The late Yogi Berra will be remembered as one of baseball’s biggest personalities, biggest winners, and biggest hearts. A war hero, 10 World Series championships, 3 Most Valuable Player Awards, the list goes on and on of his contributions on and off the field.
Prior to Wednesday’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, fellow Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst also remembered his late friend.
“Yogi was just one of these players who was just fun to be around–not because he was a ballplayer but because what he is,” said Schoendienst, who also divulged new information to his story of his tryout with the Cardinals over 70 years ago.
As he originally shared, Red hitch-hiked on a milk wagon from Germantown, IL into St. Louis for his tryout. Lacking funds, he found a bench in Union Station to spend the night–only to be politely booted out and then wound up in a hotel where the bedbugs feasted on his legs, which he attributed to making him run faster and get signed.
The part of the story Schoendienst had previously left out picked up during the tryout that next day–when among the small group of players looking to be signed with him were Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola.
“Yogi and myself were in the car with Garagiola when Mr. Rickey drove us over to the other park,” said Schoendienst. “I pitched batting practice to Yogi and he was throwing to me, that’s the first time I met him.”
“There were about five or six guys,” he continued. “Everything you threw up there he hit, no matter where it was.”
Schoendienst and Garagiola were signed. Berra was not–but there is a story behind that.
“Here’s what I heard–Mr. Rickey was there at the time looking at all of us and I think Mr. Rickey was leaving the Cardinals to go some place else,” said Red. “That’s why he didn’t sign up Yogi–because he wanted to sign him up where he went. If I’m not mistaken, that’s what happened.”
Berra and Schoendienst became fast friends and attended St. Louis Flyers hockey games during the off-season and then after marrying, their wives also became friends.
“A lot of fun–to see somebody and to be with somebody like that and all that he accomplished in baseball, you sit back and think that’s really great,” added Schoendienst. “The things you go through when you first start. Yogi was still the same guy.”
photo credit: Harry Harris-AP, New York Daily News