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Yankee Yogi

Eight facts about No. 8

The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ, is home to this statue of the baseball icon.

Here are eight facts about Yogi Berra, the legendary No. 8 for the New York Yankees who was recently honored with a stamp.

1. Lawrence Peter Berra got his nickname as a youth. During Berra’s teen years, a fellow player named Jack McGuire, who also went on to play in the big leagues, noticed that Berra would sit cross-legged when not in action, reminding McGuire of a Hindu mystic portrayed in a newsreel he’d seen. The nickname stuck.

2. He had an unmatched way with words. Berra was not just a great ballplayer, he was a gifted verbal gymnast. The seemingly paradoxical utterances that became known as Yogi-isms had a Zen-koan-like quality — non sequiturs that somehow made sense. Fittingly, No. 8 has eight entries in Bartlett’s Famous Quotations.”

3. He threw with his right arm but batted with his left. Considering his ability to contain two contradictory ideas in one statement, it is not surprising that Berra was super-flexible when playing the game, as well. And yet an oft-quoted Yogi-ism is “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

4. He was a World War II hero. Though he had signed with the Yankees, a 19-year-old Berra enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served on a landing craft support vessel at Utah Beach on D-Day. He received a Purple Heart for a wound to his left (batting) hand.

5. He received more awards than you can shake a bat at. Berra won three American League Most Valuable Player awards (1951, 1954 and 1955) and his 10 World Series rings are unrivalled to this day. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Italian American Hall of Fame in 2004. Lesser-known tributes include the Boy Scouts’ Silver Buffalo Award for his contributions to scouting and being named “Wisest Fool of the Past 50 Years” in 2005 by the Economist magazine. In 2015, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

6. He was generous with his time and money. Berra was involved with many public-facing charitable causes through the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. But he was also known for a quiet generosity of spirit, both professionally and personally, that made a lasting impression on those he touched.

7. He knew how to make an entrance. In his first game in the majors, Berra hit a home run against the Philadelphia Athletics. That was 1946. The next year, he hit a homer in a World Series game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first pinch hitter to ever to do so in a series game.

8. He knew how to make an exit, too. In a curiosity that the man himself might call “too coincidental to be a coincidence,” Berra died on Sept. 22, 2015, the 69th anniversary of his major league debut.

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