Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of the late Yogi Berra and correspondent for MLB.com, held a press conference at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, located on the Montclair State University campus, at 11 a.m. today.
The 37-year-old spoke about her grandfather’s appreciation of the museum founded in his honor.
“He always used to say to people how excited he was to have this place,” Berra said. “He really just loved to be here. He loved that it was attached to a ballpark and he could watch the college team practice.”
According to Berra, the three-time MVP would jokingly say, “’I thought you had to be dead to have your own museum.’”
While the family will be having its own private services to honor Yogi Berra, there will be a public celebration of the former Yankee’s life at the museum on Oct. 1.
Berra, who wore a gold necklace with a number 8 pendant, cried during the 45-minute press conference when relating her grandfather’s reaction to the demolition of Yankee Stadium in 2008 and her own reaction to his death.
“[My grandfather] said, ‘I won’t miss this place because it’s here,’” Berra said while pointing to her heart. “I was feeling like that all day yesterday.”
Beyond holding memorabilia and celebrating Yogi Berra’s career, the museum provides learning opportunities and reinforces the value of sportsmanship. In the wake of Yogi Berra’s recent death, there are now questions of how the museum will move on and continue without its namesake.
Berra, a member of the museum’s board, hopes the institution will be exactly the same, as it “embodies” her grandfather. “This place is such a testament to who he was with the programs that we do,” Berra said. “Teaching kids about teamwork, leadership, respect and treating people with dignity – that is going to happen whether he’s here or not. It doesn’t stop because grandpa’s gone.”
Berra described the museum as her grandfather’s clubhouse of sorts. As he got older, Yogi Berra spent more time at the museum, hanging out with the staff and surprising visitors.
“He really did like to pop in on people as they were going through the museum. He would stand behind them and say, ‘look at me doing that in the picture,’” Berra said.
Along with his granddaughter, Yogi Berra’s sons – Lawrence, Tim, and Dale, all of whom also attended the press conference – told stories about the Hall of Famer as a father and grandfather.
“His uniqueness will never be duplicated by another human being,” Dale Berra said.
Outside of the press conference, fans filled the museum, viewing display case after display case of jerseys, mitts, rings and other memorabilia.
One patron, wiped beneath his eye as he heard Yogi Berra say, “It’s over” at the end of a short documentary.
“He was a great American. More than just a baseball hero, he was an American hero,” said Vin Talameo, 24, of Old Bridge, N.J.
Berra, who was grateful for the coverage of her grandfather career and legacy, assured members of the press, “He will always be in Yankee Stadium; he will always be here in Montclair; he will always be in the museum. He’s going to be with all of us forever.”