Jon Pessah, Author
This is the sporting life on. Espn radio and the ESPN APP. Here's Jeremy Schaap Yogi. Berra was one of the great baseball players of all time. One of the great winners in the annals of sport but he meant more to people than just a great baseball player typically would there was a lot of humor about him and some unintentional philosophy is well now lawrence. Peter is the subject of a new book by our old friend one of the great sports journalists of our time John Pasa. His book is simply. Yogi a life behind the mask John. Thank you for joining US Jeremy. It's my pleasure. John I let me start by saying Yogi Berra's one of those guys and I have like many people tremendous fondness for him and I think An appreciation for him probably more than most people Having known him a little and growing up in New York Being around him. E what more do we need to know about Yogi? Berra that we don't already know. Well I'll tell you I three I did. This book was my I got Yogi and nine thousand nine hundred sixty when I was eight years old and he was a roleplaying outfielder for very strong. Yankee teams very good role player but a rope higher. I use my father's favorite player. My father told me that this was one of the most dynamic baseball players he'd ever seen in his life and that's not usually the way we think we think of Yoga. I mean overshadowed by his persona so I really wanted to go back just at the beginning and just look at this tremendous baseball player and he was so much better and I'm a huge baseball fair. But he's so much better as a baseball player than I ever thought. I mean he was the best player on the best team in baseball history. Well he won those MVP awards when the Yankees were winning all those world series. They won the world series and forty nine fifty fifty one fifty two fifty three he was the MVP in fifty one fifty four and fifty five and this is at a time that mantle was coming into his own he was about to win the triple crown and fifty six. Ted Williams was still doing remarkable things. There was a lot of tough competition in the American league but Yogi Berra was the MVP and three of those seasons. What made him so great. two things one. He was just a tremendous hitter. Right from the start. This guy was twenty one hundred. Rbi to eighty three twenty hitter Out of the catcher slot where the catch was expected. Play defense and to call pitches and that was it and actually for the first year of yogis career There was there was a very very good chance he would have been outfielder. Not a catcher. And it wasn't until Casey stangl came in and realized if I have a hard hitting catcher Then I have something special and brings and Bill dickey fix mechanical problems. With with. Yoga pitchers hated pitching to him in his first two years. get cleaned up the mechanics And Yogi now becomes almost overnight the best catcher in the American league and one of the true talents that I had no idea how he had a near photographic memory of of Baseball. And he could tell you how to get somebody out in. The fourth inning was a man on second that we did it. Four and a half years ago Here's the right pitch and the players. Just you know turn completely turned around because that is an incredible weapon to have plus you as a field. Who's as good if not better than anyone? We're speaking with longtime sports writer and editor. John Pasa his new book is Yogi Life Behind the mask. Biography of Lawrence Peterborough. Probably one of the thirty greatest baseball players ever to live and one of only a few athletes North American major sports history with as many as ten championship rings. But when I think of Yoga John I think about some of the contradictions. You know one of the great athletes of all time but not in an athlete's body right. How did that lead people to misjudge him in the beginning? I think that his body I tell you this too One general one specific part of it literally changes baseball history. The the the general is you you look at him and you know equipment managers. When he walked into his minor league teams would give him a uniform to a ratty uniform because they thought he stayed to try out not that he was part of the team He just didn't look like an athlete. He had a toll person upper body. A short persons lower body Long arm big show's a hit his neck But when he stepped on the field He was just an incredible player. The Guy who was who is supposed to be the greatest judge of talent in part because he could look at a sixteen year old and figure out what it was. GonNa look like these twenty one named branch rickey greatest talent evaluate ever. He takes one look at Yogi and the size and tells them to lose face. You're no more than a AAA baseball player. And I need people who go all the way and so instead of a playing for the cardinals. He's hometown anti war. When the cardinals make the mistake pain from the ground Who who then become the orioles and this drives orioles fans crazy when I tell them that Yogi Berra in their his prime would have been catcher for the Baltimore Orioles He makes this gigantic mistake and he loves joke. Hours Yoyogi especially across the street neighbor. Who literally is six one hundred and seventy five pounds and absolutely looks like a baseball player and is very good but it wasn't Yogi Berra. The other thing. John Speaking with John. Pass up about his new biography of Yogi Berra and as I tried to suggest in our leading your the thing about Yogi bear. It's not just the on the field. Obviously but it's This aura about him and it and I was random a lot I interviewed on a number of occasions and there was this charm in this warmth about him although he could be tough but but people thought he was this guy you know who had this endless stream of unintentionally. Funny one liners and this kind of stuff. It actually interviewing Yogi wasn't easy wasn't somebody who actually fit the way that people people no thought of him right. You know his persona his public thing wasn't the real Yogi. Can you explain that disconnect a little bit and why it exists? Well I mean definitely wasn't Yogi was always A quiet if not shy person the only place. The yogi fell a hundred percent comfortable with on any ball field where he was always a best player and you could see through his life that people who talked for in Joe Garagiola who helped with Yogi ISM. Then it became Phil Rizzuto another. You know very talkative. Person His wife was eloquent Ron guidry later in his life be becomes the whisper and He he was just naturally that way. It was also the youngest of four. Bore isn't a in you know in five kids and then the Talian families fog you know as as most fathers of that era is ruled with an iron fist. And you know I think he learned to be quiet that way. Because you didn't talk until you spoken to. His father was a man of few words and all of the Of the of the kids In in Yogi's family were quiet sorts. But I think to. He faced A lot of discrimination. 