Yogi Berra

Arguably the best-known, most-loved and one of the most accomplished catchers in the history of baseball, Yogi Berra played 18 seasons as catcher for the New York Yankees, which included 10 World Series games and three Most Valuable Player Awards, before a successful tenure as manager for the Bronx Bombers, Mets and other teams. Born Lawrence Peter Berra in an Italian neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri known as the Hill, he was the fourth of five children born to Italian immigrants. Initially known as "Lawdie," he earned his enduring nickname as a teenager after seeing a travelogue that featured a Hindu yogi sitting cross-legged; his friends noted that Berra frequently adopted the same pose while waiting to play baseball, and was henceforth known as Yogi Berra. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and learned the basics of professional baseball with American Legion teams. He was briefly courted by the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns (later the Baltimore Orioles) before signing with the Yankees in 1942. World War II put his baseball career on hold, and after serving with the Army in the Allied invasion of Normandy, Berra returned to the States to play for the Yankees in 1946. He proved a crowd favorite, not only for his superior skills as both catcher and hitter - he batted .305 and scored 98 runs in his second season alone - but for an apparent gift for malapropism, which produced such enduring quotes as "It ain't over 'til it's over" and "It's déjà vu all over again." By the time Berra had retired as a player from the Yankees in 1963, he had amassed an astonishing array of statistics: 14 World Series, including 10 championships, 15 seasons as an All-Star, three American League MVP awards, 358 home runs and 88 errorless games in 1958. He took over as the Yankees' manager in 1963, enduring a rough season before general manager Ralph Houk ousted him the following year. Berra then served as first base coach with the New York Mets, which ranked at the bottom of the league until 1969, when they captured the World Series. When manager Gil Hodges died in 1972, Berra - then newly elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame - took over as manager, and led the Mets to the National League pennant before falling to the Oakland A's in the 1973 World Series. Three years later, Berra was back with the Yankees, replacing Billy Martin as manager until 1985, when a dreadful season prompted owner George Steinbrenner to break his promise to allow Berra to complete that season as manger. An indignant Berra refused to return to Yankee Stadium and closed out his career as a bench coach with the Houston Astros in 1989. A decade later, Steinbrenner issued an apology to Berra, who returned to the Yankees for Yogi Berra day in 1999. He finished his career in baseball as a spring-training coach with the Yankees, working with catcher Jorge Posada; his final decade was spent reaping the rewards and laurels befitting of a sports legend, including honorary doctorates from Montclair University, which named its campus stadium after him, and the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which housed various artifacts from his career. Berra succumbed to natural causes in his sleep on September 22, 2015, nearly 70 years after his major league debut.