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All I know about character I learned from Yogi Berra

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Ciro Poppiti, III

Ciro Poppiti, III

By Ciro Poppiti
Guest Columnist

Yogi Berra, the iconic New York Yankees catcher, died in September.  Of course, Yogi was also well known for his wit and wisdom, such as “You can observe a lot by watching.” I had the honor of spending time with Yogi over the years. I have been around some of the biggest Hollywood celebrities, sports stars and politicians. No one ““ no one ““ was ever more beloved by fans than Yogi. In tribute to his life well lived, I have memorialized some of the lessons I learned from legendary No. 8.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Many times I would be with Yogi when a fan would approach, rattling off baseball statistics, as if a sports reporter at the end of a game: “Yogi, are you aware that you still hold the all-time World Series records for most games played, 95, as well as the most hits, 71?” or “How did it feel catching an entire 22-inning game against the Detroit Tigers in June 1962?”

Yogi always had the same reaction, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, “How the hell do I know?” You see, Yogi put on his gear every day and plied his craft on the field.  He did not stop to count his achievements, or stop to admire them, or stop to doubt when discouragement said otherwise.  He simply focused on moving forward, through the fork in the road and straight onward.

“I really didn’t say everything I said.” There is great strength in humility, a lesson that only time and experience can teach. Yogi was one of the most humble men I have ever met.  Despite incredible adoration, he never acted like a star. I remember when we were filming a commercial with Yogi, he turned to one of the crewmembers and said, “Are you appearing in this too?” In other words, he did not think that he was the center of the universe around which all else revolved. In his mind, if he was in a commercial, there were probably lots of other people acting in it as well.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Never give up. Never quit. Never go gently into that good night. That’s the stick-to-it attitude which landed you in an incredible 18 World Series. That’s the stuff that made you a legend. Sleep warm, my friend, you have earned an eternity of peaceful rest.

Ciro Poppiti is the Register of Wills for New Castle County.  


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