It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over: Yogi Berra To Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom Posthumously
By Dr. James Palermo // November 18, 2015
Yogi died in September
Yogi Berra is one of 17 people who will be honored at a Nov. 24 ceremony at the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
During the summer, the Yogi Berra Museum started a petition seeking the award for Berra, citing his military service, baseball prowess, and civil rights and educational activism.
The petition received more than 100,000 signatures, prompting a response from the White House, which noted that the award could only be given out at the discretion of the president.
Unfortunately, Yogi died in September so his family will be receiving the award posthumously on his behalf .
In a Tweet, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center said, “This posthumous honor to our namesake is a fitting tribute to a noble and humble life well lived. We join with all of his fans and friends in congratulating his family, and in thanking President Obama for this award.”
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) November 16, 2015
PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is, along with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by the United States.
The award is bestowed by the President of the United States and recognizes those individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The medal was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in World War II. In 1963, President Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service in peacetime.
CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE GREATEST CATCHER EVER
Berra is considered by many to be the greatest catcher in baseball history.
He played in more World Series games than any other major leaguer, was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player and played in 15 straight All-Star Games.
As a manager, he led both the Yankees and Mets to pennants.
Berra’s prowess on the diamond was celebrated by his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and selection in 1999 as a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, chosen by popular vote of fans.
SERVED HIS COUNTRY WITH DISTINCTION
Yogi also epitomized the commitment to country and community of the Great Generation. His early professional baseball career was interrupted by WWII.
As a 19-year-old U.S. Navy Second Class Seaman Lawrence P. Berra, Yogi played a significant part in the Normandy Invasion.
A gunner’s mate, he was one of a six-man crew on USS Bayfield, a Navy rocket boat, firing machine guns and launching rockets at the German defenses at Omaha Beach. He was fired upon, but was not hit, and later received several commendations for his bravery.
ABOVE VIDEO: Yogi Berra is one of 17 people who will be honored at a Nov. 24 ceremony at the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
BELOVED AND OFT-QUOTED AMERICAN ICON
Beyond being one of the greatest players of all time on the field, he was also one of the sport’s most colorful and quotable characters off of it.
Berra holds a special place in the American vernacular for famously paradoxical yet witty “Yogi-isms,” phrases which are common in popular culture, including, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” and “It’s deja vu all over again.”
BERRA JOINS OTHER HALL OF FAMERS AS MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECIPIENTS
Other honorees will include Hall of Fame centerfielder Willie Mays; the late New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; Barbra Streisand; Steven Spielberg; composer Stephen Sondheim; violinist Itzhak Perlman; Gloria and Emilio Estefan; and James Taylor.
Berra and Mays will join fellow Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Joe Dimaggio and Stan Musial as baseball players who have been awarded the Medal of Freedom.
“On behalf of the entire Yankees organization, we congratulate the family of Yogi Berra for his inclusion among upcoming recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner and co-chairperson, said in a statement.
“This honor is a fitting tribute to a man who not only represented the sport of baseball with unequaled dignity and humor, but exemplified the best virtues of our country through his military service and compassion for others. His life was truly the embodiment of the American dream.”
COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University links the past to the present through the stories of baseball and Yogi Berra and other individuals who have distinguished themselves through their accomplishments and character.
The museum chronicles those incredible Yankee teams from the 40s, 50s and 60s, and Yogi’s truly amazing career as a player, coach, manager and now American cultural icon, as well as providing sports-based educational and public programs that attract educators, students and intergenerational audiences.
Through museum tours and programs, it is emphasized that everyone has the ability to live a long and rewarding life – and even achieve greatness.
A statement from the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, New Jersey best describes Yogi’s life and contribution:
“Yogi conducted his life with unwavering integrity, humility and a contagious good humor that elevated him from baseball legend to beloved national icon. For all his accolades and honors as a player, coach and mentor, he remained completely true to himself – a rare example of authentic character excellence and a lasting role model for his peers, his public, and the thousands of children who visit the YBMLC each year to take part in programs inspired by his values.”