May 12, 1925 – On this date in New Jersey history, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was born. Although he was born in St. Louis, Yogi has been a New Jersey resident for over 60 years. He and his wife, Carmen (who passed away last year) lived in Montclair for nearly 40 years before moving to an assisted living facility in West Caldwell last year.
Yogi was signed by the New York Yankees in 1942 and assigned to the Norfolk Tars. He went on to play for the Yankees for 17 seasons, winning 10 World Series, was selected to 18 All-Star Games (MLB held two All-Star Games in 1959 through 1962), and was named the American League Most Valuable Player in 1951, 1954, and 1955. One of the most notable achievements of Berra’s baseball career was catching Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the first of only two no-hitters ever thrown in postseason play. The pictures of Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms following the final out of the game are among the sport’s most memorable images.
After his playing days, Yogi’s baseball career continued for nearly 30 years in various managerial and coaching roles with the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Houston Astros. He won three more World Series Championships (one with the “Miracle Mets” in 1969) and in 1972 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and had his number (“8”) retired by the New York Yankees.
Yogi is well-known for his many humorous comments and observations, known as Yogiisms. Some of these include, “90% of the game is half-mental,” “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” and “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Perhaps even more impressive than Yogi’s career as a baseball legend is his status as an American war hero. Prior to making it to the big leagues, Yogi served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. On June 6, 1944, he was one of 6 men operating a 36-foot LCSS boat (landing craft support – small) on the beaches of Normandy, France. His mission on D-Day was to fire rockets at German gun targets in order to protect the Allied troops storming the beach. Three of his shipmates died in the invasion.
Happy 90th Birthday Yogi!