It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Yogi Berra playing baseball

Yogi Berra

While the New York Yankees might be a polarizing team, they’ve nonetheless had in their ranks a number of truly iconic baseball players, such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter, among others.  Yet one of their most recognizable faces, Yogi Berra, passed away at the age of 90 yesterday.  Whether or not you’re a fan of the Yankees, Yogi Berra is an instantly recognizable and respectable icon: Hall of Famer, Yankees legend and World War II veteran with a lovable talent of misstatement.  The announcement came this morning, and was announced via the Yogi Berra Museum’s Twitter account.

Over the course of his life, various anecdotes have been told about Berra and the dozens of records he established, some of them accurate, others exaggerated.  Alongside Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio and Arnold Palmer, he was one of the most well-recognized American athletes of the 20th century.  Even if he’d kept a fairly low profile in the last decade of his life, Berra always remained in the eye of American pop culture, and remains regularly cited and quotes by everybody from Presidents to comedians.

Berra started his baseball career with the Yankees in 1946, and continued with them until 1965, when he ended his career as a batter for one season with the Mets.  His teams played in the World Series 14 times and won it 10 times, a record that no other baseball player has ever broken.  After retiring as a player, Berra managed the Yankees to the 1964 World Series and the Mets to their “Ya Gotta Believe” World Series win in 1973.  During this latter win, Berra was quoted with saying “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, one of his most well-recognized soundbites.

Berra’s face and brand was instantly recognizable, thanks in part to his No. 8 uniform jersey, cardigan sweaters and distinctive appearance.  Yet most of Berra’s fame came from his on-field success, playing baseball on a level few other have attained before or since.  He was universally regarded as a tough out and a tougher out in later innings; legendary pitcher Early Wynn once said that there’s “no way to pitch him”.  He batted .285, hit 358 home runs and drove in 1,430 home runs, leaving a record that has yet to be beat by a player whose primary position was catcher.  He averaged just fewer than 5.5 strikeouts per 100 at-bats, and never struck out more than 38 times in a season, and 102 RBIs per season in an 11-season sequence that began in 1948.