Monday, June 30, 2008

Fordham Magazine Reviews YOGI

by Carlo DeVito, FCRH ’86, 412
pages. Chicago: Triumph Books, 2008.

At a recent Old-Timers Day at Yankee
Stadium, New York Yankees broadcaster
Michael Kay, FCRH ’82, described
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra as "one of
the best-known faces in the world." Odd,
considering Berra’s iconic visage never
exactly measured up to the matinee-idol
looks of fellow Yankees Mickey Mantle or
Joe DiMaggio. Still, as author Carlo DeVito
shows—and as Berra, the beloved master of
malapropism, might say— Kay’s hyperbole
is no exaggeration.

In this comprehensive and appreciative
biography, DeVito, who has also penned
a biography of Wellington Mara, FCRH
’37, chronicles Berra’s many achievements
on and off the diamond, revealing the
man behind the impressive stats—and
unforgettable malapropisms.

As a player, Berra won 10 World Series
championships and three American League
Most Valuable Player awards. He later
became the fi rst manager to lead a team
from both leagues to the World Series, doing
it fi rst with the Yankees in 1964 and then
with the New York Mets in 1973. He also
kept company with celebrities like Ernest
Hemingway and Frank Sinatra and, most
recently, opened the Yogi Berra Museum
and Learning Center in Montclair, N.J.

Berra fans will be familiar with much
of what DeVito turns up but will still find
some interesting tidbits about the man’s
professional career and public life, like
his contentious relationship with Yankees
owner George Steinbrenner, who fi red Berra
as manager 16 games into the 1985 season.

More interesting, however, are Berra’s
entrepreneurial activities, including his
prescient investments in bowling alleys
in the 1950s and racquetball clubs in the
1970s, his lucrative partnership with
Yoo-Hoo and his decades-long success as a
pitchman, which earned the former Yankee
a successful post-baseball career as well as
international acclaim for his goofy affability.

In one humorous passage, DeVito
describes a golf game between Berra and
President Gerald Ford. Berra had just
opened a racquetball club in Fairfi eld,
N.J., and he wanted to impress the former
president. In typical Yogi fashion, as he
slipped him a card, which promised a free
game, he told Ford to stop by anytime.
On the other side of the card was stamped:
"Good Tuesdays Only."

That Berra could rub elbows with the
rich and powerful and still maintain his funloving,
everyman persona explains why he
has always been such a popular fi gure in and
around baseball, and why, even after several
of his own autobiographies, Berra is still
worth writing about.

Although Yogi isn’t exactly a home run,
DeVito does manage to hit one into the gap
by reminding readers that even today, as the
Yankees get ready to vacate the House that
Ruth Built and gear up for a new era in their
storied history, Yogi Berra remains the heart,
soul and, yes, face of the historic franchise.
—Miles Doyle, FCRH ’01