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On Second Thought

Yogi Berra’s face is on a postage stamp, but his body of work has been underappreciated

Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was honored with a postage stamp from the US Postal Service this week.Harry Harris/Associated Press

There’s some good news to report about the Yankees, and that’s not meant to be facetious, as much as I realize this space is mainly for a Boston audience and around Fenway glee ran deeper and longer than the Charles River when the Bombers arrived Friday night a hefty 3½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.

There’s some Yankee news really better than that. Way better.

The United States Postal Service on Thursday released its Yogi Berra postage stamp, a tribute to the superb, spunky Hall-of-Fame catcher whose personal stamp on the great Yankee brand, and the game itself, forever has been underappreciated, sometimes outright ignored or simply taken for granted.


It’s not that history has been unkind to “The Yog.” It’s just never duly portrayed him as the essential force, the lynchpin, that he was in a lineup that made it to 14 World Series in his 17-plus years in Pinstripes, the Yanks finishing 10 times as champs.

All of that was with Berra the dutiful, downsized (5 feet 7 inches) backstop mainstay, the guy who day in-day out handled the toughest position on the field with near perfection, and never more exquisitely than when he and Don Larsen teamed up the afternoon of Oct. 8, 1956, for what stands as the only perfect game in World Series history.

The Yogi Berra stamp was issued Thursday by the US Postal Service.Associated Press

For most fans, the perfect game at the Stadium stands as the most memorable moment in Berra’s career, though not necessarily because he and Larsen sent 27 consecutive Dodger batters directly back to the Brooklyn dugout. It’s because of the iconic photo that captured a leaping Berra, then 31 years old, frozen in Larsen’s bear hug after the final out in the 2-0 win.

The picture captures Larsen’s jubilant face. Berra, of course, is still wearing his mask, only that familiar No. 8 on his back to remind us, “Oh, right, Yogi was the catcher that day.”


A 55-cent “forever” stamp, featuring Berra’s brimming, infectious smile, won’t suddenly catapult him higher in Yankee lore. But it hopefully will encourage some to take a deeper, more appreciative look at his bona fides, and perhaps realize how essential he was to one of sports’ greatest dynasties. The Yanks were a lot even without him, but they were far more with him.

“Now people are going to get letters in the mail,” mused Lindsay Berra, a freelance sportswriter and proud granddaughter of Yogi, “and see this big, wonderful smile on his face, and even if they don’t know who he is, they’re gonna say, ‘Who’s this happy guy on this envelope?’ It’s such a wonderful way to spread his legacy.”

Asked to name Yankee greats, most fans will go to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, then on to a few of Berra’s contemporaries like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and even Roger Maris.

Berra? Oh, right, Yogi … the guy who three times was voted AL MVP (a mark equaled among fellow Yanks by only DiMaggio and Mantle). The Bambino was crowned MVP but once. Ford, the “Chairman of the Board” and one of Berra’s best pals, won his lone Cy Young Award in ’61. Bob Turley was the only other Yankee Cy Young winner during Berra’s time in Pinstripes.

Berra hit a lifetime .285, hammered 358 homers and drove in 1,430 runs. No one hit bad pitches better than Berra. Also, no one has played in more World Series games (75) or has more hits (71). He ranks third all time in Series homers (12), second in RBIs (39), and second in runs (41).


Yogi Berra, pictured here at his 90th birthday celebration in 2015, remains perhaps the most quoted man in baseball.Globe Staff Photo by Stan Grossfeld

Lindsay Berra was at the bedside of her “Gramps” in July 2015, just a couple of months before he died at age 90, watching the MLB All-Star Game. In pregame ceremonies, she recalled, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays were called to the field.

“They were introduced as the four greatest living major league baseball players,” she recollected Thursday, just hours after the stamp’s official unveiling, held on the grounds of Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J. “I look at Grampa and I’m like, ‘Uh, are you dead?’ And he goes, ‘Not yet.’ How messed up is that? I mean, he was in more World Series than those four guys combined … so even Major League Baseball overlooks him for the player that he was.”

Decades after his playing career, however, Berra does continue to be perhaps the most quoted man in the game, remembered affectionately for his “Yogi-isms,” a collection of his favorite sayings, few of them related to baseball.

A tiny sample:

“When you come to a fork in the road … take it.”

“No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”

“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”


Quips like those, hand in hand with the unrelated but popular “Yogi Bear” cartoon character born in the late 1950s, no doubt have played a part in blurring Berra’s standing in the game. His sayings were clever, sometimes unintentionally so, and over the years they’ve fashioned him somewhat of a kooky caricature than accomplished catcher.

“A blessing and a curse,” acknowledged Lindsay Berra. “The Yogi-isms are what really endeared him to the American public, and that’s wonderful. I love so many of them … but it’s also kind of made people see him as this funny guy who said funny things instead of the amazing baseball player that he was. I think they kind of served to make him the underrated player that I think he is today. It’s made people forget how good he was on the field.”

Raised by immigrant parents in the Italian “Hill” section of St. Louis, Berra enlisted in the Navy at 18 and had just turned 19 when he was among the Allied forces that stormed the Normandy beaches. He was a gunner’s mate on a rocket boat at Omaha Beach, noted his granddaughter, and also ferried messages between there and Juno Beach.

Less than a year after the official end of World War II, age 21, Lawrence Peter Yogi Berra was calling for curves and fastballs in the Bronx.

Now there’s a US postage stamp, with his name and face on it. It’s good forever. “But I’d use it now,” The Yog might have said. “You never know how long forever’s gonna take.”


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.