Saturday, September 26, 2015

"It ain't over 'til it's over:" Some Thoughts on the Passing of Yogi Berra

There are a number of amusingly grammatically incorrect, yet somehow profound, quotations associated with the name of Yogi Berra, the celebrated catcher for the New York Yankees, who died this week at the age of 90. 

"We made too many wrong mistakes," he is supposed to have said.  What is a right mistake?  One may ask.  Well, I would suppose a right mistake is one that turns out well in the end, after all.

Baseball was his life and his joy.  I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, in a time when baseball was still the game of summer.  I would go over to the next street, cutting through back yards, to my grandmother's house.  She'd be sitting in the living room, in her easy chair with the matching ottoman.  I'd walk in the back door, calling out our universal greeting and identification, "Yoo-hoo!"  I'd grab a Coca-cola out of the fridge and go into the living room.

My grandma's dog, a large black-and-tan dachshund named Peanuts, would be lying beside the ottoman, and the television would be on.  In the mid 1950s, when we moved to Florida from California after my father died, we had only one television station in Jacksonville.  On a summer afternoon, there was most likely a baseball game on.

We would sit, grandma in her chair and I on the floor, to be closer to the television, and to grandma, so we could talk and cheer for our team.  The doors and windows were all open to let in some air, in those days when people of our economic stratum did not have air conditioning.  We'd watch the game, and when a member of the team we were rooting against that day came up to bat, we would raise our right hands, make a circular clockwise motion with our fingers, and say, "Cat fuzz around that bat."  That was our curse.

Sometimes it worked.  Sometimes it didn't.  But it was still fun.

I never was a Yankees fan.  My team were the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Yes, I started as a Dodgers fan before they left the Big Apple, left Ebbets Field, and moved to Los Angeles and Chavez Ravine.  My affection went with them.

However hostile I may have felt towards the Yankees, everyone admired their star players, who just had so much talent.  Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris.  And Yogi Berra.  Who didn't love Yogi, who loved the game so much.  His name conjures up mid-20th century America, warm summer days, and carefree times in front of the television set with my grandma, watching the national game.

Thanks, Yogi.

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