Cards-Yanks play rarely, but Yogi's relatives say match up loaded with history
This story was originally published on May 26, 2014.
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It should come as no surprise that family members of the most-quoted living American have a lot to say about their famous uncle, Yogi Berra.
"Uncle Yogi broke my mother's nose," said Mary Frances Brown, who now lives in the famous home on Elizabeth Avenue, or "Hall of Fame Place," where the Hall of Fame Yankee player and manager was born and raised.
Yogi Berra was the second youngest child in the family's house on The Hill, the St. Louis neighborhood famous for Italian heritage, food, and more than its share of people who went on to celebrity status. Young Yogi spent a lot of time with his younger sister, Josephine.
"He called her Josie," Mary Frances Brown said of her mother.
"One day we came home and the New York Mets were having lunch at our house," remembered Lorraine Decker, another daughter of Josephine Berra.
With the rare occasion of the New York Yankees playing in St. Louis this week, two of Yogi Berra's nieces spent a good chunk of time talking about baseball, The Hill, Yogi's military service on D-Day, the 1964 World Series, the other famous catcher across the street (Joe Garagiola), and a whole lot more. You can see the full interview below.
It should come as no surprise that family members of the most quoted living American have a lot to say about their famous uncle, Yogi Berra.
Yogi Berra is 89 and lives in Montclair, New Jersey near the Yogi Berra Museum. With ten World Championship rings in New York pinstripes, Yogi Berra is always mentioned on any short list of the great Yankees.
And beyond the obvious local connections, Berra's family points out that a match up with the Cardinals is loaded with history.
In 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals had a higher opinion of Berra's neighbor across the street, lifelong friend Joe Garagiola. History would clearly prove the Yankees picked the better backstop on Elizabeth Avenue.
"I don't think that he laughed about, at the time, he was pretty upset about it," Lorraine Decker said.
The next time the Birds on the Bat and the Bronx Bombers collided, with Yogi Berra involved, came in the 1964 World Series. The Cardinals won that World Series in seven games and Berra, who had just finished his first season as manager, was fired by the Yankees.
But as Yogi would say, "It ain't over 'til it's over."
Yogi Berra would return to Yankee Stadium in several different capacities over the years. In addition to his ten World Championships, Berra also won three league MVP awards and was famous for his ability to hit pitches well out of the strike zone.
But it is his "Yogi-isms" that make this product of St. Louis an American icon.
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it," said Mary Frances Brown.
"No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded," added Lorraine Decker. "My mom was the same way. Sometimes I am and I have a daughter like that and I have a nephew like that. It runs in the family, it really does."
Mary Frances Brown plans to open an bed and breakfast in Yogi's boyhood home.
"I already have people calling about reservations," she said.
Mary Frances Brown and Joe DeGregorio also offer tours of The Hill on their website.
Elizabeth Avenue is also known as "Hall of Fame Place" for good reason. No other street on the planet can claim three members of baseball's Hall of Fame. In addition to Berra and Garagiola, Jack Buck, enshrined in the hall as a Ford C. Frick inductee for broadcasting, also lived on this street at the beginning of his career (Buck won the Frick award in 1987, Garagiola in 1991).
Did we mention another of Berra's boyhood friends on this street played in the NFL? Ben Pucci played for both the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills.
How can you explain all of this coming from one street?
"I think it was all that Italian food," speculated Lorraine Decker.
And if young Yogi Berra felt slighted by the Cardinals picking Garagiola ahead of him in 1942, he also lived with the knowledge that he wasn't even the best ballplayer in his family.
"That was Uncle Tony," said Mary Frances Brown. Yogi's oldest brother may have had the best baseball DNA, but Berra's parents, Italian immigrants, thought playing baseball was not a respectable profession for a man.
"So Uncle Tony had to go to work," added Lorraine Decker.
"Grandma and grandpa didn't want Uncle Yogi to play ball either, so the older brothers had to talk him into letting him play," Mary Frances Brown said.
And one final area where the Cards and Yankees intersect, when it comes to Berra? Cardinals catcher Yadi Molina.
"He loves Yadi, LOVES him," Mary Frances Brown said.
Berra's nieces say Molina's prolific hitting ability, warrior mentality, leadership, and unique brand of charisma reminds them of Yogi.
"Whenever I see Yadi Molina, I think of my uncle," Lorraine Decker said.