Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cheers for Miss Carmen

Half a century ago, I was a catcher in Little League baseball in Madison, Ga. My team, the American Legion, had good years and bad ones, and I batted about .200 every year, but I was a very good catcher, and I wore number 8 like my hero, Yogi Berra. Indeed, my friends called me Yogi, and it was the only nickname I've ever had in my life.

In the late 1950s, I managed to trade a friend to get my hands on Yogi's Bowman 1955 "Color TV" baseball card. I still own it, and right now it's worth $75,000. Okay, I'm lying. You can get it on Ebay for maybe ten bucks. But it's priceless to me.

Millions of people have loved Yogi (and still do) since he first came up for the Yankees. But though Yogi could help defeat National League teams in the World Series and the English language with his giddy malapropisms, he couldn't beat Old Man Time.

And Time was wicked to Yogi this week, taking his beloved wife of 65 years, Carmen. Everyone who knew them, according to Mike Lupica's gorgeous, heartbreaking column in The New York Daily News, felt they'd entered a special place when Yogi and Carmen were around. A room would hum when they entered, filled with their lifelong love for each other.

A sports reporter once asked Yankees manager Casey Stengel why he was able to win so many World Series titles with the Yankees. "Because I had my man," Casey said, meaning, of course, Yogi.

Carmen Berra surely said the same thing. And her Yogi always said his greatest accomplishment was getting her to marry him. What a joy to have shared in their own "happily ever after."

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