto. It was always good to see them. These guys are stars. DiMaggio, I played five years with him. Phil, about seven. Crosetti, he was a coach. He was in more World Series than I was, as a coach and a player. He was in, I think, 23. I've been in 21 of them.

Yes, but nobody's won more than you have.

Yogi Berra: No.

When you were a kid on the Hill, could you imagine that you would make that journey to Yankee Stadium? To the Hall of Fame? To ten World Series championships?

Yogi Berra: No. Once you start playing though, we felt like we were going to win. We really did. We used to hold our own meetings, the ballplayers. You know, "There's something wrong here. Hey, let's get going. Time's getting late." Like Charlie Silvera, the backup catcher, he'd come in, he'd say, "C'mon, guys. I need a new wing on my house. Let's go." You know, the first World Series, we got $5,000. That's my first salary, was $5,000. And we got five. We got the biggest when we played the Giants in '51. We got about $10,000... $11,000. Bigger ballpark. We'd vote for the Giants, so we could get more money.

How do you handle the pressure of playing in front of all those people, and millions more on television?

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Yogi Berra: It didn't bother me. That didn't bother me. The only guy you watch is that guy pitching.

You're not even worried about letting down your teammates?

Yogi Berra: If I don't get a hit. But I always watch the pitcher. That's who I watch all the time. And the fans, you hear booing or something, don't even bother me. I play a lot of golf. You could talk, that don't bother me if I'm hitting a golf ball.

What about handling criticism? Athletes are subjected to criticism on the sports page every day. How do you handle that?

Yogi Berra: Pretty good, I guess. You get more criticism when you're a manager than when you're playing. In fact, I had one writer come in one time, the ball got away from the catcher, and he comes in and says, "Geez, what happened?" I said, "Didn't you see the game? What happened? It got away from the catcher." That builds you up a little bit.

Did you read the sports page every day?

Yogi Berra: Yes. Yes, I liked to read it. I liked to see the teams who were playing. We were riding on the train, you get the paper. If we're going into Cleveland, we'd watch if one guy who was hitting good, and I felt that if a guy was pitching the day we get in, "This guy's hot, we got to be careful with him." You know.

Did you ever feel that you were treated unfairly? What about umpires?

Yogi Berra: Once in a while. I think I only got thrown out twice in all the years I played. Managing, I got knocked off twice.

Did you deserve it?

Yogi Berra: No, I didn't deserve it.

When Jackie Robinson was out, that's one time I argued real mad. I had lot of fun. A story - I might say that tonight, you know - if people want to hear a little story from when Whitey Ford threw four pitches, four runs. You ever heard of that story? Playing the White Sox? Nellie Fox lead off, no he batted second. [Luis] Aparicio got on. He got a base hit. Nellie Fox got a base hit. The next guy hit. The next guy hit a home run. And Casey [Stengel] came out to me and said, "Has Whitey got anything?" I said, "What the hell do I know? I haven't caught one yet!" We did a lot of stuff. We had a lot of fun, I'll tell you. One time, Mickey called a game in Boston. He wanted to call the game. I said, "You want to call the game?" Whitey was pitching. And Whitey said, "Okay, let him call the game. See what happens." And we had a sign, when Mickey bent down it was a fast ball. If he stood straight up, it was a curve ball. And if he'd shake his glove, it was a change-up. And, we went for seven innings like that. We were winning two-to-nothing. So, we come in after the eighth inning and he says, "You're doing pretty good, Mick." And he said, "I quit. You take over now. I'm finished."

Did the manager know you were doing that?

Yogi Berra: No. No, he didn't.

Playing a game like baseball, do you have to have fun? Do you have to enjoy it?

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Yogi Berra: I think so. Yeah. You've got to have fun. You know, we played the Dodgers in a lot of World Series. We thought we were enemies. We weren't. When we're on the field we are, but off the field we weren't. Because I went barnstorming with Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and all them guys. And we had fun. But once the games start, you know, you're on your own. But after the game, real good chatter and everything. I liked to talk to the hitters. I just liked to talk to the hitters. But not when the ball was on the way. I'd just say, like: "Where you going tonight?" "What are you doing in the wintertime?" Just to keep a conversation going.

Did you ever give a batter a hard time before the pitch?

Yogi Berra: No. Sometimes I'd get him mad, I threw dirt on his shoes a little bit once in awhile.

Did it help?

Yogi Berra: No. Like [Larry] Doby, a very good friend of mine, he'd tell me, "Shut up. Don't talk to me when I'm hitting." Ted Williams used to say, "You old dago, you're twisted up." I'd say, "When you going fishing this year, Ted?" And he didn't like to talk. He'd talk to you after. But he was a nice guy, too. We did a lot of things with him. My son went to his baseball school, even.

