Who was the real Yogi Berra? A must-read biography details the man behind the malaprops

Yogi Berra established a greatest-of-all-time brand before professional athletes even knew what it meant to brand themselves.

Consider that one book he wrote features a cover photo of him with the quote, “I didn’t really say everything I said,” while another is titled “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!” 

That brand of accidental wise man played an integral role in making Yogi a multi-generational icon. And it also undersold him. The real Berra possessed a depth and intelligence that belied his simple narrative of being simple. And, like the rest of his species, he wasn’t perfect.

The real Berra, or something closer to it than merely those legendary quotes, can be found in “Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask,” a 2020 biography written by Jon Pessah. I wouldn’t call it “warts and all,” because you won’t find any bona fide warts here. Yogi was by all accounts, including this one, a decent, honorable man. Yet this masterful book details, painstakingly, what made Yogi Yogi, from his blue-collar upbringing in St. Louis to his time serving the United States in World War II to a season-by-season accounting of his playing career to his managing and coaching to his final years as a Yankees dignitary.

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