December 20, 2001

Visited the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair last weekend, which I had been meaning to do for some time. The Museum is on the campus of Montclair State University here in New Jersey, and can best be described as a mini-Baseball Hall of Fame, devoted entirely to the career of the great Yankees catcher. The museum has an extremely impressive collection of memoribilia (Berra was closely involved with the museum's orgabization)), including all of World Series and championship rings (more than any other player), the glove he used (since bronzed) to catch Larsen's perfect game, and the Mantle and DiMaggio plaques from Yankee Stadium.

It's a nice little place, but the visit caused me to think about an ongoing conversation I've been having with Rachel about changing perceptions and their relation to true talent. The original conversation had to do with Elton John and Dolly Parton, two extremely talented musicians who essentially traded critical acclaim and respected public perception for more easily understood, flamboyant and popular images.

Anyway, in a strange sort of way, Yogi fits into that category. The man was an amazing ballplayer who won three MVP awards and finished in the top five for an incredible seven straight years, including four straight seasons as either #1 or #2. He played on 14 pennant winners and managed both the Yankees and the Mets to the World Series. But for reasons perhaps beyond his control at first, though certainly embraced later on, he became known as a funny little guy who used to play baseball and said a lot of dumb things. He almost never gets thought of in the same category as Mantle or DiMaggio, or with Musial, WIlliams, Duke Snider, Mays, etc., even though he was certainly on that level. Hopefully the Museum will help restore the idea of Yogi as a ballplayer a little.

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