It was fun to solicit your questions for players like Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes and Jason Giambi. But when it came to Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, it was more of a privilege.
More than 500 readers of the LoHud Yankees Blog and The Journal News sent in questions and nearly all of them were accompanied by a personal note mentioning how much Yogi meant to them and asking me to wish him well. “That many people, huh?” he said before we got started. “Pretty good.”
Yogi was a four-time MVP, a 10-time World Series champion, a manager who led teams to the World Series in both leagues and a combat veteran of World War II. Now 84, you can frequently find him at Yankees games or at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is the center of a large group of family and friends.
“Everybody loves Yogi,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
A wise man once said that you can observe a lot by watching. Here’s hoping you enjoy reading and/or listening to the interview with Yogi. We chatted last week before the first game against the Red Sox in Girardi’s outer office at Yankee Stadium.
If your question was not chosen, please take no offense. There were literally 500 questions sent in and narrowing them down was difficult.
Here is the audio:
And here is the transcript:
Matthew asks: What was your favorite park to play at other than Yankee Stadium and what did you like about it?
Yogi Berra: “Detroit. You could see the ball good there, it had a good background.”
Edwin asks: You won 10 championships with the Yankees. Which one was the most memorable one and why?
YB: “It’s got to be ’56 because of Don Larsen and the no-hitter. It had never happened, never been done. It’s got to be that. There hasn’t been a no-hitter at all as far as that goes.”
Luds asks: Which Yankee player that you played with would you consider as the most underrated?
YB: “Oh, boy. That’s pretty tough, we had some pretty good players. That’s pretty tough. Maybe they figure (Roger) Maris was until he hit the 60 home runs. They didn’t know how good he was. (Gil) McDougald was a pretty good player. McDougald was a good player. McDougald made the All-Star team at three positions: second, short and third.”
Brian asks: Of all the Yankee pitchers you never played with, is there anybody you didn’t get a chance to catch you would have liked to caught?
YB: “On our team? Not necessarily. We used them all as far as that goes. We didn’t carry 13 pitchers like they do now. We only carried 10. We carried eight starters and two relievers.”
Follow-up question: “Is there anybody now in the last 10 years or last 15 years you thought you would like to catch?
YB: “Sure, (Andy) Pettitte would be nice to catch, too. Pettitte would be good. (Mariano) Rivera would be good as far as relievers. We had pretty good relievers, the ones we had. (Pettitte) mixes it up like Whitey Ford. Same kind of guy.”
Sean asks: Which player that you played with back then do you think could fit in good with the team now?
YB: “(Laughs) Quite a few of them. DiMag and Mickey. They weren’t bad. Tommy Henrich wasn’t bad, jeez. You know, a lot guys never saw Billy Johnson, he was a good third baseman. He was good. One thing the Yankees had, they always had a pretty good third basemen.”
Michael asks: Did you talk to the hitters when they came up?
YB:” I talked to them but I never talked when the ball was on the way. I’d talk to (Ted) Williams and say, “Where you going fishing today?’ because he liked to fish. He used to tell me to shut up. He was good. Minnie Minoso, I used to throw dirt on his shoes. I talked to them all. Larry Doby because he was from Jersey and was my neighbor.”
Nicolas asks: Who is your favorite current player?
YB: “Aw, (Derek) Jeter is a good ballplayer. Look how long he has been playing. He’s been here since he was 19 years old. He come through the Yankee farm system. He’s good.”
Ed asks: Of all the outfielders you played with, who had the best arm?
YB: “The best arm? This is going back. Cliff Mapes, I’m not kidding He’s the guy who forced (Johnny) Pesky at home on the hit to right field, Good arm. Joe (DiMaggio) had a good arm before he hurt his back. Joe had a good arm. Hank Bauer had a good arm. Mickey had a good arm before he got hurt.”
(Just so you know, Yogi is talking about a famous play on July 4, 1949 against Boston. With the bases loaded in the ninth inning against Vic Raschi, Al Zarilla lined a ball to right that fell in. Johnny Pesky thought Mapes would catch the ball and held up. Mapes threw a strike to the plate that Yogi caught like a first baseman. It was a force and Pesky was out.)
Follow-up question: Do you think outfielders back then had better arms than they do now?
YB: “(Laughing) I think we hit the cutoffs better.”
Randy asks: How you keep your legs in such good shape after all those years catching?
YB: “Well, I had a knee replacement seven or eight years ago. But I played a lot of soccer when I was a kid, a lot of running. We did anything. Our pitchers back in spring training, they did a lot of running. I talked to Tom Seaver at the Hall of Fame. Legs. Legs mean a lot. You don’t have to lift those weights. Soccer was real good.”
Matt asks: As a member of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, would you vote for Pete Rose to be in the Hall of Fame if he was reinstated?
YB: “I might. I don’t know yet. I need to see what the story is, more of what is going on. It might (come) up, you never know. It’s up to you writers. It’s like the (steroids) list, I want it to come out.”
A lot of people asked: What do you think of the new Stadium?
YB: “Love it. It’s a beautiful ballpark. I wish I was playing in it. (The clubhouse) is too big. I still can’t find my way around.”
Special thanks to Yogi, of course, and to Dave Kaplan from the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center for helping arrange the interview. If you haven’t been out to Yogi’s museum, you should take the time. There are a lot of great displays and you could meet the man himself.
Thanks also to everybody who submitted questions. I’m hoping to do at least two more Q&As before the season is finished.