George Will | Yogi Berra, an American story

George Will, Washington Post:

The 18-year-old U.S. Navy enlistee, thinking it sounded less boring than the dull training he was doing in 1944, volunteered for service on what he thought an officer had called “rocket ships.” Actually, they were small, slow, vulnerable boats used as launching pads for rockets to give close-in support for troops assaulting beaches.

The service on those boats certainly was not boring. At dawn on June 6, 1944, that sailor was a few hundred yards off Omaha Beach. Lawrence Peter Berra, who died Tuesday at 90, had a knack for being where the action was.

Because he stood — when he stood; as a catcher, he spent a lot of time crouching at baseball’s most physically and mentally demanding position — 5 feet 7 inches, he confirmed the axiom that the beauty of baseball is that a player does not need to be 7 feet tall or 7 feet wide. The shortstop during Yogi’s first Yankee years was an even smaller Italian American, 150-pound Phil Rizzuto, listed at a generous 5 feet 6.

Yogi had, sportswriter Allen Barra says (in “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee”), “the winningest career in the history of American sports.” He played on Yankee teams that went to the World Series 14 times in 17?years. He won 10 World Series rings; no other player has more than nine. He won three MVP awards; only Barry Bonds has more, with seven, but four of them probably tainted by performance-enhancing drugs. In seven consecutive seasons (1950-1956), Yogi finished in the top four in MVP voting. Only Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics (11 NBA championships, five MVP awards) and Henri Richard (11 NHL championships) have records of winning that exceed Yogi’s.

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