Behind the Mike: Remembering St. Louisan Yogi Berra -

Behind the Mike: Remembering St. Louisan Yogi Berra

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Yogi Berra is interviewed at the Yogi Berra Museum in New York. (Credit: CNN) Yogi Berra is interviewed at the Yogi Berra Museum in New York. (Credit: CNN)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballSTL) -- I know people who’ve met Yogi Berra, but I didn’t. I know people who watched Yogi play baseball, but the closest I’ve come to that is watching his grainy highlights. Taking that into consideration, you might wonder why his passing is so impactful to me.

After all, Yogi Berra was more than 60 years my senior. 

I’ve determined it’s our St. Louis roots.

I feel like I’ve never read or watched anything about him that didn’t in some way include an anecdote about his upbringing in the St. Louis’ “Hill” neighborhood. No surprise, as an Italian, my family planted its foundation on the Hill when they came to St. Louis.

 To my knowledge, the Colombos and DiMartinos weren’t neighbors or friends of the Berras, but I imagine they crossed paths at some point…probably at St. Ambrose Church.

I proudly grew up across Hampton Avenue from the Hill in Dogtown, an Irish neighborhood (with its fair share of Italians!) The proximity to the Hill meant frequent visits there for sporting events, shopping, dinners, and the occasional mass.

Those trips always seemed to garner a mention of the neighborhoods famous former residents, Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. Yes, I’ve visited Elizabeth Avenue where Berra and Garagiola grew up as neighbors.

That history, mixed with my passion for sports, led me to learn more and more about Berra, his upbringing in St. Louis, and his iconic career.

It seems many people know him best for his “Yogi-isms.” You’ve heard some of them. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” and “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

 We shouldn’t forget the force he was on the field and in the dugout. As one of baseball’s greatest catchers, the Hall of Famer helped the New York Yankees to 10 championships. He still holds World Series records for games played, plate appearances, hits and doubles. He also managed the Yankees and New York Mets to the World Series.

In a report I filed in the spring of 2014 about another native St. Louisan and Yankee great, Elston Howard, Howard’s daughter told me Yogi was one of a handful of Yankees at the time that treated her father, the first African American to play for the franchise, with kindness and respect.

Would you expect anything else from Yogi Berra?

The aspect of Yogi’s story that always resonated most with me is how a kid from St. Louis could defy all odds to become a star. He didn’t have a charmed upbringing or an uncle with connections. You could argue he wasn’t the most talented in his neighborhood. Heck, Yogi himself said he wasn’t even the most talented athlete in his family!

What Yogi Berra did have was a dogged work ethic, love for the game, and self-belief that allowed him to reach the pinnacle of his profession.

I believe those Yogi-isms also prove that he didn’t take himself too seriously. A trait I think we all should try to incorporate into our lives.

As we mourn Yogi’s death, us St. Louisans should also feel a sense of pride. One of our own left a lasting legacy on the United States. He may have never won a Nobel Prize, but his impact on sports and pop culture can’t be denied.

I’ll end on a few Yogi-isms…”You can observe a lot by watching.”

If we’ve observed anything watching Yogi Berra over the years, we should know our humble, hometown star is up there holding court with fellow family, friends, and foes. As he was once quoted as saying, “if you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.” 

It’s impossible to copy Yogi Berra. He was one of a kind. 

Thanks for reading and watching. -Mike

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