Speaking of Yogi Berra … we did in today’s “Daily Dread” about him helping advance a safer bat among major-league baseball players …
The book: “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee”
The author: Allen Barra
How to find it: W.W. Norton & Co., 480 pages, $27.95
The scoop: Not to be confused with:
= “Yogi: The Life and Times of An American Original” by Carlo DeVito (2008, linked here).
= Or “You Can Observe A Lot By Watching: From What I’ve Learned About Teamwork from the Yankees and Life,” by Berra, with Dave Kaplan (2008, linked here).
= Or “The Yogi Book : I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said” by Berra in 1998.
= Or “What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All” by Berra and Kaplan, in 2003.
= Or “The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra” by Phil Pepe in 2002.
= Or “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes” by Berra, again with Kaplan, in 2002.
= Or “Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons” by Berra, yes, again with Kaplan, in 2005.
= Or “Yogi Berra: An American Original” by the New York Daily News in 2001.
= Or “Yogi: It Ain’t Over” by Berra and Tom Horton in 1990.
= Or even “Yogi Was Up with a Guy on Third … Hall of Famers Recall Their Favorite Baseball Games Ever” by Maureen Mullen and includes a chapter on Berra recalling a Don Larson’s 1956 World Series perfect game, and includes a photo of Berra on the cover.
No, what makes Barra-on-Berra work where the others took some detours — when there’s a fork in the road, they took it — is endorsements, first of all, from Bob Costas, Jim Bouton and “Clemente” author David Maraniss. With that, you know it’s got a stamp of approval.
(Not to mention the 40-plus reviews already on it at Amazon.com, most of which give it a five-star rating, linked here)
That, and the fact that Barra already has the credentials and reputation to make this what can almost be called the Ultimate Berra compilation.
“Do we take Yogi Berra seriously enough?” Barra asks in the intro.
“And the answer, I think, is no,” he continues.
Underrated is a term that’s tossed around. ESPN’s Jayson Stark, in his book, “The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History,” regards Berra nto only as the most underrated catcher of all time but also the most underrated player. But unlike underrated players, Berra is hardly forgotten. “There has simply been a wrong turn taken somewhere in regards to what he should be remembered for,” Barra says.
In other words, you don’t get the whole Yogi in an Aflac commercial.
“If Yogiisms have become a light industry, then the debunking of Yogiisms practically qualifies as one,” Barra adds.
And writing this, Barra adds in the acknowledgments, was probably a natural thing: “Writing this book was so logical for me that I don’t remember when I decided to do it, or why it took me so long to get around to it. Probably from my father, Alfred Barra, who used to laugh every time someone asked him, ‘Are you related to Yogi?'”
Aside from the insightful research that documents all kinds of Yogi, there are several items in the appendix that really are vital to put Berra’s career in context. Appendix A asks if Berra was the greatest, when compared to Bench, Campanella, Cochrane or Dickey. Barra’s conclusion: Perhaps, if only the tiebreaker being that Berra seemed to make mediocre pitchers better on the Yankee staff. “If Yogi Berra’s record as handler of Yankee pitching staffs isn’t a clear indication of an extraordinary talent for leadership, then we may as well dispense with the word altogether,” Barra writes.
How it goes down in the scorebook: 2-to-3 putout, with Berra pouncing on a dribbler in front of the plate and throwing it to first. Then, quietly, picking up his gear and returning behind the dish.
If you’re into this one: You might also enjoy “Yankee Colors: The Glory Years of the Mantle Era” (linked here) by Al Silverman, forward by Yogi Berra (Abrams, 208 pages, $35) as well as “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain” (linked here), due in July, 30 years after his death.