It has been said on a number of occasions upon the passing of a beloved parent, "When I think of my dad I smile. All of the good memories come flooding back and it eases the sadness of his passing."
I am one of the many to have been blessed with this experience during a difficult time. My dad passed away almost sixteen years ago and I still find myself smiling when I think of him. I imagine, and certainly hope, it will be this way for the rest of my life. Despite my dad not being here, it is a truly wonderful gift to have been given.
Today, Mr. Lawrence Peter Berra, known affectionately to all of us as Yogi, had that effect on a nation. What a wonderful man! How can one not break out in a smile when thinking of Yogi?
For starters, he was always smiling. And it wasn't one of those smile- to-look-good-for-the-camera jobs. It was genuine. From the heart. From the soul of a truly good and decent person.
Yogi Berra made guys of my dad's generation first start smiling with him from his position behind the plate and in the batter's box. His greatness on the field, which helped lead the Yankees to ten World Series Championships, was a large part of the joy he brought to
many. But it was his warm, engaging personality, and all the Yogi-isms attributed to him (some he may not have said, which he 'admitted to' in his book I Didn't Say Everything I Said), that brought him into our homes and made us love him even more.
There seemed to be a magic about Yogi. He won as a player, manager and coach, appearing in twenty-one World Series. Who can forget the day in 1999 in which he forgave George Steinbrenner for firing him after 16 games into the 1985 season by coming back to Yankee Stadium after a fourteen-year absence, to throw out the first pitch to Don Larsen, whose perfect game he caught in the 1956 World Series? The only thing that happened after that was David Cone threw a perfect game of his own against the Montreal Expos. Coincidence? Who here below the angels really knows.
I'd love to ask him one day if I'm lucky enough to make it to heaven and happen to bump into him. Knowing Yogi though, he'd probably flash that natural smile of his, pause for a second, and say, "Nah kid, that was all Cone."
Rest in peace pal, and thanks for everything you gave us!
Keep hittin' the bad pitches.