Lawrence Peter Berra, R.I.P.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. (Associated Press)

Lots and lots of wonderful obits and encomiums for Yogi Berra out there today, to which I'll only add this: he was a helluva ballplayer.

(a) For the 10-year period 1949-1958, he had more home runs (257) than strikeouts (250) and an RBI-to-strikeout ratio of around 4.1. To put that in context, the corresponding ratio for some of the truly awesome hitters playing today are: Albert Pujols (1.8); Miguel Cabrera (1.1); Ichiro Suzuki (0.8); Alex Rodriguez (0.9), etc. As Tom Boswell writes in The Post today, if Ian Desmond could have hit Berra's ratio this year, he'd have around 750 RBI. (b) As every red-blooded Yankee-hater of that era (and there are no Yankee-haters more red-blooded than those of us from Brooklyn, who hated the Yankees from inside the belly of the beast) knew full well, Berra was the guy who'd kill ya, the one you really didn't want at the plate with the game on the line. Yeah, Mantle was a terrific ballplayer, and Skowron and Rizzuto and Bauer could hurt you, but Berra always seemed to be the one who drove a dagger in your heart. It is fitting that the two greatest, most iconic, moments in Brooklyn Dodger history both had Berra at the center: Jackie Robinson's steal of home in the 1955 World Series (with Berra's subsequent explosion of anger at the ump—apparently, in 2009, Berra sent Obama an autographed copy of the much-celebrated photograph of Robinson's slide and Berra's tag, and he wrote on it: "He was out!!"); and, of course, The Catch in Game 7 of the '55 Series, when Sandy Amorós, of all people, spectacularly robbed Berra of what would have been a bases-clearing double that would've tied the game and surely doomed the Dodgers to yet another World Series loss (their SIXTH in a row, over only a 14-year period!) to the bleeping Yanks. (c) The Yankees during the Berra era had an astonishing run of success—they made nine, and won seven, World Series during the 10-year period between 1949 and 1958). But unlike the "Murderers' Row" Yankees of the '20s and '30s, when you look back at these Yankee teams they hardly seem to be the star-studded juggernauts capable of achieving that kind of success. Here are the players who led the Yankees in appearances at each position in 1953: C Yogi Berra 1B Joe Collins 2B Billy Martin SS Phil Rizzuto 3B Gil McDougald OF: Gene Woodling, Hank Bauer, Mickey Mantle. Here's the 1957 squad: C Yogi Berra 1B Bill Skowron 2B Bobby Richardson SS Gil McDougald 3B Andy Carey OF: Elston Howard, Mickey Mantle, Hank Bauer Here's their starting lineup for Game 7 of the '55 Series: C Yogi Berra 1B Bill Skowron 2B Billy Martin SS Phil Rizzuto 3B Gil McDougald OF: Hank Bauer, Bob Cerv, Elston Howard Berra, Mantle and a bunch of good, but hardly star-level, ballplayers. It makes you think that, first, Casey Stengel, their manager, was something of a genius. And that Berra—whom Stengel called his "assistant manager" for his in-game management skills—was, too. And it's pretty strange that both of them developed these weird, clownish, "Aw, shucks, I don't know nuthin'" public personas.