So you get passed Mantle and Maris and you walk Skowron, only to get to Yogi.
He stands at the plate smaller than the others, a fire plug of a guy, no relation to the bulging gym-made specimens of today. But there’s gym strong and there’s the son-of-Italian-immigrants strong. The kind of strong that sits on its haunches for nine innings day after day and year after year, and still rises to get the clutch hit.
And bats the better part of .300 his entire career.
Now, pitch after pitch, nothing reaches the catcher. Strike after strike, ball after ball is fouled off. In the stands people fidgit. The pitcher gets frustrated. He whacks the ball into his glove, kicks the dirt turns to the bleachers, and looks up at the sky for relief, but there isn’t any. He’s thrown all his best stuff. He’s thrown all his stuff.Mr Berra is still there, waiting.
The umpire calls for more balls.
The pitcher tries to waste one away. Maybe Berra will chase it. He does. The greatest bad ball hitter the world has ever seen, a man who always left his nerves at home before coming to the ball park, uncoils and reaches out for a ball a mile high and half a mile outside and punches it into the right field stands.
When I was a kid on 167th Street and the Grand Concourse (which was 6 blocks from 161st Street where you take a right at Joyce Kilmer Park, go passed the Bronx County Court House and walk down two blocks to River Avenue and Yankee Stadium) we would play stickball on McClellan Avenue while listening to the games and dodging cars (radio is the only way to “watch” baseball if you are not in the Stadium).
When the Yankees were 6 runs down in the 7th we’d idly wonder how they were going to pull this one out, never doubting they would. And they usually did.
You can love the man, laugh at his malapropisms, but never, never forget the ballplayer.
No more Yogi? It’s official: the 50s are over.