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What do you talk about with umpires? Did you talk to umpires when you were catching?

Yogi Berra: Yeah. I said sometimes, "That ball was pretty close, wasn't it?" and all that. Yeah. You talk to the umpires. They don't like for you to turn around. That's the only thing. You look straight ahead, don't do nothing. There's one story I could tell you about Cal Hubbard. We were playing a game in Boston. We were way ahead. And, I wanted to get out of the game. It was hot. And, I said, "Well, you missed that damn ball. You missed that, Cal. What's the matter with you? You having a bad day back there?" and everything, you know. And he said, "Yogi, you could call me anything you want. If I'm going to suffer, you're going to suffer with me."

You were known as a great clutch hitter. Somebody once said that the toughest hitter in baseball in the last three innings was Yogi Berra. What made you so good under pressure?

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Yogi Berra: I don't know. Maybe I was just lucky. I loved to hit with men on base. Dickey used to holler at me, "You're wasting time at bat with nobody on base," he says.

You were an All-Star from '48 to '62. You won three Most Valuable Player awards. You don't go to the Hall of Fame because you're lucky.

Yogi Berra: Well. Like I said, I liked to hit with men on.

Is that your favorite moment in a game? Having the bat in your hands?

Yogi Berra: Oh, yeah. I think that's the fun of it. That's a challenge.

Was there a pitcher that gave you trouble? Any pitcher you didn't like?

Yogi Berra: No. Well, Herb Score. I remember Herb Score was a tough man. I had a tough time with Alex Kellner in Philadelphia, 'til I got the hang of him. But he gave me a little rough time. But Herb Score could have been another Sandy Koufax, I think, if he didn't get hit in the eye with Gil McDougald's line drive.

When you were growing up, did you have any trouble hitting the curve ball?

Yogi Berra: Not that much. But some of these guys, like Herb Score, if he got it over, tough luck. I didn't look for a curve ball from him.

What about Sandy Koufax? What was it like standing against him?

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Yogi Berra: You know, I never batted against him. Not in the World Series, or anything. The only time I batted against him was in spring training. And he didn't know where the ball was going then. When I was over with the Mets I saw him pitch. He was a pretty good pitcher. And them guys said, "You're lucky you don't have to hit against him." I said, "I'd like to hit at him now. He's got control. You should have batted against him when he couldn't find home plate!"

You were a pennant-winning manager. What did you learn about leadership, being a manager, that you didn't know as a player?

Yogi Berra: Oh, I think I watched the game pretty good. I watched the pitcher. You see how many catchers are managers today, don't you? They know the game. They know when the pitchers are a little tired, or something like that. You get a good pitching coach with you, you can have a lot of fun.

What's tougher, being a player or being a manager?

Yogi Berra: A player? Tougher? No, I'd just play. I was just playing. It's harder now, I think, in the National League. I wish they'd go back to the old way in the National League. No, DH or anything. I liked that better. I know people like to see home runs, more hits and everything.

What was your reaction when you learned that you had won the Most Valuable Player award for the first time?

Yogi Berra: Oh, it was great. It was great. I celebrated at the golf club. I did. I missed out the first time. A lot of guys asked me, "How come you didn't make it the first time?" I said, "Joe DiMaggio didn't make it on the first time, either." Today, I guess, it's a little different. Baseball's changed a little bit today.

Can you pick out one moment that is the most important to you as a ballplayer?

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Yogi Berra: Oh heck, I've got a few of them. The three Most Valuable Players, getting elected in the Hall of Fame. You know, I caught the no-hitter. The no-hitter, with Don Larsen pitching in the World Series. A perfect game. It never happened before and it hasn't happened since. He's the only one.

What were you thinking then? Two outs in the ninth inning. One batter away from a perfect game in the World Series, and you're the catcher.

Yogi Berra: I was pulling for him. He had good stuff that day.

Did you have to think twice about what pitches to call?

Yogi Berra: No. He got everything over. He went to three balls on one hitter in the first inning. That's all. He only threw 96 pitches. And anything I put down, he got over. Never shook me off once.

Are you at all surprised about what you were able to accomplish?

Yogi Berra: Oh, heck. Yep.

What I like about baseball, I made a lot of good friends. You can meet some bad ones too, don't get me wrong, but I think I met mostly good ones. Regular, like we keep in touch, the Yankees, the old guys. You know, I still keep in touch with our guys. I see Whitey [Ford]. I see Whitey all the time. Johnny Kucks, Gil McDougald, we see each other. I think a lot of them are passed away now. You know, Mickey [Mantle]. Mickey don't look like - 10 years now he's been out of the game. I miss him. I miss Billy Martin because we had fun. We really did. We did it the right way -- and sometimes we didn't!

