Major League clubhouses lost their “wow” factor for me a long time ago. Even when I was covering minor league ball, going into a big league clubhouse was part of the job. The thrill was gone, as B.B. King might say.*
That said, the first time I walked into the Yankees clubhouse in spring training, Yogi Berra was the first person I saw, and in that little moment, the thrill was back. I don’t know the man at all, but in a clubhouse of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, Berra was clearly the coolest guy in the room. I thought of that when this press release landed in my email inbox.
Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra has been named the first-ever “Classic Ambassador” for the Bob Hope Classic. Berra, who played in the Classic 15 times from 1995-2009, will perform a wide variety of duties on behalf of the iconic PGA TOUR event at the 51st Classic, Jan. 18-24.
“In recognition of Yogi’s long-standing association with the Bob Hope Classic and his energetic and tireless contributions to extending the reach and impact of the Classic, especially to the many charities and fans the Classic serves throughout the Coachella Valley, we are delighted to be able to honor him in this way,” said John Foster, president and tournament chairman.
“It’s a privilege for me to be honored by the Bob Hope Classic, which has always been a wonderful tournament,” Berra said. “I thought the world of Bob, for all he’s done for golf and everything and everybody, and I cherish the times we spent. Playing this tournament every year over the last 15 years, I can honestly say has been a great experience. I can also say, being 84, not many can beat me in experience.”
Berra’s role as Classic Ambassador will encompass attendance at a series of special events throughout Classic week: the Classic Gala, Classic Kickoff Breakfast, Five-Star sponsor dinner, charity distribution ceremony, hitting the ceremonial first tee shot on Wednesday, Jan. 20, the VIP Celebrity Dinner, appearances at the four Classic courses to visit with celebrities, amateurs and professionals, the Amateur Awards reception, and concluding with the winner’s championship presentation on the 18th green at the Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST on Sunday, Jan. 24.
A World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy, Berra was a 15-time All-Star during a playing career with the New York Yankees from 1946-63 and with the New York Mets in 1965. He had a .285 career batting average with 359 home runs and 1,430 RBI and is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. He won the American League MVP award three times. He led the Yankees in RBI seven consecutive seasons from 1949-55. He was a member of 14 World Series teams, 10 of which won championships, both records. He established seven World Series records and hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history off the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca in Game 3 of the 1947 World Series. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Berra managed the Yankees in 1964 and in 1984-85 and the Mets from 1972-75. He was a coach on world championship teams with the Mets in 1969 and Yankees in 1977-78. Berra is a recipient of the Boy Scouts of America’s highest adult award, the Silver Buffalo Award, and is active with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State (N.J.) University. During and after his playing days he has been one of America’s most iconic advertising symbols.
* I don’t know whether it’s true, but I always heard that Will Clark’s answering machine played The Thrill is Gone. Even if it’s not true, it’s a great story.