To the world, he was an icon. To me, he was a neighbor, a dad, a grandpa, a husband and a friend. He never cared who you were or what you did. He talked to everybody–the guys in the kitchen, the garbage men, the President.
Every year on Halloween, Yogi answered his door with his beautiful wife Carmen who would dress as a witch and hand out signed baseball cards to all the kids that stood quietly in line. Unlike other celebrities, it never occurred to him that it might not be a good idea. In his mind, he was a regular guy who loved his community and his neighbors. He loved tradition. Every year on Thanksgiving he would have a horse and carriage for his grandchildren and invite all the children on the block. He was at every Bar Mitzvah and Yom Kippur break fast at my house. We served brisket in his honor instead of the traditional smoke fish that he didn’t care for. I wish I would have snapped a picture of him in his yarmulke–he looked so cute.
He was a man who had a heart of gold. He and Carmen got countless honors from everyone from the local pre-K center to the Red Cross. I once asked him to allow us to honor him for Dress for Success and it was an instant “yes.” He spent many of his days at the beloved Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University. He would answer questions from the school kids on field trips. Once, I was there with my son’s class and a kid asked him if Yogi Berra was still alive. He chuckled with his famous belly laugh and said, “Hey kid, here I am!” Honestly, he was just a mushy teddy bear who would shed a tear at his own golf outings when tributes and toasts were made. It used to tear me up too. He would get quite a crowd at these outings. From Reggie Jackson to Derek Jeter to Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and beyond.
I often accompanied him to events and watched him being approached by strangers recalling story after story of baseball. He always kept walking but knew and replied to every stat, thrilling those who came near him. His energy and smile were infectious. He could sit for hours and tell stories that you couldn’t believe. From “Marilyn Monroe had a fuzzy face” to “Ted Williams was a hell of a guy.” It was crazy.
He took us to Rao’s, a special Italian restaurant in Harlem, for dinner and walked right into the kitchen before he sat down to pay his respects to the staff and share stories. And his Yogi-isms were real. Once, at a party with a Frank Sinatra style band, Yogi and I were dancing and a friend said, “Bobbi, I’ve got bad news, Yogi’s cheating on you. He’s using Strivectin!” Yogi says, “Hey, Bobbi, I was using your wrinkle cream and I still have wrinkles, so I tried this other stuff.” I quickly answered, “Yogi, you shouldn’t have used my wrinkle cream, you should have used my anti-wrinkle cream!” And he said, “Oh ya, I never thought of that.”
Yogi also took great care of himself. When he was a bit younger, he walked daily with his great friend Dr. John McMullen after his daily bagel. He loved his vodka on the rocks. His doctor told him he could have 1.5 ounces every night and no more. So that’s what I do. He also took great pride in his skin and he was obsessed with eye cream. I would give him tons. For his birthday, I had the lab give him an enormous jar filled with eye cream. Even on his 90th birthday he told my husband to tell me he needed more stuff. I’m told he used to bring it to the Yankees locker room and share his skincare routine with the guys. He also let me name a lip balm after him, Yogi Bare.
Everyone that has ever met him has their own Yogi stories. I’m blessed to have mine. This was my Yogi. And I loved him.