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Yogi Berra

Hall of Famers at War


Date and Place of Birth: May 12, 1925 St. Louis, MO
Date and Place of Death:    September 22, 2015 West Caldwell, NJ
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Catcher
Rank: Seaman Second Class
Military Unit: US Navy
Area Served: European and Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Lawrence P. "Yogi" Berra was born on May 12, 1925, in St. Louis, Missouri, and played American Legion junior baseball. He picked up his nickname from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu holy man (yogi) they had seen in a movie.

Berra signed with the New York Yankees in 1943, and was assigned to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League, where he played 111 games and batted .253. He enlisted in the Navy at the end of the season, chosing that branch of the service because the officer who ran the baseball teams that played at Naval Station Norfolk, said he was losing players and there would be a spot for the young catcher. However, Berra got bored during the winter months and volunteered for a secret mission involving rocket boats that would be used for the invasion of mainland Europe. "They asked for volunteers to go on a rocket boat," he recalled. "I didn't even know what a rocket boat was."

In February 1944, following training in Maryland, Seaman Second-Class Berra sailed for the British Isles on the USS Bayfield, where he was part of a six-man crew on board a rocket-launching landing craft in the D-Day invasion at Utah Beach (Berra was a gunner's mate, manning one of three machine-guns). "It was just like a Fourth of July celebration," he later told this author. After Utah Beach had been taken, Berra's rocket boat spent the next few days shuttling messages from the beach to the ships at sea. In August, Berra was involved in the taking of Marseilles in southern France. A German machine-gun nest at a hotel on the seafront had opened fire on Allied forces and Berra used his twin-50-caliber machine guns on the Germans who were fleeing the building as it was being attacked by the rocket boats. He was wounded in the left hand at this time - a wound that entitled him to the Purple Heart - but he refused it at the time because he didn't want to worry his mother with the news back home (Berra put in for the Purple Heart after he returned home).

Berra also served in North Africa and Italy, and was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, where he played for the base’s baseball team until his discharge.

Berra joined the Newark Bears of the Class AAA International League before being called up for seven games with the Yankees in 1946. The following season he played 86 games. By 1948, he was the New York Yankees' first-string catcher. Berra played 18 seasons with the Yankees, was a 15-time all-star, a three-time MVP, and appeared in 14 World Series.

Berra was a coach with the Yankees in 1963, and managed the team in 1964. He returned to coaching with the Mets in 1965 and took over as manager in 1972 until 1975. In 1984, he again became manager of the Yankees. He also coached with the Astros. His son, Dale, was an infielder with the Pirates, Yankees and Astros in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yogi Berra, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, passed away on September 22, 2015, in West Caldwell, New Jersey. He was 90 years old and is buried at the Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, East Hanover, New Jersey.

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra

Thanks to Jon Pessah for help with this biography.

Date Added July 26, 2016. Updated February 5, 2018

Yogi Berra at Baseball-Almanac

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