Yogi Berra took a trip to Rome in the early 1960s. As a devout Catholic and daily communicant who never missed the weekly Sunday Mass held just outside the Yankee clubhouse, Yogi was thrilled to receive an invitation to tour the Vatican, which included an audience with Pope John XXIII. When the time came to meet the Holy Father, an aide introduced Yogi as “Lawrence Berra, American baseball player.” Yogi stuck out his hand and innocently exclaimed “Hiya, Pope!” Everyone gasped. The Pontiff grinned and embraced Yogi, whose charm put everyone, from world leaders to the common man, at ease.
The tributes that came in from every corner of the world when the news of his death at age 90 was announced on Wednesday is proof positive of just how beloved Yogi was.
I feel blessed to have been able to call him my friend.