Tuesday was a sad day. They laid Yogi Berra to rest.
Yogi — multiple award-winning baseball player, philosopher, coach, Jersey boy and Yankee through and through.
The noble Yankee — Yogi Berra.
He was buried in a private ceremony near his home in Montclair, N.J. He was 90 and, seemingly, loved by everyone he met. Many current and former Yankees attended the ceremony. Fans who stood outside the ceremony talked mostly how he was such a great Jersey boy and neighbor.
When I was a child I lived in some really obscure places: Bowlegs, Oklahoma; Tatum, New Mexico; Lovington, New Mexico. TV was pretty much in its infancy, but we still got a chance to watch baseball in black and white, while living in these out-of-the-way places. It seemed like it was always a Yankee game with Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese as the sportscasters. I loved these broadcasts and it’s how I learned some of the basics of baseball. This was the late 50s and I loved Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Joe Pepitone, Bobby Richardson and, of course, Yogi.
I watched any game I could watch and my Dad and I would play catch whenever he was free. My first Little League team, playing on fields of sand, tumbleweeds and dust devils in the New Mexico desert was the Yanks.
I was hooked on baseball for the rest of my life. Sooner or later, B&W became color and places where we moved would allow us to watch lots of other baseball teams. But there was always the Yankees.
Fast forward to adulthood — college, working, earning a living, providing for a family, raising kids …
I was very fortunate that my son, JD, picked up on my love of baseball and it became dear to him. He loved other sports, too, but, like his dad, baseball was king. We would go to Cleveland Indians games while he learned to play. And, even as a young boy, he played a lot. He played a lot of positions, but he liked playing catcher more than any other position.
When he was 11, Patti and I decided it was about time for me to have “the talk” about sex and girls and relationships with JD.
He was in the middle of doing a research paper for school on Yogi, so I suggested we take a weekend and drive to Montclair to see Yogi’s museum, which meant driving across east Ohio, all of Pennsylvania and some part of New Jersey to get to the museum, but we set out any way. JD, red hair flowing, wore his baseball team’s cap and he was excited. Across eastern Ohio and a good portion of Pennsylvania, Dad and son shot the breeze about any and everything, but “the talk” — even if there was just the two of us in the car.
JD at Wrigley Field
Shortly before we approached New Jersey, we stopped at McDonald’s and ordered breakfast. I purposefully picked a booth in the restaurant where nobody was seated — and I mean nobody.
We laid down our trays, took a seat and began eating. At one point, I said, “JD, Mom and I have talked and you and I need to have a little talk.”
At first, his eyes showed a curious look, but it was just a moment of two when it dawned on him I was trying to start “the talk” with him. He pulled his cap down on his head, looked around, tried to chew his scrambled eggs and biscuit, while bursting out with “Dad, NOT HERE. There are too many people and I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”
I looked around and there were only two other people in the entire restaurant — no one near us anywhere. He buried his head deeper into his tray and with the next bite took double the amount of breakfast and put it in his mouth to chew. He stared across the booth at me, ready to cut me off if I continued trying to have that talk.
We finished eating and when he settled into the car for the rest of the drive, I could see him rest his shoulders, relieved.
Soon, we got lost on some of the spaghetti-like unmarked New Jersey roads, but we finally made it to Montclair and to Yogi’s museum.
We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, especially looking at all of Yogi’s World Series rings and all the other memorabilia. JD loved every minute we spent there. As we walked through the museum, and I looked at all Yogi’s achievements and memories, I thought a lot had changed over the years for the little boy who started out with the Yanks as well as the man who was a Yankee mainstay for most of his life and I admired from afar. I looked at my son and saw complete wonder in his eyes as he looked at Yogi’s uniforms, and, particularly, his rings. They were very impressive. A talk about sex can wait.
We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and as we were leaving, I could see the skyline of Manhattan not too far in the distance. We were both smiling as we got into the car and started our way back home to Ohio.
Along the way back, we stopped in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for JD to see the field and the museum for the Little League. We both enjoyed that little side trip.
Somewhere as we were on the road, I said, “I won’t force you to have that talk, but if you ever have any questions, you can always come ask me and I will make sure we are alone and answer quietly for you.” He nodded.
I am now 65 and JD is 25. He has never asked me a question about sex.
I love you son, now and forever. You make me so proud of you.