Legendary Yogi Berra passes away at 90 years old.
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the world not only lost an incredible baseball legend, but Montclair lost a longtime honorable resident and friend: Yogi Berra.
Born Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra on May 12, 1925, in St. Louis, Miss., he signed with the New York Yankees in 1943 before leaving to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He made his major league debut in 1946, and after playing for the Yankees for 18 accomplished seasons, he retired in 1963. He continued in the baseball circuit, however, taking on a position as manager and coach for both the Yankees and the Mets. Some of his major accomplishments include being a three-time American League MVP and Hall of Famer who played on 10 World Series teams. His Yankees uniform number 8 was retired in 1972.
In 1998, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center as well as the Yogi Berra Stadium opened at Montclair State University. Berra was highly involved with the project, and his goal was to teach children important values such as sportsmanship and dedication in all aspects of life. He frequently visited the museum for signings, discussions and other events.
Mary Rossi, who grew up in Montclair and now attends Rutgers University, remembers when she first visited the museum on a school field trip. “It was really cool seeing all the famous memorabilia,” she said of the several autographed items and nine of his championship rings, which are all on display at the museum. “Everybody treated him with so much respect and honor; he was really a great man.”
Montclair State University, in an address following Berra’s death, stated, “A resident of Montclair for more than 50 years, Berra maintained close ties with Montclair State University, which granted him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1996. He served as a member of the College of the Arts Advisory Board and, along with his wife, Carmen, he attended and supported many campus events.”
University President Susan A. Cole added in the statement, “We are proud that our campus is home to the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. It will continue to serve as a lasting memorial to the outstanding achievements and inspiring sportsmanship of this legendary athlete and compassionate citizen.” You can visit the museum located on the Montclair State University campus, and for more information you can check out their website at yogiberramuseum.org.
The funeral service was held on Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Montclair with family and friends, including ex-Yankee Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and club president Randy Levine. They remembered him with an outpouring of fondness and respect, as former Yankees manager Joe Torre said in his eulogy: “He was always so good, so honest, so human and so real. You didn’t have to be a baseball fan to know who Yogi was.”
On Sunday, Oct. 4 there was a public memorial tribute held at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in which around 1000 people attended, including Yogi’s sons, grandchildren and Montclair Deputy Mayor Robert Russo.
Yogi Berra died peacefully at 90 years old, and whether it was through his life on the baseball field, his quirky “yogi-isms” or simply his kind and honest heart, he will never be forgotten.