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ST. LOUIS….. “It ain’t over til’ it’s over”, but now, and sadly at that, it IS over. Major League Baseball and New York Yankees legend, Hall of Famer and all around tremendous human being Yogi Berra passed away last week. Lawrence Peter Berra was 90 years old and had one heck of a life. Born in St. Louis in 1925 in an Italian household in an Italian neighborhood in the “Loo”, Berra may have been one of the most colorful characters in the history of a league that has had more then it’s share of them. Consider this too; Berra and another baseball legend, Joe Garagiola Sr., both playing the position of catcher, grew up as childhood friends right across the street from each other!
How uncanny is that to have two famous catchers growing up literally about 120 feet from each other? Garagiola used to joke that he “wasn’t good enough to be in the Hall of Fame, heck, I wasn’t even the best catcher from my street”! I can remember seeing Berra play on televised games as a kid growing up and then tried to remember if I had ever been able to see him play in person. Well, the first professional baseball game I ever went to was a Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees tilt. It was the day game half of a Twi-nite doubleheader on Memorial day of 1962. And some of you readers may think that that meant it was a Monday game, but this was years before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971. The day of the week was on a Wednesday.
That’s how it was back then, whatever day of the week it was, that was the holiday and if it was during the work week, you just went back to work and/or school the next day for the remainder of the week. I know our school year wasn’t completed quite yet, so it was back in class the next day, no 3 day weekend that time around! It was a treat when the holiday actually fell on a Monday so you got the extended weekend. Anyway, my dad and I went out to the old Met Stadium that day and of course Yogi was still a rostered Yankee but did not play in Game 1 that day, in fact he wasn’t catching in Game 2 either but pinch hit late in that game.
The Yanks won the game we were at 10-1, but the Twins came back with a nice 5-4 win in the evening match-up. Yogi was out on the field before the day game though during the warmup and playing the popular game of “pepper” with his teammates. Yogi played one more season with the Yanks in 1963 and then one with the cross-town Mets in 1965 and that was it. He went on to a Hall of Fame berth and many seasons as a manager in the majors. He was an 18 time All Star and a 13 time World Series Champion. That is just unbelievable.
The best part of Yogi Berra though? He was a great and beloved human being. He was absolutely admired by all that came into contact with him. Of particular interest to me was what a huge hockey fan Yogi was. He had some exposure to the sport in his native St. Louis, but when he was out on the East coast he was close friends with Dr. John McMullen who once owned the New Jersey Devils. Berra and his wife Carmen became a part of the Devils inner circle and most mornings of the week Berra was at the Devils training facility working out before the players even arrived.
He became friends with all of them and they adored having Yogi around the team stating that he was an inspiration to them. I have a photo of Berra with the Stanley Cup after the Dev’s Cup win in 1995. I don’t have to tell you about all of Yogi’s famous sayings, you have probable heard them if you have been any kind of sports fan over the years, but I like this one; “you better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six”. Thank you for all of the entertainment over the years Yogi, you were 1st class all the way and an American hero…
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF the new NHL rule regarding the 3 on 3 Overtimes? At first when the league entered into discussions about it’s implementation I was wary. After some initial love for the shootout fan interest was waning as a high percentage of games were going to the shootout to be settled. I was happy that the league was finally doing something about eliminating all of the tie games we used to have to settle for. Just consider that in the 26 season history of the Minnesota NorthStars their regular season record was 758-970-334! Yes, 334 games ended the same way they began; tied! That is the equivalent of 4 full regular seasons!
What if you had just shelled out a couple of ‘C’ notes for this bologna? So I was a huge proponent of the shootout. Then just as teams had done before, they were right back to playing for the sure point and some teams would go into a shell during the 4 on 4 OT play so they could play some shootout roulette. It was exciting for awhile and then some fans were getting turned off by it. I looked at the 3 on 3 though as an offseason training technique and didn’t take it seriously for this. But now that I have seen it a few times I am onboard.
Some basics; it’s 3 on 3 for 5 minutes. Power plays are 4 on 3, in the case of a 2nd penalty it goes to 5 on 3. A carryover PP from regulation time will be 4 on 3. If tied at the end of OT, the game goes to the shootout with the same rules prevailing for that. If you pull your goalie for another skater and the other club scores, you will lose the one point you would have gained from forcing a tie game. The NHL is testing the rule out in just about all pre-season games this fall and of about the 10 games I have seen half are ending quickly negating the shootout. I will have more opinion on this for you in the future but I think it just might be a good thing…. PEACE