Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra

When you look at video of Berra swinging a bat it's difficult to understand how he was such great great hitter. He seemed to throw the bat through the hitting zone, he often swung at pitches above the letters or near his neck, he liked the high fastball. But that proves that isolated video doesn't always tell you a lot about success in baseball. Some hitters look great at the plate but never put up good numbers, others look like ugly ducklings and are Hall of Famers.

The image of Berra as a lovable lowbrow is overblown. He was a smart ballplayer, at least from the aspect of instincts. Tommy Henrich once called Berra the smartest baserunner on the team after Mickey Mantle. Because he could get the bat on almost any pitch, Yogi was good at the hit-and-run and of course he helped handle those great Yankee pitching staffs, which were consistently shuttling parts in and out year after year, still winning 95-100 games annually. Berra could call a good game.

There's probably some reason for this, though I don't know what it is: Berra hit better in the second half of the season than he did the first. Most catchers wear down, but Yogi had a career OPS of .802 in the first-half and .858 after the All-Star break.

Berra and Joe Garagiola were boyhood friends from their time growing up in St. Louis. The two men maintained a relationship their entire lives. Berra was nine months older than Gargiola. It was Joe who won a World Series ring first, in 1946 with the St. Louis Cardinals. But Berra went on to win ten as a player.