DETROIT -- David Robertson had hoped to visit with Yogi Berra this weekend during a four-game visit to Yankee Stadium.
Instead, the White Sox closer will be on hand to mourn Berra’s passing after the Yankees legend died at age 90 on Tuesday. Robertson said he received a phone call learning of Berra’s death early Wednesday morning. Robertson, who played his first six seasons in New York, said Berra was a constant presence in the clubhouse.
“He’s one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, one of the nicest, most respectful,” Robertson said. “He was exactly what the Yankees as an organization wanted their players to be like. “You can’t say enough about him, he’s just going to be missed.”
Robin Ventura played two seasons in New York and remembers how Berra was the genuine article not to mention an impressive ballplayer. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, Berra won 10 World Series rings, was a 15-time All-Star and three-time Most Valuable Player. He also led the Yankees and New York Mets to the World Series as a manager. But it’s how Berra interacted with people that will stick with Ventura.
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“As soon as you start thinking about him, you smile,” Ventura said. “Just getting to talk to him was always fun. He lit up a room when he came in there, would walk around and talk to everybody. Just a beautiful person all the way around. His numbers are incredible when you really look at him. But his presence and how he dealt with people was really the biggest thing. He made a lot of people smile.
“He enjoyed people. He enjoyed having fun and laughing as well. He wasn’t trying to be that way. That was just what came out. Truly an icon of our game.”
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper got the chance to pitch for Berra in one of his final games as the Yankees manager. A native of New York, Cooper was excited to pitch for one of the franchise’s icons and hoped it meant a new lease on life for his career. Two days later (April 29, 1985), the Yankees fired Berra and rehired Billy Martin.
“He brought me in the game in the 10th inning in Chicago and I thought, ‘Wow, he’s giving me a chance,’ ” Cooper said. “I never really thought I had the opportunity I was dreaming about. I thought maybe it happened.
“At the end of that series, he got fired. … Just a wonderful man. Baseball’s loss and friends, family. It’s just a loss, just sad.”
“I haven’t heard ever one word from anybody that was derogatory toward him. He was loved by everyone.”
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Said Robertson: “He was never trying to put on a show. That was just Yogi. He was a funny guy who knew how to play the game the right way and had success doing it. I think he ended up having 10 rings. I know he’d always joke about that saying to Derek (Jeter) -- ‘How many do you have? We’ll I’ve got 10.’ He wasn’t being cocky about it. He was just letting you know ‘I was good.’
“He was a true legend of the game and he’s going to be missed.”