In the world of professional sports these days, a long-term marriage is a cause for celebration. American baseball icon Yogi Berra, who passed away on Tuesday, was married 65 years to his sweetheart Carmen.
Born Lawrence Peter to Italian immigrants in St. Louis, Missouri, Berra dropped out of school after eighth grade. He started playing baseball in the local American Legion teams and was quickly noted for his talent. However he could never have imagined that he would go on to play in 14 World Series and win 10 championships and earn 3 MVP awards, among others.
In 1948 Yogi met waitress Carmen Short at a restaurant in St. Louis. They quickly fell in love, married and moved to New Jersey, where they raised three boys. The family went to Mass regularly at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair.
At home, Carmen devoted herself to her children and husband, not letting him use a hammer or other tools, realizing how important his hands were as a star catcher. Their three growing boys learned to do repairs around the house under Yogi's instruction. Carmen was always behind the scenes as Yogi's main adviser and as a buffer between him and the constant line of businesses seeking his endorsement.
Yogi was known to follow his wife's advice and did whatever she asked of him lovingly. Once while standing in line for tickets at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he was asked, ‘Yogi, what are you doing here?’ "He.... said one word: ‘Carmen." They spent hundreds of hours together at their favorite charity — the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ — which inspires integrity, educational excellence, sportsmanship, and humility through numerous sports and other programs. The Berras were a couple that could always be found together.
Asked once which of his accomplishments he was most proud of, Yogi pointed to his wife who was just entering the room. "Getting her to marry me,” he said. “Who’d have thought?” Carmen passed away last year at 85.
Since then Yogi continued to attend Mass at Immaculate Conception, sitting in the back on Saturday evenings and exiting quietly after Holy Communion.
Never involved in a scandal in all his years in baseball, Yogi was known as a man of decency, kindness, and humor. His legendary sayings became known as "yogi-isms." Following are some of his best known:
- "A dime ain't worth a nickel anymore."
- "I never said half the things I said."
- "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
- "You can't carry on a conversation here, everybody's talking."
- "Bad slump? I'm not in a slump. I just ain't hitting."
- "If you don't go to your friends' funerals they won't come to yours."
- "I usually take a 2-hour nap from 1 to 4."
- “You can observe a lot by just watching.”
- During spring training a reporter asked Yogi, "What size cap do you wear?" "I don't know. I'm not in shape yet."
- “If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up someplace else.”
- “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is skill."
- To a reporter who noticed Yogi was eating a banana and mustard sandwich: "It's Friday, and I don't like fish."
- “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
- Ordering a pizza for carryout. Clerk: "Would you like me to cut this into four pieces or eight pieces?" Yogi: "Four. I'm not hungry enough to eat eight."
- "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
At a charity golf event last year for the Museum, Yogi thanked everyone in a program note for their love and support after Carmen passed away.
“Sixty-five years together is a long-time,” it read. “All you can do is cherish the memories.”