It’s March 2 and the best moment of spring training has come and gone.
Tyler Kepner of the Times, Anthony McCarron of the Daily News and myself were standing in the clubhouse talking about catchers when Yogi Berra walked by. We asked Yogi how old he was when he moved to the outfield.
Twenty minutes later, all the writers were in a semi-circle around Yogi and he was telling some great stories.
Yogi said that he feels his greatest accomplishment was striking out only 12 times in 597 at-bats in 1950. He had a .383 OBP that season and caught 148 of the 155 games the Yankees played. He said he regularly used to catch both ends of the Sunday doubleheader.
“Casey used to come up to me in the eighth inning of the second game and ask me if I wanted to come out,” he said. “I said, ‘I might as well finish the game now.’ ”
Yogi talked about playing left field in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series and watching Bill Mazeroski’s home run sail over his head.
“I thought it was going to hit the wall,” he said.
“You’re still waiting,” said George King of the Post.
“Tell me about it,” Yogi replied.
According to Yogi, the Yankees should have won that game. But Jim Coates failed to cover first base in the top of the eighth inning and Roberto Clemente reached on an infield single. “It should have been the third out,” he said. “Then Hal Smith hit a three-run homer.”
Yogi told us about mentoring Craig Biggio when he was with the Houston Astros and how much he’s looking forward to playing in the pro-am at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando in a few weeks. He’d like to play with Tiger Woods (“a good kid,” Yogi says) but he likes to play too early in the morning.
I asked Yogi what he thought of the young catchers in camp. “They’re good,” he said. “They’re all so big.”
Yogi will be 82 in May and he’s sharp as a tack. Ron Guidry stopped by as our conversation was breaking up. He’s cooking dinner for Yogi tonight and claims he’s going to make frogs legs.
“Oh, boy,” Yogi said. “I don’t know about that.”
God bless him, the man is a American treasure.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention this before. Ed Price of the Ledger asked Yogi what he thought about Yankee Stadium coming down. “I never played there,” Yogi said. “It’s a different stadium.”
As for Shea Stadium, Yogi laughed. “They had rats as big as horses there,” he said.