By LAUREN PEACOCK
For Montclair Local
Legendary baseball player and longtime Montclair resident Yogi Berra has been honored with a Forever Stamp — an occasion marked with a ceremony at the museum that bears his name.
Berra was a catcher — and later a manager and coach — who played Major League Baseball for 19 years, 18 of them with the New York Yankees. He died in 2015
Sportscaster Bob Costas opened the dedication ceremony Thursday at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University. Berra, a resident of Montclair Township for more than 50 years, had been a steadfast supporter of the university, which granted him an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1996.
“Today we honor one of the greatest baseball players of all time and one of the most legendary men ever to play in pinstripes: national treasure and icon Yogi Berra,” Costas said.
The museum’s executive director, Eve Schaenen, said she was glad the ceremony was possible — that “we can all gather together at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, something we couldn’t do this time last year.”
She reminded the crowd of major events in Berra’s life — how his parents were Italian immigrants, how he served at D-Day, how as an athlete he achieved three MVP plaques and 10 World Series rings, all displayed at the museum.
“Yogi wasn’t only great. Yogi was also good. And it’s the qualities that made Yogi such a good person in addition to being a great ballplayer that ultimately drives the work of our museum,” she said. “I’m speaking of Yogi’s unerring respect for others, his humility, and his remarkable openness to individuals of all kinds and all different backgrounds.”
And she said, because of the Forever Stamp, “Yogi’s legacy will now be zipping around the entire globe.”
Special guests in the audience included professional baseball player, manager and coach Willie Randolph; former professional baseball player and television sports commentator Rick Cerone; family members of 16-year New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford; Larry Doby Jr., namesake of his father, the second Black player to join Major League Baseball; former Jets player Bruce Harper; and actor Paul Borghese, who played Berra in the film “61.” Also in the audience were members of Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee, and the director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
Ron Bloom, the 24th chairman of the United States Postal Service Board of Governors and a former senior official in the Obama administration, said he considered the Postal Service “a great match for our honoree.”
“The United States Postal Service is a uniquely American institution, and a national treasure. While every nation in the world has a postal service, none can match ours,” Bloom said.
The commemorative stamp program, he said, was like the service’s “own version of the Hall of Fame
“And so, today, we proudly induct Lawrence Peter Yogi Berra into our Hall of Fame, where he will be remembered forever,” said Bloom.
“My dad lived the American dream,” Dale Berra, there with his brothers Tim and Larry, said.
[He was a] first-generation Italian immigrant growing up in Saint Louis. He quit school after the eighth-grade to provide for his family. Four years later, he’s storming the beaches of France at D-Day and later in Northern Africa. [He] comes home, becomes a baseball player, and a Hall of Famer, a national icon, one of the most quoted men in America, and tops it off with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President Obama.”