Yogi Berra died at the age of 90 years old late Tuesday night before I had a chance to apologize to him or his family.
It was Monday October 9th, 1961. I ran home as soon as the dismissal bell rang at Struble Elementary to my grandmother's house, two doors down from mine to watch what remained of the fifth game of the 1961 World Series.
When I twisted the mechanical tuner and adjusted the antenna, I could hear Mel Allen give the 13-5 score in favor of the Yankees. I had the childish faith that the Reds would rally in the ninth inning especially since my favorite player, Vada Pinson, was due to bat.
It was the ninth inning, two outs and Pinson at the plate. Pinson lifted a fly ball to shallow left and the left fielder raced in to make the catch. I didn't cry. I didn't yell. I didn't do anything but grit my teeth and put the blame for the Reds' loss of the 1961 World Series on Yogi Berra, who just had to make the catch that ended the season. "Why couldn't he have let that drop?" I thought.
I turned the TV back over to my grandmother and went outside to toss a football with the other guys in the neighborhood. I told them that I hated the Yankees and I especially hated Yogi Berra. I listened to him hit a home run off Joey Jay in the second game of the series on the intercom in my second grade class at Struble Elementary because "Hall of Fame" teacher Ophelia Houston, who now has a school named after her in the Northwest Local School District, knew the young baseball fans in the class were too antsy to pay attention.
I watched with my father on Sunday October 8 when Berra, who no longer was the Yankees catcher, roamed leftfield as Whitey Ford beat Babe Ruth's World Series record for scoreless innings in a 7-0 shutout.
I forgave Berra long ago as I grew and matured seeing the bigger picture about competition and how it works. I had a chance to even talk to him on the field at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota before a spring training game. I was just about to introduce myself when Ken Griffey Sr. stepped up to start a conversation.
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In 1978 or 79 I was in a Max and Erma's in Toledo, Ohio near the Lucas County Rec Center, the home of the Toledo Mud Hens. During my four-year stint with a micrographics company is was at the bar with Dale Berra, who was with the Columbus Clippers at the time. We talked a little and I meant to bring up the subject but two young ladies arrived at the bar and distracted both of us.
Lindsay Berra, Yogi's grandaughter, is a sports writer. I sat next to her about six years ago in the Reds' press box and would have mentioned it to her but I didn't realize who she was until it was too late.
But it wasn't Berra. It was Hector Lopez. Berra sat out the game with an injury. He was innocent. All the contempt I had for him was misplaced.
Now, sadly it is now too late to apologize. If I only had the chance, I am sure he would say, "I didn't really catch all the fly balls I caught."
Now please excuse me, I must now find Hector Lopez and forgive him.