Yogi Berra and the Immigrant American Dream: It Ain’t over till it’s over

YogiBerraYogi Berra is dead.

At 90 years old this icon of America.

In baseball, at 5’7”, he is a towering icon.  Perhaps the greatest catcher to ever play the game.

Think of this:

  • 18 seasons as a catcher for the New York Yankees
  • 10 World Series rings
  • 14 World Series appearances
  • 3 most valuable player awards
  • 15 All-Star games

Soak it up for a second.  Even if you’re not a baseball fan you cannot ignore greatness of this magnitude.

In his passing much will be said of Yogi Berra.  How he was an accomplished athlete.  A World War II veteran who left baseball to join the Navy.  Who served at D-Day.

Married for 65 years to Carmen Berra he rarely spoke of his military service because, as his wife said, “I think his military service has been a little overlooked, because men like him really didn’t talk about it much..It wasn’t a big thing to him…it was just what they had to do.”

This post, however, has less to do with Yogi Berra the athlete – the soldier – the patriot – the husband and the father…than it has to do with this fact: Yogi Berra was the son of immigrants.

According to multiple sources from Wikipedia, “Yogi Berra was born in a primarily Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called “The Hill“, to Italian immigrants Pietro and Paolina (née Longoni) Berra. Pietro, originally from Malvaglio near Milan in northern Italy, arrived at Ellis Island on October 18, 1909, at the age of 23.”

In a 2005 interview for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi said, “My father came over first. He came from the old country. And he didn’t know what baseball was. He was ready to go to work. And then I had three other brothers and a sister. My brother and my mother came over later on. My two oldest brothers, they were born there—Mike and Tony. John and I and my sister Josie were born in St. Louis.”

The Berra Family history and story is as remarkable as it was common during Yogi’s own life.

Immigrants from the “Old Country” who came to America to start a life.  Make a living.  Create a family.

To become Americans.

I am struck by Yogi Berra’s death today, not because I followed his career, and not even because I could tell you a lot about how he lived and what he did beyond those things I have read.

It’s because his death reminds us that in life he was living the American Dream that his immigrant parents had hope for him and his brothers and sisters.

It’s the same American Dream that millions of others who have come to America since then – legally and outside the law – to embrace, experience and live for themselves and their own sons and daughters.

It’s that quest for the American Dream that people like Donald Trump deliberately choose to ignore when they call for the shipping of humans from our nation like cattle to the slaughter.

It’s the hope and aspiration of parents that Ben Carson ignores when he callously proposes that no American child who is a Muslim should ever be President of the United States.

It was not so long ago that a candidate whose faith, and church, is now lead by Pope Francis would have been deprived of being President simply because he was a Catholic.

It was even more recent that a candidate whose skin color was not white could ever be considered to be the President of the United States of America.

Imagine the world of baseball without Yogi Berra because owners and others refused to give the son of immigrants an opportunity to throw a ball.

Imagine the men of D-Day without Yogi Berra next to them, fighting for their lives and for the very life of civilization, because he wasn’t “American” enough.

In 90 years the world Yogi Berra lived in – fought for America in – raised a family in – played baseball in – and died in – has changed since his immigrant parents arrived here to give themselves a chance for a better life.

But, one thing hasn’t changed.

The thirst of men and women throughout the world to come to America to find a better life and to build a future that is more hopeful and prosperous for themselves and their children.

Yogi Berra’s life is over.  He has gone onto join his Carmen.

But, the American Dream is not.  It continues to this day.  Here, in our nation.

And, across the world, in the hopes and dreams of millions who yearn for a better life.

The American Dream. It ain’t over till it’s over

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