“It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”…and now it’s over. One of the strange things about operating a historical apparel business is how many obituaries I end up reading. What can be said about Yogi Berra that hasn’t already been said by others, or by Yogi himself? In 2008, we were hired by the New York Yankees to make the uniforms for the living Yankee greats from the flannel era. This illustrious list included Mel Stottlemyre, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, and of course, the great Yankee catcher. Obviously this was a very high-profile and important project. As often happens, we were barely given enough time to produce the uniforms, but we managed to barely make the deadline. The game was scheduled for September 21st, and the Yankees graciously flew me out to New York and put me up at the Sheraton (the only time a team has ever done that for a project we’ve done, so thanks, Yankees!). My nerves were already frayed at this point, and being in New York while the global financial system was melting down didn’t help. A day or two before the game I received a call from a Yankee official. He was concerned that the flannel uniforms appeared too “creamy”, and was especially worried that Yogi, in particular, would not like them. The idea that Yogi Berra might not approve our Yogi Berra uniform filled me with dread, but I realized that was as likely a “cover my ass” moment for a panicky staffer and that Yogi himself had likely not actually seen the uniform yet. I patiently explained that flannel uniforms were supposed to be “creamy” compared to the white polyester uniforms of the modern era – Yogi would be fine. Everything went well on the day, and when Yogi’s name was announced and #8 trotted out to his position at home plate and I breathed a sigh of relief.
With a legend as big as Berra’s, it’s easy to sometimes overlook what a great player he was. He came to the Yankees with no fixed position and uncertain prospects in 1946, after the hometown Cardinals and Browns passed on him, but the Yankees saw something in the youngster that those teams did not, and Casey Stengel, who had a genius for getting the most of his favored players, helped turn Berra into a star. Yogi was not only one the game’s greatest catchers, he was three-time American League MVP, an all-star fifteen consecutive years, the first player to hit a pinch hit home run in the World Series, and the first catcher (and only) catcher to call a perfect game in the Series. He also managed both the Yankees and Mets to pennants. He showed dignity and class, even when treated shabbily by more than one Yankee owner. So, let’s pop open a Yoo-Hoo and salute one of baseball’s best players, as well as greatest characters.