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He won the most World Series rings ever: Yogi Berra, catcher and later coach for the New York Yankees, in an image from the 1953 Bowman Color baseball card Heritage Auctions via Bowman Gum and Wikimedia Commons. The new Netflix documentary, “It Ain’t Over,” shows he was far greater than most recall. Beyond sports, the documentary shows how we tend to be remembered for one thing.

Words or world records? The Yogi Berra story shows how our words and images can even overshadow our greatest work.

“He was the most overlooked superstar in the history of baseball,” actor Billy Crystal explains.

You’re into sports? Me neither — but we loved every second of “It Ain’t Over” because the Netflix documentary is all about playing the game of life.

The film’s director, Sean Mullin, lamented “society’s unwillingness to view him as anything other than a caricature” by creating a 98-minute film to make us marvel, laugh, and cry at Berra’s humbling life of greatness overlooked.

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” — Alan Watts.

When New York Yankees President George Steinbrenner fired him, we joked, “It’s like firing Winnie the Pooh…”

The heart and soul of the New York Yankees over more than half a century, Yogi Berra is mainly recalled as this funny-looking, loveable character who said many funny and odd — yet wise — words.

We are recalled for one thing, so “It Ain’t Over” brilliantly shows how we tend to remember Yogi Berra as the “funny quote guy,” forgetting he was perhaps the greatest baseball player ever.

As far back as 1959, Sports Illustrated argued his personality overshadowed his skill on the field. That continued through September 2015, when he died at 90, and is still the case until you see this film.

The 10 greatest examples of classic “Yogi-isms” all show why his quotes are immortal

Yogi Berra has more quotes in Bartlett’s Books of Quotes than any U.S. president. USA Today compiled a top 50 list.

A “Yogi-ism” is something that doesn’t make sense (at first) but eventually, when you think about it, often makes perfect sense:

  1. Perfect? “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
  2. Future? “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
  3. Traveling? “No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”
  4. Work. “If I didn’t make it in baseball, I won’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.”
  5. Death. Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
  6. On coaching the New York Mets in the 1973 World Series): “We were overwhelming underdogs.”
  7. Quotes: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
  8. Original: “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
  9. Playing: “All you’ve got to do is hit the ball — and I’ve never heard of anyone hitting it with his face.”
  10. Life: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

They gathered the greatest and forgot his record was even better

The 2015 All-Star game assembled the four greatest living legends of the game they could find: Hank AaronJohnny BenchSandy Koufax, and Willie Mays.

Each is rightly widely known as the greatest of the greatest.

And yet, Yogi Berra’s record dwarfed theirs, and he was still alive and could have been invited to be there — but he wasn’t invited.

He had more MVPs than any of them and won more World Series than the other four combined. Berra had a record 13 World Series rings (10 as a player and three more as a coach).

And he made 18 All-Star game appearances.

The trailer for “It Ain’t Over,” the Netflix documentary, is about baseball and so much more.

Babe Ruth, considered the greatest baseball player by many, had seven World Series rings. So when New York Yankees owner Geroge Steinbrenner fired him (via a message from an underling), Yogi wouldn’t talk to him for 14 years (and the world turned on Steinbrenner).

The film shows how the Yankees had magic when Berra was around because people loved him. As comedian Robert Klein joked on The Tonight Show, “Firing Yogi Berra was like firing Winnie the Pooh.”

“No matter where you go, there you are,” ― Yogi Berra, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes

We discover more about him in an hour of play than in a year of conversation

To truly get to know someone, play with them.

No matter what you do in life, learn how to play. That’s how Berra won 10 World Series rings as a player (more than anyone ever) and then won three more as a coach.

His position was catcher, working with the pitcher to set up each play, which meant he was the only player who could see the whole playing field. Berra helped Yankees pitcher Don Larsen throw the first — and only — perfect game in World Series history in 1956.

Berra was known for his direct truthfulness and a black-and-white view of the world. He would be featured in various ad and marketing campaigns and was called “The greatest pitchman because he was so genuine.”

The legendary Mickey Mantle said Berra “was the heart and soul of our team.”

The people who truly know the game say there must be “ghosts” in Yankee Stadium. There were no World Series for the Yankees between his 1964 departure and his return a decade later.

“Time is a game played beautifully by children.” ― Heraclitus, Fragments

When he died in 2015, The Associated Press confused Yogi Berra with Yogi Bear, and newspapers nationwide repeated the gaffe

Talk about getting “no respect?” When Yogi Berra died in 2015, The Associated Press (the world’s largest news organization) initially identified him as Yogi Bear.

How do you confuse the greatest ball player with a cartoon character?

Above: Yogi Bear isn’t Yogi Berra, but the Associated Press confused them, reporting the Bear died when Berra died. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Berra is better recalled for being the “funny guy” who inspired the creation of the Yogi Bear cartoon character and the witty man with more quotes in Bartlett’s Quotes than any U.S. president.

As The Associated Press lamented in its correction:

“Famed New York Yankees baseball catcher Yogi Berra died. But the Associated Press’ initial report on Berra’s death made a boo boo, by saying that Yogi Bear died, according to several re-publications of the wire story, which was sent out in the early hours of Sept. 23. Yogi Bear is of course a cartoon character.”

He’s ‘just a gentle kind soul, that’s why he’s still loved’ to this day

His granddaughter, Lindsay Berra, said no matter how great he was for baseball, “he was an even better human. Even though he was the best at what he did, he never for a moment thought he was better than anyone else. That’s a refreshing thing in our heroes.”

She argues the media always focused on the caricature more than his career, noting, “They said he looked like an ape and a gargoyle and a fire hydrant, and Life Magazine said he looked like a fat girl running in a too-tight skirt.”

But she said his time as a World War II soldier made him a warrior who could deflect and laugh off the later attacks.

“He’s just a gentle, kind soul — that’s why he’s loved.”

This essay originally appeared at Leadership Culture

Yogi Berra: His Heart Overwhelms His Record
All you’ve got to do is hit the ball — and I’ve never heard of anyone hitting it with his face