Ron Guidry’s Unlikely Friendship With Yogi Berra Typified How Loved He Was
If someone ever said a bad word about Yogi Berra, they didn't mean it. In life, he played the role of America's kookie uncle, turning non-sensical phrases with a savant-like frequency. "If I didn’t wake up, I’d still be sleeping," he said about, well, sleeping. "He must have made that before he died," he once said about a Steve McQueen movie. “It’s nothing but rooms,” he said about his house in New Jersey. Aside from his 10 World Series rings and three Most Valuable Player Awards, Lawrence Peter Berra's trademark knack for the deadpan delivery of mind-bending malapropisms, followed by a massive smile, made him pop culture's de facto relatable professional athlete for 40-plus years.
He was dumb and smart at the same time. He seemed to know what he was saying without knowing what he was saying. That's quite possibly the most disarming quality a person can have, and it won the hearts of millions of people while representing the world's most unlikeable, sterile baseball franchise. "Loveable" and "Yankees" don't usually mix, but they did for Yogi. That's how compelling this man was.
Case in point: Hannah-Barbera thought Yogi so entertaining they made him into a cartoon -- something the company denied despite the glaring similarities between Yogi Bear's name and goofy demeanor and that of the former Yankee catcher.
Yogi's name was similar to that of contemporary baseball star Yogi Berra, who was known for his amusing quotes, such as "half the lies they tell about me aren't true." Berra sued Hanna-Barbera for defamation, but their management claimed that the similarity of the names was just a coincidence. Berra withdrew his suit, but the defense was considered implausible and sources now report that Berra was the inspiration for the name.
But the best demonstration of Yogi Berra's impact on those around him came in an ESPN piece from 2012 about former Yankees ace, Ron Guidry, who helped an aging Berra attend Yankees' spring training games during his final years. It's as touching a story about Berra's legacy as you'll see all day, wrapping up with a perfunctory "Yogi-ism" that's rather fitting on the day of his passing (he was 90).
"How much longer do you think you'll be coming down here to spring training?" Jeremy Schaap asked.
"As long as I'm still alive," Berra said.
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