Why Yogi Berra made New Jersey his home
There is probably no more beloved man in baseball than Yogi Berra.
In his new book, "YOGI: A Life Behind The Mask," Jon Pessah describes the baseball legends life complete with all the "Yogiisms" and stories that you may not have known. For instance, when Yogi was in the Navy, he was Seaman Second Class Lawrence P. Berra and was part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
Pessah opened up to me about how Yogi came to not only love New Jersey, but make it his home setting up the "Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center."
"Yogi was one of the first in his group to move out to the suburbs which really only started in the '50s. Yogi settles in New Jersey, falls in love with it. Woodcliffe was their first place. Tenafly was their second place and he and his wife Carmen finally move to Montclair or as he called it, 'One bridge away from Yankee Stadium, a 20-minute ride.' He had 2 acres of land a great big house and he loved living there."
This did not go well in Yogi's original home town:
"People in St. Louis," Pessah said, "felt a little jilted that he left but they understood that to really cash in on his potential, in those days players had to work after baseball which didn't pay all the bills. Yogi loved Jersey and looked at it like that's where he was from."
So how does the museum come to be?
"In 1996 a woman named Rose Cali who was a trustee at Montclair State and a friend of the Berras' suggested that they name the new stadium they were building after Yogi. Cali also suggested that they add a room where Berra could put some of his memorabilia for the world to see and pay homage to his career, which became a full building at the end of the stadium, the 'Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.'"
"It's both the history of the country during his lifetime and history of the Yogi playing and it's a good hour and a half of memories, memorabilia, articles, the original monuments of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle that used to be in the centerfield at Yankee Stadium which George Steinbrenner gave to the Yogi museum."
The Yogi museum is also where George Steinbrenner came to reconcile with Yogi after 14 years since he fired Berra as manager of the Yankees in 1985.
"George came to the museum and apologized saying firing Berra was, 'the biggest mistake of my life' and they became instant friends after that and Steinbrenner donated a whole lot to the museum, including a $100,000 check."
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