The Final Inning for Yogi Berra
Navy Hero and Baseball great dies at 90
You could find him sitting with his arms and legs crossed, waiting to bat - Like a Yogi. Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, A 15-time All Star, who famously said, "It ain't over till it's over," passed away Sep. 22 at 90 years old. But it ain't over. Not by a long shot.
He grew up in St. Louis, but spent his late teen years playing in the Yankee farm system in Norfolk, Virginia. So when he turned 18 in 1943 and his draft card came in, it was only a short walk to the start of his journey as a Sailor. Although his wife of 64 years, Carmen Berra, said he never really talked about his service, he was among the men leading the largest invasion in world history.
I signed up for the amphibs (amphibious landing crafts)," he said.
Dave Kaplan, the executive director of the Berra museum, said Yogi became a "rocketboat man" because the word "rocket" appealed to him in a Buck Rogers kind of way. "He thought it had an adventurous sound to it," Kaplan said.
Rocketboats were speedy, 36-foot gunships, manned by a crew of six and armed with 24 rockets and two .30-caliber machine guns and a twin .50-caliber machine gun. The men on the boats trained in a top-secret program, preparing for a dangerous mission; those 24 boats would be out in front of the full landing force of the Allied invasion on D-Day June 6, 1944.
Of the invasion he said, "Being a young guy, you didn't think nothing of it until you got in it. And so we went off 300 yards off beach. We protect the troops."
For the next twelve days his boat was ordered to shoot down enemy aircraft. They accidentally shot down an American plane, but managed to save the pilot. He went on to serve in a second assault on France for which he received a medal from the French government.
"It was like the 4th of July out there," Berra said. "You couldn't stick your head up or it would get blown off."
Sixty years later, he received the Lone Sailor award from the U.S. Navy Memorial, an honor given to sailors who use skills learned in the service to advance their careers, and in 2013 he earned the Bob Feller Act of Valor award.