'cause he was carrying and he faced a lot of abuse because of his looks because of his physical stature And because sometimes he would you know when he did talk a mangle the language and I think that Yogi just having such an appreciation for how it felt to be looked down upon and he could never bring himself to do that because he felt like and and that's first of all it's rare and people second of all it's really rare among athletes and Yo- gives just this guy who liked and love people and I think people felt that in just all instantly comfortable around him I saw. This must be twenty years ago. There was a there. Aren't a lot of baseball players. Who had one man plays written about them? That were actually performed on Broadway and I saw. I saw the yoga. Show Bengals Ara. I mean one of the great actors of the second. Half of the Twentieth Century Played Yogi. I did a story about saw the play. And you know I think Yogi never saw because you know it took liberties with the real story and a lot of it revolved around his relationship with Dale Dale. His son. Who's been on the show recently and it was about You Know Dale's addiction right all that stuff. His feud with Steinbrenner. Mostly the reason that And it was Carmen And unfortunately this Carmen does yes. I'm sorry Unfortunately this story didn't make it into the book. I end up having to cut sixty pages the book. But there's a terrific story of Kozara and you're right coming to Yogis House and talking about it and our figures. Hey I'm from Brooklyn I'M A. You know rebelled Italian. We're GONNA and they did hit it off but Carman Was against it from the start. And they have a second meeting at his museum where they're sitting there drinking vodka together telling stories about where it was like growing up during the depression. And you know if it was Yogi they you know they would have blast it Common walks in is very polite. Very nice you know Carmen. She was a charming woman And very politely and said I'm sorry but we're not going to endorse this. I gotTa Tell Ya I. It's funny I was. I was interviewing bank desire about the play and he was great and he's the only guy can think of who played two famous. Yankees in two different In two different productions about sports. Wow you got me on this one. What's the other one he did? Well I got him to. He didn't know was George. Halas in the remake of Brian saw. Oh and of course George. Halas played right field for the keys before Babe Ruth he was one of the right fielders in one thousand nine hundred nineteen before the founding of the NFL. I just had to throw that in there John. But as usual you you've done a spectacular job with the book. I didn't know that there was much more I could know or would want to know about Yogi. But you've certainly achieved that and he is such an iconic figure new such a great player and I think the book is a great service to to baseball fans sports fans and Yogis more than that of course wise Yogi more than that again. It comes down to his. Humanity was so accessible Advertisers Love them because people just looked at Yogi and and instantly light and trusted them. And as you know trust is advertising advertising goal he was also just. He was walking history. I mean the man lived through the depression and World War. Two the the the baby boom D- Moved to the suburbs. He was one of the first television stars. He was He did movies. Movie Reviews He wrote books. There's a great little museum in Montclair New Jersey about him. I mean this guy you know. Ninety years from you know from the beginning to end just lived phenomenal life and and with that Captives humility always just feels like a man of the people which basically is what he lives. even through all these incredible achievement That's a unique combination that I think that's why people are drawn to him. And you said not. Just not just Ron Guidry also Kelly trip. Uk basically his he chauffeurs. I mean He. He was friends with rebukes ball. Who was an all American quarterback in the NFL? They would go up to umass. And watch their sons play. Football Together Him and his wife and Carmen and Yogi they were. I mean you look at them. And they were so different. Computer is the prototype athlete. You know what is probably about six two hundred? Eighty five hundred ninety pound quarterback good looking and and and his best friends Yogi Berra and they they you know he lives in neighboring Bloomberg New Jersey. And they did lots of things together. John Passes. New Book is Yogi of life behind the mask John. It's always a pleasure. Thanks so much for coming on the show Jerry. My pleasure listening On things it'd be out of books and prioritizing when the taking new things hopefully early next week barnes and noble is probably the place to go. If you're out of books they sold out in the first day A lot of interest in baseball. I you know I'm GonNa gives Yogi and baseball. A lot of credit is a giant hole in my life where baseball is always on. And there's no baseball and it's just since I've been four years old and I'm sixty eight so that's a long time and and it's just missing and I think people are hungry for baseball and and Hungary to feel good and you'll use just a such a feel-good Carson. That is Yogi John Passive. Thanks so much for joining us. Hey Jeremy thanks for the appreciate it. I'm Jeremy Shop and you can listen to new editions of the sporting life every Saturday and Sunday morning on ESPN radio and the ESPN APP. Beginning at six am eastern time.