NEW YORK — The lovable legend of Yogi Berra, that ain’t ever gonna be over.
The Hall of Fame catcher renowned as much for his dizzying malapropisms as his unmatched 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees, died Tuesday. He was 90.
Berra, who filled baseball’s record book as well as “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” died of natural causes at his home in New Jersey, according to Dave Kaplan, the director of the Yogi Berra Museum.
Berra played in more World Series games than any other major leaguer, and was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player. For many, though, he was even better known for all those amusing “Yogi-isms.” “It ain’t over ’til it’s over” is among eight of them included in Bartlett’s.
“When I’m sittin’ down to dinner with the family, stuff just pops out. And they’ll say, ‘Dad, you just said another one.’ And I don’t even know what the heck I said,” Berra insisted.
Short, squat and with a homely mug, Berra was a Yankees great who helped the team reach 14 World Series during his 18 seasons in the Bronx.
“While we mourn the loss of our father, grandfather and great-grandfather, we know he is at peace with Mom,” Berra’s family said in a statement released by the museum. “We celebrate his remarkable life, and are thankful he meant so much to so many. He will truly be missed.”
Berra served on a gunboat supporting the D-Day invasion in 1944 and played for the Yankees from 1946 to 1963. His teammates included fellow Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
“No! Say it ain’t so,” former Yankees star Dave Winfield tweeted. “He was a good man, my former manager and friend! RIP Yogi.”
Lawrence Peter Berra, the son of Italian immigrants, got his nickname while growing up in St. Louis. Among his amateur baseball teammates was Jack McGuire, another future big leaguer.
“Some of us went to a movie with a yogi in it and afterwards Jack began calling me Yogi. It stuck,” Berra told the Saturday Evening Post.
He was a fan favorite, especially with children, and the cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after him.
Until recent years, Berra remained a fixture at Yankee Stadium and in the clubhouse, where the likes of Derek Jeter, Joe Torre and others in pinstripes looked up to the diminutive old-timer.
In 1956, Berra caught the only perfect game in World Series history and after the last out leaped into pitcher Don Larsen’s arms. The famous moment still is often replayed on baseball broadcasts.
After his playing days, Berra coached or managed the Yankees, New York Mets and Houston Astros. He led both the Yankees and Mets to pennants.
Berra was the AL MVP in 1951, 1954 and 1955. He holds World Series records for most hits (71) and games (75). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@MLB