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In a league of his own

USPS retiree recalls Yogi Berra

Retired Postmaster Woody Saylor and his friend, Yogi Berra, pose for a photo.

When Woody Saylor came to a fork in the road, he took it.

Saylor retired as Postmaster of Whitehall, PA, in 2003 and redirected his energies from USPS to another proud American institution: baseball.

In 2004, the lifelong Yankees buff joined the Lehigh Valley Yankee Fan Club, where he has served as vice president since 2007.

The next year, Saylor was visiting a friend in Florida when the two checked out a baseball training camp.

As fate would have it, a fellow USPS retiree was working security and the man encouraged Saylor to apply. Soon the retired Postmaster who bled pinstripes had the fan gig of a lifetime: guarding the Yankee clubhouse during spring training.

It was there that he met Lawrence Peter Berra, better known to the world as Yogi.

“He would come down every year to hang out with the players and play golf,” Saylor said, recalling how he would often shuttle Yogi and Larry Berra, the legend’s oldest son and now a good friend of Saylor’s, around the facilities in a golf cart.

Saylor remembers the catcher — who was honored with a stamp last week — with great affection and admiration, as much for his character as for his baseball chops.

“He was never one for adulation,” Saylor said. “He pushed it off to others.”

And yet No. 8 had more reason than anyone to boast. Saylor pointed out his 10 World Series rings, unmatched to this day.

But it was Berra’s service to his country that seems to have made the biggest impression on the former Postmaster.

Unlike other baseball stars of the World War II era whose service consisted of playing ball for the military, Seaman 2nd Class Berra saw action. Big action. He served on Navy gunboats and fought in the Normandy invasion on D-Day at Omaha and Utah beaches.

“He was a war hero,” Saylor said. “An amazing person.”

The southpaw earned a Purple Heart for his service — his left hand was wounded — as well as two stars and a European Theatre of Operations ribbon.

Saylor is a member of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at — where else? — 8 Yogi Berra Drive in Little Falls, NJ, where USPS dedicated the Yogi Berra stamp.

Berra himself, though, was not much of a stamp collector. When an interviewer described him as a “fatalist,” he responded with what has come to be known as a “Yogi-ism.”

“You mean I save postage stamps?” he asked. “Not me.”