Yogi Berra's Son On Baseball, Family And Overcoming Hardships
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Dale Berra has written a book about his father and family - father most Americans know by just one name, Yogi - Lawrence "Yogi" Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher of the Mantle, Maris and Whitey Ford New York Yankees in the 1950s and '60s. Yogi was the American League's Most Valuable Player three times that became almost as beloved as an almost cuddly catcher who babbled with bewildering but good-natured malapropisms like, it's deja vu all over again. He went on to manage the Yankees, then the Mets. Dale Berra was himself a major leaguer with the Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros, but he brought down his own career with drugs. His new book, "My Dad Yogi: A Memoir Of Family And Baseball" - Dale Berra joins us from New York. Thank you so much for being with us.
DALE BERRA: Thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: Your father famously said, I never said most of the things I said. The Yogi-isms - how did he talk at home?
BERRA: To tell you the truth, Dad, as we like to say, is the most quoted man who never said anything. Dad was just Dad at home.
SIMON: I got to tell you, though, I found it heartbreaking to read in this book - although, you weren't trying to break anyone's heart - that your father never played catch with you. We heard that recently about Ernie Banks' son, too.
BERRA: Well, you know, it was never in that sort of way where we felt bad about it. By him not teaching us and not preaching to us took the pressure off us. And we never felt any pressure being Yogi's son. We were - you know, he never taught us to play, never taught us the fundamentals. He just said, go out and play. So it really wasn't sad in any way. Believe me.
SIMON: I have to ask you, Mr. Berra, because you were such a highly regarded prospect, how do you explain what happened to you?
BERRA: It's called a poor choice. On one innocent New Year's Eve in the early 1980s, I went to a party with all my friends. And justification, rationalization - everybody's doing it. I'm the only kid who's - just has a couple beers and is not doing coke. So you know what? I try it. And you know what happened? I'm not like everybody else. I liked it too damn much. And what it did was take away the split-second timing of being able to hit a major league fastball and to do the geometry that you need to do to run down ground balls and throw accurately. It just took a split second off me. And I had a 10-year career. But I would have been, in my opinion, an all-star-type player a couple years. And the morals - incredibly, the morals and values that my dad instilled in me made me a good cocaine user, so to speak.
SIMON: I don't understand that at all. The morals your father instilled in you made you a good cocaine user.
BERRA: Here's how. Here's how. I was never late for a game, never would think about playing a game on coke. I was raised too well to do that. I convinced myself that I was OK.
SIMON: Painful as it is but also, I think, instructive to those of us who loved your father - could you tell us about the time when he called you up and said, get over here? And it was - your father and your brothers wanted to talk to you about all this.
BERRA: Well, not to get too specific - I can just tell you that it's kind of emotional for me. But he told me that I won't have brothers anymore...
BERRA: ...And that with the Berra name come lots of benefits. And, my son, you won't be a Berra anymore. And when I heard that, my life changed on the spot.
BERRA: This book is about the importance of family and how much Dad and Mom instilled family in all of us growing up. And faced with my family leaving me, I knew right then and there I would never do another drug or take another drink for the rest of my life. And I know that in AA jargon and recovery jargon you're never supposed to say that. You're supposed to respect the drug. You're supposed to - one day at a time. I got it. I understand that. But you know what? The day that happened to me, I got a miracle. And I don't know whether it was the gift of family, a gift from God. But I knew I wasn't going to do a drug again the rest of my life. And I felt tremendous about it and still do. And that was 30 years ago.
SIMON: Boy. Dale Berra - his book, "My Dad Yogi" - thank you so much for being with us.
BERRA: Why thank you.
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