Word was out this summer in my hometown of Montclair, N.J., that Yogi Berra was not at all in good shape, which was something of a municipal crisis.Yogi was a local institution, a sporting hero and bard emeritus. He has his own museum and learning center here, where he would occasionally hold court. I watched the Fourth of July fireworks with him and his remarkable wife, Carmen, three summers ago through the back windows of that museum. When Carmen died last year, we figured it was only a matter of time. The two had been inseparable, an entwined model of love and generosity.Yogi was public domain in Montclair, maybe in America. And if you thought you knew him, well, you probably did. He was one of those rare celebrities whose private personality matched the civic persona. He was kind, quiet, eccentric. He laughed at himself, the greatest gift of all. Baseball always came naturally to Yogi, yet he also understood there were parts of that game he would never control. He could win 10 World Series rings and three MVPs as a player, but he could never convince George Steinbrenner that he was the right manager for the job.MORE YOGI: Great images | His most famous saying I covered Yogi when he was managing the Yankees back in 1984, and saw firsthand how he somehow operated with relative Tony Oliva Jersey calm in the most insane position imaginable. The Yankees were a good team then, not great, actually a lot like they are this season. The blustery figure of Steinbrenner was forever breathing down his neck, a relationship that would blow up entirely the next spring. Yogi must have been boiling inside at the interference. But the same nonsense that destroyed Billy Martin only made Yogi more resolute. He wasn’t happy. The Paul Molitor Jersey sportswriters could see that much. He grew quieter and quieter. When he was dismi sed the next season after 16 games, he cut off Steinbrenner in a fashion that surprised all of us. We suddenly realized just how much he had been tormented in this role, the slave of a relative madman.After he was summarily fired, his 14-year boycott of the Yankees became an act of sheer will and important proof that Yogi was more than a mascot. He regained his connection to the Yankees when Steinbrenner finally apologized, came to the museum bearing gifts.Hello, Yogi, Steinbrenner finally said, on that day in January 1999.You’re 10 minutes late, Yogi replied.I don’t think Yogi really cared much about his relationship with Steinbrenner, even after the reconciliation. What he cared about was that he could now again visit Yankee Stadium, walk through the clubhouse, chat with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. His enthusiasm for the Yankees was reignited. He came often to the Bronx. He was back in his element, talking baseball.His final years, before Carmen died, were wonderful times for him. He had the Yankees again. He was with family and friends. He lent his name to just causes, to civil rights and LGBT campaigns. His museum and learning center was a social gathering place, and if you met him there he would always tell you what he thought about the Yankees’ chances. They need starting pitching, he told me, frankly, the last time we spoke. And of course, he was right.Physical problems got the best of him recently, and there was a sense that we were all running out of time with this legend. A campaign began to get Yogi the Congre sional Medal https://www.twinsedge.com/minnesota-twins/bert-blyleven-jersey of Freedom, for his participation with the Navy in the Normandy Invasion and for everything he meant to this country. By June, there were the nece sary 100,000 signatures on the petition needed to nominate him. It would have been nice to get that medal to him during his lifetime. It would still be nice for the family. In this matter, President Obama has come to a fork in the road and should take it.I heard one of those Yogi-isms firsthand. It was down in spring training in 1983, in Fort Lauderdale. Billy Martin was managing. Mickey Mantle and Yogi were down there as coaches, and Mantle asked Yogi if he wanted to go to with them to watch a couple of old Steve McQueen movies at the local theater. Yogi asked Mantle which ones were playing.I know one is ‘Bullitt,’ Mantle said.I never heard of it, Yogi said. He must have made that one before he died.We always knew what Yogi meant, even when it made no sense whatsoever.Filip Bondy was a sports columnist for the New York Daily News for more than 20 years. His latest book, available on Amazon, is “The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy.”
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