Author Allen Barra loves Yogi Berra. That's obvious after reading just the first few pages of his new book, "Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee." It's hard for anybody to not love Yogi in all honesty. He's been around for a long time and has managed to maintain a likeable profile without the assistance of image consultants or publicists. In other words, he's a genuinely decent person, which there are very few of these days.
Barra takes the reader on a journey that starts on "the Hill" in St. Louis, Missouri. From there, we get a brief glimpse into the life of Yogi as a young boy, his time in WWII as part of the Navy, and his stint in the minors where he would meet a number of future friends and influences.
Once Yogi makes it to the Yankees, however, Barra delves deep into Yogi's amazing career. We read about his relationship with Casey Stengel, his financial talks with George Weiss, the comraderie he had with legendary teammates such as Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, and Allie Reynolds (which is just a very short list of the many great players that crossed his path as a player) and eventually his time as a manager and coach (which includes even more greats).
The reader will learn how Yogi and his teammates had to take second jobs during the offseason in order to pay bills when they weren't playing. You'll also see how much of a shrewd businessman he became, the reliable movie critic many saw him as and eventually his becoming a commercial icon.
Barra covers the good and bad times with the Yankees (including a look at Yogi's squabble with George Steinbrenner), his eventual career with the Mets and his unlikely move to the Houston Astros (where you'll also learn about his influence on another great, Craig Biggio).
While it's interesting to read Barra's coverage of Yogi's life outside of baseball, he's at his best when writing about America's favorite past time. He gives a brilliant description of the events that would become Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. He takes the reader deep inside the workings of a major league game, from making small talk with Ted Williams to arguing over shoe polish.
Barra makes a strong argument for Yogi to be considered the greatest catcher of all time. One of the included appendices gives a statistical comparison of Yogi against other catchers that are considered to be greats such as Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella and even modern players like Pudge Rodriguez. Throw in all of the World Series rings, fourteen pennants and three MVP awards, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better baseball player in the game.
The book opens with a chronology of Yogi's life. From there, the it follows the chronology in depth until we reach Barra's argument for Yogi's place in baseball history. Also included are appendices of "Yogiisms" versus famous quotes from historical greats, an interview of Yogi by Casey Stengel and a second look at Don Larsen's perfect game as it is watched by Larsen, Yogi and fans at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University.
If you only know Yogi Berra for his Aflac commercial, are curious about the life of a truly great person and baseball player, or just love baseball, I highly recommend Allen Barra's "Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee." I can promise you this: If you don't love Yogi Berra before reading this book, you will fall for him before reaching the final page.
Yogi Berra is a former baseball player that has always presented two distinct personalities. There was the baseball superstar that some argue with justification was the best catcher in the history of the game. Yogi was not only a solid offensive player, he was also superb on defense and his knowledge of the opposing hitters and ability to call a game made many mediocre pitchers good to great. For years, Yankee manager Casey Stengel regularly referred to Yogi as his assistant manager. … more
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