More than a baseball icon

Yogi Berra's influence stretched much farther than just baseball.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would do it all over again,” sounds like the epitaph for a well-lived life and I believe it was. Yogi Berra, who died this week at 90, said that during what was his last serious interview a few of years ago.

That life included sheperding landing craft in a small boat on D-Day, marrying and remaining marred to for 65 years, the third girl he ever dated, and, of course, becoming one of the best and best loved baseball players of all time.

The list of his accomplishments as a ball player, often forgotten as people remember his quirky wording and outright malapropisms, is enormous.

He was, at a time when Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Stan Musial and, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” were in their primes, among the great hitters, and greater, “clutch,” hitters of that or any time.

He was the winningest player in history, has the most world series championships and in the course of seven years won the American League MVP award three times, finished second twice and was third and fourth as well. In his 14 full seasons as a Yankee regular he never once did not receive MVP votes. Perhaps the best all round catcher in history, Berra also played outfield and third and first base, because iconic manager Casey Stengel said the secret to his success was, “I never make up a lineup without my man (Berra).”

He was also a humble and kind citizen and an astute businessman – the first to hire a marketing agent – who was universally admired and loved during his life.

Berra will be remembered, too, for the comments, often succinct and comedic at the same time,  that had him listed as the most quoted English speaker next to the wordy and erudite Winston Churchill.

Although he believed, “Baseball is 90 per cent mental, the other half is physical,” he also said, “You can’t think and hit at the same time.”  Among my favourites, alluding to a rare time when the Yankees, and their attendance numbers, were woeful, he said, “If  people don’t  want to come to the ball park, you can’t stop them.”

There are scads more, but while people are smiling at his zen utterings, I hope they will also be remembering a good man who was a truly great baseball player.

As a lifelong Dodger fan, my animus towards the Yankees, especially the Berra-era Yankees – he was a driving force every World Series, especially the four straight and five of six in which  pinstriped teams beat sometimes seemingly superior Brooklyn Dodgers squads – knew and knows few bounds. Hate may sound too strong, but it is close to the correct description of my lifelong emotion towards all things Yankee – except one. I couldn’t and cannot feel anything but admiration and affection for Yogi Berra.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” RIP.

• The new season of the KIJHL looks, mostly, like the old season. It is true the Nitehawks had a slightly shaky start last year and are unbeaten so far this one, but the standings, as usual, have Beaver Valley’s Murdoch Division as the toughest in the league (three of the top five teams in the league) and the usual suspects – Beaver Valley, Castlegar and Nelson – are in their usual top team spots.

The Nitehawks get a seemingly soft spot Friday, hosting Columbia Valley, but regardless of the outcome of that game, Sunday’s tilt with Castlegar Rebels, in Castlegar, will be for top spot in the division.

Beaver Valley saw off the Rebels in the exhibition season, outscoring them 18-3, but Castlegar is 4-1 so far in the real season (their lone loss, coincidentally, coming at the hands of Columbia Valley – hello Nitehawks). The Rebels did not muster an exhibition win, but barring the surprising setback in Invermere, have had a strong start to the regular season.

With junior A out of the mix for a while, seems like hockey folks could to worse than track the Hawks this weekend.

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