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The Off-Season: Honoring A Veteran

By Tim Kabel

November 11, 2021

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Before I get to my main topic, there is a recent development I need to address. Free agency has just begun and one of the first free agents to sign a contract is…Corey Seager?, Carlos Correa?, Justin Verlander? Nope. None of the above.

It was Andrew Heaney. Yes, that Andrew Heaney. He of the 7.32 ERA with 13 home runs allowed in 35 2/3 innings with the Yankees last year. I assumed the most likely scenario would have been for him to sign a contract at the last possible moment before spring training began. At that time, teams might be getting desperate and would be more willing to take a flyer on someone with decidedly mediocre results. Instead, he immediately signed a contract with the Dodgers, a team that routinely makes the playoffs and won the World Series last year. Not only that; the contract is for $8.5 million. No, that’s not how much he has to pay them. They are actually going to pay him that amount of money. Even more unbelievable is the fact that other teams were interested in Heaney as well. I suppose the old saying that if you’re left-handed and have a pulse, you can sign a Major League contract was just proven true.

Do you remember the Field of Dreams game against the White Sox in Iowa? When Heaney was pitching, so many balls pelted the cornfield, the locals must have thought it was a hailstorm. I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a living and if the Dodgers are foolish or desperate enough to sign him, so be it. Perhaps they will use it to pacify their fan base when they lose Corey Seager. They can inform their loyal fans that although they may have lost an All-Star caliber shortstop, they replaced him with a pitcher of underwhelming ability. Let’s see how that works out for them.

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Today is Veteran’s Day, a very significant and serious holiday when we pause to honor and reflect upon those who served our country. So, it is only appropriate that we take a break from agonizing over the 2021 season and speculating on the 2022 season to remember a Yankee legend who was also a veteran. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, all but the last one for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won ten World Series championships as a player, more than any other player in MLB history He is one of only six players to win the American League MVP award three times. Yogi is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Yogi Berra also was a World War II veteran, and a participant in the D-Day operations. He was a landing craft support gunner during the Normandy landings. He was wounded in combat but initially did not report it because he didn’t want to scare his mother.

Berra dropped out of school in the 8th grade and was well known for his malapropisms and paradoxical statements. Many people did not know of his military service because like many of his generation, he never spoke about it. For years, Yogi could never understand why fellow baseball immortal, Bob Feller never seemed to like him, because most people did like him. One day, Yogi who liked to be liked, asked Feller point blank, “Bob, why don’t you like me?” Feller responded, “You never served your country. I can’t respect a man like that.” Yogi laughed before setting Feller straight. After that, they got along very well.

Years later, Yogi reflected on his service during World War II, and particularly on D-Day.

“I was just a young guy doing what he was supposed to do back then, joining the Navy, serving my country, fighting the war. I wasn’t a baseball player on that boat. I was a sailor.”

In typical Yogi fashion he said, “I guess you could say I hadn’t become who I became.”

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To honor the great Yogi Berra, here are some of his most memorable quotes:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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It ain’t over til it’s over.

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Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.

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You can observe a lot by just watching.

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It’s like déjà vu all over again.

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No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.

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Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.

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We made too many wrong mistakes.

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Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.

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You better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

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You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.

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I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.

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I never answer an anonymous letter.

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Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.

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How can you think and hit at the same time?

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The future ain’t what it used to be.

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It gets late early out here.

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If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.

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We have deep depth.

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Pair up in threes.

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Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.

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You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

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Even Napoleon had his Watergate.

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Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.

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He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.

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It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

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I don’t know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.

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I’m a lucky guy and I’m happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.

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I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.

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I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?

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It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

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Take it with a grin of salt.

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(On the 1973 Mets) We were overwhelming underdogs.

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The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.

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Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.

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I’m lucky. Usually, you’re dead to get your own museum, but I’m still alive to see mine.

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If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.

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A lot of guys go, ‘Hey, Yog, say a Yogi-ism.’ I tell ’em, ‘I don’t know any.’ They want me to make one up. I don’t make ’em up. I don’t even know when I say it. They’re the truth. And it is the truth. I don’t know.

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I never said most of the things I said.

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Post-Script: The most amazing thing about those quotes is that every single one of them makes more sense than Andrew Heaney signing a contract worth $8.5 million for the 2022 season.

#YogiBerra

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