It would be easy to say baseball lost an icon with the passing of Yogi Berra. In truth, the world lost one.
His death at age 90 was deemed newsworthy by the BBC, among other media outlets overseas. His fame elsewhere had more to do with his image as a little old man who said funny things but true baseball fans knew that his true greatness was as a player.
For millions of kids, Yogi Berra baseball cards were a staple of bubble gum packs every summer for 18 years.
By the time he was 28, he already owned World Series rings. He would win four more as a player, the most all-time. He was one of four players who have won the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. His individual accomplishments are honestly too many to list; the trivia came like waves on Wednesday as word spread about his death coming 69 years to the day after his 1946 big league debut (of course). And oh, by the way, he spent the previous few years in the service. Yogi was also a decorated veteran of D-Day.
For a collector, great Yogi Berra memorabilia is not hard to find thanks to numerous brushes with history.
There’s the famous image of a very young Yankee catcher shaking hands with an ailing Babe Ruth. Yogi signed a lot of them and you can still own the 8×10 version for a fairly reasonable price.
Three years later came the famous World Series “play at the plate” photo of Yogi and Jackie Robinson in the 1950 World Series. Yogi took some joy in signing “he was out!” to many of those images, in spite of the umpire’s original call.
Six years later, there was Yogi, jumping into the arms of Don Larsen after the final out of the 1956 World Series perfect game. Sadly, only Larsen now survives but photos of the famous moment, autographed by one or both, are readily available.
Berra’s exclusive deal with Steiner Sports has allowed collectors to buy signed photos of Berra with everyone from Stan Musial to Derek Jeter and individual pictures from nearly every stage of his life over the last seven decades.
The most expensive Berra items sold at auction was the jersey he wore while catching Larsen’s perfect game. It sold in 2010 for $564,930. A 1958 game-worn Berra jersey sold earlier this year for $167,300. Three of his game-used catcher’s mitts, one from the Phil Rizzuto estate, have sold at prices ranging from $44,812 to $59,791.
Sadly, thieves broke into the Yogi Berra Learning Center and Museum in New Jersey last October, stealing two of his three MVP plaques, five World Series rings and ten replacement rings worth a combined value of $2 million.
Berra played with Joe DiMaggio and then helped Mickey Mantle adjust to big league life. Mountains of pictures are available from those years—many of them humorous and most of them showing Yogi with a grin.
His first baseball cards arrived with the regionally issued Bond and Tip-Top Bread sets of 1947 but his “official” rookie card, the first true bubble gum card, is his 1948 Bowman. The black-and-white issue shows him posing after taking a swing. Prices vary greatly based on condition but a nice-looking, crease-free example can be obtained for around $500.
Yogi’s last card as a player was in 1965, when he served as catcher and coach for the Mets.
He returned to Topps cards later as a manager and until recent years, his certified autographs made their way into card company products on a fairly regular basis.
Thirty-five years ago, his career home run record for catchers fell to another pretty good backstop, Johnny Bench.
@BaseballHall, the telegram Yogi sent me when I broke his home run record. @MLBNetwork #RIPYogi pic.twitter.com/ZibjSc9i9r
— Johnny Bench (@Johnny_Bench5) September 23, 2015
The Yankees announced Wednesday they will wear a number 8 patch on their jerseys for the remainder of the season. Some of those jerseys are likely to be available after the season through the team’s contract with Steiner Sports.
Throughout the day, collectors have been sharing their Yogi memories on our Facebook page.