Wall Street Journal: Taking Yogi Berra to 'Moneyball'

November 7th, 2011

Wall Street Journal
November 7, 2011
By, Jason Gay

It’s not clear if the kids running down the aisle recognize the sturdy older gentleman waiting for the 4 p.m. movie. But he looks like someone they ought to know. He’s dressed sharply—navy blazer, khaki pants, a bright red sweater. His wife of 62 years, Carmen, buys a small bag of popcorn and follows him into the theater.

Yogi Berra is here to see “Moneyball.”

Berra didn’t earn a ton of money playing baseball. The game was different then. When Yogi was a 17-year-old prospect from St. Louis, he signed with the New York Yankees for $90 a month. When he returned from World War II, his first major league contract paid him $5,000 a year. Berra worked at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the winter. He never made more than $65,000 in a season. He never had more than a one-year deal.

But no one squeezed more out of baseball—and gave more back —than Yogi. He played 18 seasons with the Yankees, appearing in 14 World Series, winning ten of them. A catcher, he was a 15-time All-Star, a three-time MVP.

“I was very lucky,” Berra says softly. He is 86 years old. On his right hand is a World Series ring from the 1953 Yankees. On his left, his ring from the Hall of Fame.

The theater in Montclair, N.J., grows dark. Yogi sits in the back.

“Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt, tells the real-life story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who saw his low-payroll playoff team gutted by free agency and decided to rebuild using innovative statistics to find hidden value in less expensive players. That “Moneyball” philosophy —a descendant of the statistical studies published by author Bill James—kept the A’s contenders and helped revolutionize the sport

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