Its been 40 years since you played your last game, but you're still held in enormous affection by the American public. How do you account for that?

Yogi Berra: I don't know. Maybe it's my Yogi-isms. I don't know.

You know, a lot of guys, I can walk down, sit at dinner, say, "Say a Yogi-ism." I say, "I don't even know I say 'em! I don't know. I can't say 'em." But my kids could catch me right away. Then, I could be at the museum, my museum in New Jersey, at Montclair State, they say, "Dad, you said another one." I didn't even know what the heck I said. Joe always tells me, he don't know, but he's got to think a little bit. But, then it comes out right, he says. But, it takes a little time. They just pop up, you know. And, I have fun. People come up to me, like at the airport. They look at you. "No, you can't be." You know, "You can't be Yogi Berra." Yeah, a lot of people tell me that in New York, I look like him. I have fun with the people at the airport, too, saying -- a lot of guys say, "You look like Yogi Berra." "Yeah, a lot of people tell me that."

Has it ever been difficult being Yogi Berra?

Yogi Berra: No, pretty good. I like it. I really do. Like I said, I met a lot of good people. And baseball, I've made a lot of friends. I love baseball. I still do. I go out and watch the Yankees. I'd go out to Shea once in a while. I like to see it. I watch it on television. I like sports. That's what I like. I like sports.

What it is about sports that you like so much? Why?

Yogi Berra: It's a good game. That's why I like it. It's a good conditioning game. Healthy game, you don't get hurt, you know. A little bit. And I've been very fortunate. At my age, I work out. I do. I still go work out. I like it. I don't lift weights. I don't know if the weights hurt them guys now today, I don't know. I like to stretch, do my walking, and do my exercise.

If a young person came to you for advice, and said, "Yogi, I'd like to be a professional ball player." What would you say to him?

Yogi Berra: Work hard at it. It's not easy. Anytime you got a chance to hit, hit! And, that's what we did. And, practice what you're doing. You know, fielding, whatever position you play. I never caught until I turned pro. I played second base, I pitched a little bit, and I played outfield. And, they thought I had a good arm, but I didn't know where I was going. That's when they got hold of Dickey. Like I said, I was a terrible catcher, but I had somebody to teach me.

What would you say to them if they asked you about steroids, and performance-enhancing drugs?

Yogi Berra: Oh, heck. I don't know. I don't even know what steroids look like, to tell you the truth. I really don't. The only thing that I took was a vitamin pill. Dunkin' Donuts and a cup of coffee in the morning, and playing ball.

What if they asked you about baseball today?

Yogi Berra: Well, it's changed a little bit.

They're making the parks small. They want to see home runs today. It seems like it, they want to do that and I get a kick out of them. You know, they run around the park. You know, they jog around the park. And, I used to tell them when I was coaching, I said, "Do you jog when you run to first base?" We used to do 20 laps, 100 yards, and walk back. A hundred yards. After every spring training game, we always did. Pitchers used to run from foul-line to foul-line, and they used to do it during the season while he wasn't pitching. The starters would do it. 'Cause they're all four bases. Running was a lot to us. They made you run.

Some kids today may not know what a "Yogi-ism" is. Do you have a favorite one that you would share?

Yogi Berra: "When you come to the fork in the road, take it." "It ain't over 'til it's over." "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded." "It gets early out here." But, like I said, they just come out. I wish I knew, though because I could make a million. But, I don't do it on purpose, that's the bad part about it. I don't do it on purpose. My wife tells me, "Say it right."

Is there anything in your career you'd like to do over again?

Yogi Berra Interview Photo
Yogi Berra: No. If I had to come back to life again, I'd like to be a ballplayer. Like I said, where could you make the money, working three hours and having fun?

There is no question about what you've accomplished in baseball; it's been a singular career. But did you ever think that you would be thought of as a philosopher, as a folk hero? A New York Times columnist called you that a couple of weeks ago.

Yogi Berra: I don't know. No, I don't know the name of the other thing. I don't know. But I got my museum. I have fun at the museum with the kids we have come there. You know, usually when you get a museum named after you, you're dead. And I'm still alive to see it. And I have my granddaughter, three months old, over there at the museum today. She come over. I got 10 grandkids. They're all good. And I've got a wife, I've been married 55 years. Not bad, either.

Not bad, either. All right. Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure and a privilege.

And, I thank you.




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