For Yogi Berra, the task was always simple. Keep the New York Yankees pitching staff on course, make it to another World Series, and keep us all in good spirits along the way.
But who kept Yogi on the right path? Who was there to catch him when he was in need? It was his lovely wife, Carmen, who left us just days ago.
Carmen was not one to draw attention to herself. Instead, she concentrated on helping those who many often overlooked. While Yogi played a game that relied so heavily on statistics, Carmen joined him in their continued mission to help one person after another.
Of the many causes that she supported, some say the best example of her generosity came from her her assistance to the Salvation Army. She had a way of seeing the good in people, and she refused to look the other way when someone was in need.
Perhaps that is because she never forgot her own humble beginnings. She was a dancer and waitress in a St. Louis restaurant when Yogi first set eyes on her after his rookie season.
“She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen in my life,” he said.
After their marriage, she made Yogi so proud and grateful. She became friends with many of the wives of the Yankees players, including Arlene Howard, Cora Rizzuto, Joan Ford, Lucille McDougald and others.
She celebrated all of Yogi’s good times, and stood beside him in the difficult ones too. When George Steinbrenner sought to patch things up with Yogi after their much publicized 14-year falling out, Yogi would only meet with him if Carmen would be there too.
One of their proudest accomplishments, The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, seeks to promote the role of baseball and other sports in the teaching of cultural values.
When asked about what Yogi had to be thankful for, manager Casey Stengel even started with Carmen.
“They say he’s funny,” Stengel said. “Well, he has a lovely wife and family, a beautiful home, money in the bank, and he plays golf with millionaires. What’s funny about that?”
And Carmen gave Yogi the inspiration to be himself. To do it his way, even if it left others shaking their heads in disbelief when he swung at so many bad pitches.
“Yogi had the fastest bat I ever saw,” Hector Lopez said. He could hit a ball late, that was already past him, and take it out of the park. The pitchers were afraid of him because he’d hit anything, so they didn’t know what to throw. Yogi had them psyched out and he wasn’t even trying to psych them out.”
So together, Yogi and Carmen were the perfect team. She made him proud and helped him accomplish everything that he became proud of during his Yankee career.
Long before setting the records for playing in, and winning, the most World Series in history, Yogi found the one who kept him calm and steady through every challenge. It was a pretty and humble waitress and dancer named Carmen.