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WoS covers Yogi's 90th birthday

By Evan Easterling (WoS Alumni 2009, 2010, 2011) and Olu Ologundudu (WoS Alumni 2007, 2008)

Editor’s note: Evan is finishing his senior year at West Orange High School and will head to Temple University in the fall,  studying journalism.  Olu, a junior at St. John’s University (NY), is studying sports management. Both Evan and Olu are teaching interns with the  Write on Sports Summer program.

MONTCLAIR, NJ -  Yogi Berra celebrated his 90th birthday on May 12th alongside his family and friends, as both Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie declared it “Yogi Berra Day” in their respective states. The Museum and Learning Center bearing his name on the Montclair State University campus unveiled a new display case in honor of the occasion.  The display case houses replicas of Berra’s 10 World Series rings, replacing those stolen in October. New memorabilia provided by Major League Baseball and both the Yankees and Mets was also unveiled.  An Italian little league team recognized Berra’s specialness and wished him a happy birthday by announcing that a baseball center in the Italian region where Berra and his friend and fellow catcher Joe Garagiola’s ancestry lies will be named in Yogi’s honor.

The event kicked off with a bang, literally, with the excellent percussion of the Hillside Elementary schools band “Drums of Thunder.” The band played upon the arrival of the Berra, who joined the group in a wheelchair, accompanied by his sons, grandchildren and his one great grandchild, for the ribbon cutting ceremony and to see the new exhibits for the first time.  The sight of Yogi, surrounded by his family, instantly gave the event a more intimate feel.  While those who don’t know Berra are familiar with his three Most Valuable Player awards and other baseball accomplishments, those who do know him reflected on his personality and character.  “Yogi’s a great family man,” said NBC New York sports Anchor Bruce Beck. “His wife for so many years was so important to him. His kids, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren. Yogi was a fine baseball player, a legend, an icon, but a family man first,” Beck added.

Lindsay Berra, Yogi’s oldest grandchild and member of the Museum board, spoke for the family.  She said her grandfather is an outstanding human being and true ambassador of baseball on and off the field and has been throughout his life. He has always preached “teamwork, respect and being a good person,” she said. Write on Sports asked Lindsay when she was most proud of her grandfather and her answer really highlighted the person Yogi has always been.   “The way he talks to people, normal people, he would talk to the UPS man with the same respect he would with the president,” she said, adding that Yogi has remained true to himself, not changing for others but assisting them to change for the better of the world.

MyFoxNY’s Russ Salzberg, said of his friend, “He is baseball. He’s great on the field and he’s even a better man off the field. He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

Through his job as a museum director, Dave Kaplan has gotten to know Yogi Berra. According to Kaplan, Berra considers it an honor to have a museum in his name. “It really means an awful lot to him, especially since we host so many students and teach them about history and the importance of good character. The Museum is clearly one of his greatest legacies.”  

The museum and his family are now petitioning to get Yogi the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive from the United States government. Write on Sports celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The Museum has been a partner since the beginning. During the first two-week camp in 2006, Yogi was a guest speaker, answering questions from the group of 24 middle school students from Montclair. The Museum and WoS recently partnered in a special event on a Saturday for some 20 students.

“Yogi’s special achievements, his caring about not only baseball but kids and education make the Museum a wonderful reflection of who Yogi is,” said Byron Yake, founder and executive director of Write on Sports. “We are proud of our relationship with the Museum and its work.” (5/14/15)


Left photo: Evan Easterling inerviews WNBC-TV sports anchor Bruce Beck at the event.

Center photo: Yogi Berra poses with his great-grandchildren

Right photo: Olu Olugundudu interviews Yogi Berra's grandchild, Lindsay.