I drove my sister to her doctor’s office for a routine blood draw. We were a few minutes early, and the office had not yet opened. I leaned against the wall and started reading this book. (I always take a good book to medical.)
Predictably, my sister said: “What’re you readin’?” I showed her the cover. “Ten Rings?” she asked.
“Yes” I said. “This guy played in 10 World Series.”
There was one gentleman ahead of us in line. He turned around and said: “He wasn’t on the Cubs, was he?”
“No” I said. “The Yankees – it’s Yogi Berra.” The man nodded knowingly and turned back around. And on that note, I started reading this book.
But I was wrong about the title: that Yogi had played in ten World Series.
Yogi played for the New York Yankees for seventeen seasons. During those seventeen seasons they went to the World Series fourteen times and WON the World Series ten times (hence the “Ten Rings”.)
Nope, it wasn’t the Cubs.
But I digress.
Let’s get back to the book. It is titled “Ten Rings – My Championship Seasons” by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan. It was published in 2003, and is dedicated “To every teammate I ever had”. There are ten chapters, each recalling one of Yogi’s ten championship seasons.
The book opens by describing what it was like, starting out in professional baseball immediately after World War Two. In fact, Yogi describes meeting Larry MacPhail, who had just taken over the Yankees:
– “….on a weekend liberty I went into the Yankee offices on Fifth Avenue in my navy uniform. MacPhail kind of looked me over, and I think his heart sank.”
Yogi got this advice from veteran pitcher Spud Chandler as he prepared to catch his first major league ball game in September, 1946:
– “He told me that he heard I was catching, told me to relax, just call the pitches, and if he didn’t like them, he’d shake me off until we got the right one.”
Here are some of my favorite “Pearls” from the book:
– That postwar period in baseball was great. Only sixteen teams and all of them were pretty good.
– X rays of Berra’s head show nothing.
– Yogi’s manager Casey Stengel told him: “…to try and get more walks. Don’t swing at so many bad balls, pitches near my ankles or my ears. But I was stubborn. I liked swinging the bat, and besides, I hardly struck out. And swinging the bat was the only way to get hits and drive in runs.”
– Regarding his relationship with umpires, Yogi says: “…the outbursts I just mentioned happened in the heat of the game, and I just think if you don’t stand up for what you think is right, then you’re wrong.”
– “…we always had deep depth.”
– In the spring Jerry Coleman left for Korea as a pilot, and it was a shock because he also served in World War II. A bunch of us told Jerry he got a raw deal with the draft, but as he said, when they call you, you go.
– The Supreme Court ruled in ‘53 that baseball wasn’t a business, it was a sport, meaning the reserve clause was still on the books – players were still bound to their team and couldn’t negotiate with another team. But suddenly teams were no longer bound to their cities. They were negotiating with other cities and packing up and moving.
– One thing I learned in baseball is you don’t panic, just do what you’re supposed to do. We had the players who, Casey liked to say, could execute. Years later when I was managing, reporters asked me what I planned to do after we lost the first game of the World Series to the Cardinals. Not much, because it’s not football, I told them. You can’t make up any trick plays.
– Bob Turley was tremendous for us that year. When we first got him, Casey said, “Look at him. He don’t smoke, he don’t drink, he don’t chase women, and he don’t win.”
– There was a pushy radio reporter who asked Casey if he thought we were choked up. And Casey told the guy – who was Howard Cosell – “If there’s any choking, it’ll be you on this microphone.’”
– Sometimes I wondered how well I’d do if I weren’t a catcher. I mean, it wasn’t a picnic behind the plate with the collisions, the pounding on your hands, the bruises, wearing that equipment on summer days, running to back up first, and bending up and down 175 times a game. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun and I had no complaints. I liked being a catcher just fine. Maybe I would’ve hit the same as an outfielder all those years, maybe not. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as successful in the outfield. Maybe it was just better to be satisfied with what you were than think about what you weren’t.
– Normally, you win a pennant when all your players have good years together. We won it with almost everybody having bad years together. We had a lot of injuries and still got to the seventh game of the World Series against the Cardinals without our best pitcher, Whitey Ford. The day after we lost game 7, I was called into the executive office, pretty much expecting a contract extension. Instead, I got a pink slip. In baseball you don’t know nothing.
“Ten Rings – My Championship Seasons” is full of stories, insights, and pearls of wisdom like those. I enjoyed reading the book, and I recommend it highly to any and all aficionados of the game of baseball.