The Yogi Berra Museum hosted a memorial in honor of Yogi Berra on Saturday, Oct. 4.
Berra, who passed away on Sept. 22, was not only a well-known Yankee star, but also an American cultural icon. One of Berra’s legacies include his words, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” one of many “Yogi-isms” that have become part of American phraseology.
At the opening ceremony, Berra’s son Larry was choking up when he thanked the crowd for joining him and his other family members to remember his father.
The museum was open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Inside, fans of both Berra and baseball, young and old, journalists and Berra’s family members were walking around the exhibitions on display.
Larry Berra was overwhelmed by the many fans who showed up at the memorial on Sunday. “I knew dad was well-liked as a role model and a person, but I didn’t know just how far the love and admiration went,” he said.
Lindsay Berra, the late Berra’s granddaughter, said that her grandfather loved coming to the museum. Berra expressed that she would like to raise the number of kids visiting the museum every year. “Grandpa’s values – the things that we teach here: teamwork, leadership, respect, integrity and dignity – are so important,” Berra said. “I just would like to see the museum continue to get that message to as many kids as possible because he would love that.”
Kevin Peters, the interim CEO of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, said that this day went flawlessly. “It is focused on the children and the fans. I can’t see anybody not smiling and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that,” Peters said. “I know that Yogi’s smiling as a result.”
Upon being asked what he plans for the future of the museum, he said that they will emphasize the connection between Berra and his mentor Bill Dickie, and “accumulate stuff like that to create new displays. [But] the most important part of it is the learning center,” Peters said. “We’re focused on three areas: one of them is character and sportsmanship, another is STEM and the third one is the industry and opportunity to have careers in sports. Each of those will have a new curriculum for K-12 rolling out over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.”
Grandpa’s values – the things that we teach here: teamwork, leadership, respect, integrity and dignity – are so important. I just would like to see the museum continue to get that message to as many kids as possible because he would love that. -Lindsey Berra
Dave Kaplan, the director of programs at Yogi Berra Learning Center, found the day to be celebratory. He and his team would like to continue strengthening their already-good relationship with Montclair State and work closely with schools like Hillside Elementary School. “[We want to] continue to have the programs that are consistent with Yogi’s character and integrity and just keep moving forward,” Kaplan added.
Among many other performances was an a capella group from Montclair High School called the Passing Notes. In the main lobby, dressed in white shirts and jeans, they were entertaining the visitors and singing songs such as “Yesterday” that evoked a sense of nostalgia.
The overwhelming support of the fans was evident by the many No. 8 Jerseys. Fred Preissler from Red Bank, N.J. said that he is actually a Mets fan. “Berra played in a preseason game for the Mets his first year and then he became a third base coach,” he said.
Tim Cook from Washington Township, Montclair State University graduate of ‘94, said his most vivid memory of Berra was when he returned to Yankee Stadium after being away for so long. Another personal memory of Cook’s was “Watching [Berra] throw out the first pitch to Don Larsen and recreating their perfect game moment.”
I can’t see anybody not smiling and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. I know that Yogi’s smiling as a result. – Kevin Peters, Interim CEO of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center
Danny Shaw, who was dressed in a jersey modeled after those of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, said that Berra had a big character and was such an important person. “Everybody’s always just loved him. It’s amazing to see just how many people will come to his memorial,” Shaw said.
Andrew Conway, one of Yogi’s youngest fans from Warren, N.J., came to the memorial with his grandfather. He said that his favorite activity of his day at the museum was “looking at all the Yogi Berra [baseball] cards.” When asked what he learned that day, Conway said, “that when Yogi Berra was playing, he got to meet Babe Ruth.”
During the closing ceremony later that day, the entire Berra family again thanked everyone for coming.
The Drums of Thunder, an elementary school band from Montclair, performed at the closing ceremony. They also performed at Berra’s 90th birthday in February. Peters said that Berra refused to go home before having seen these kids perform. They ended the closing ceremony on Sunday with an electrifying performance, a last tribute to Berra’s life.