Allen Barra says a case can be made that 83-year-old Yogi Berra was the greatest catcher in baseball history. And no ex-ballplayer is more famous today, not even Willie Mays. But a few years ago, fresh off a book about Bear Bryant, Barra noticed that there hadn't been a definitive bio of Yogi. He set out to fix that, and the result is the new “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee.” Yogi's best known to younger generations as a lovable lunkhead, the idiot savant who talks to a duck on an insurance commercial, who said, “It ain't over till it's over” and “You can observe a lot by watching.” Then there are the malapropisms that make a weird kind of sense when you think about them: When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Half this game is 90 percent mental. I didn't really say everything I said.
But, as Barra points out, Yogi's been a success at almost everything he ever tried. Pitchers who were brilliant when he was behind the plate never did anything much when he wasn't. Whitey Ford, one of the greatest left-handers ever, often says he never shook off one of Berra's signs, and Don Larsen has said the same thing about his World Series perfect game.