One of my very favorite childhood sports idols, a Hall of Fame catcher and hitter, just took off for that big baseball diamond in the sky. And it brings back a fond memory from more than 70 years ago.
My big brother took me to a New York Yankees game with the Philadelphia Athletics in July 1941. He had been given front-seat grandstand tickets by a friend who did publicity for Shibe Park, the Philadelphia ballfield of that time.
Not only did we get to see the game, but we were also invited to arrive early and meet with some of the Yankees outside their dressing room. I took my baseball glove and Baby Brownie camera with me, hoping to get snapshots and Yankee signatures.
Happily, although we did meet several stars, including Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio, they were so rushed to get to the field, it was just a fleeting moment. There were a few hurried hellos, handshakes, smiles and they were gone. No pictures nor signatures.
The game itself was not too enjoyable for an Athletics fan, because, as usual, the Yankees won. However, the day proved to be an important one in baseball history. Joe DiMaggio went zero for four at the plate, ending his 56-game consecutive hitting streak that still stands today.
What happened a few months later in 1941 is an even more important part of history. Immediately after the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, my brother, DiMaggio and Berra all enlisted to serve in the war. Age 16 at the time, I had to wait another year before joining them.
Among Berra’s famous misquotes is: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Let’s hope it’s not over for Yogi, and he’s now enjoying a lively game with Joe and all the other angels in the heavenly ballpark.