This past weekend was my best friend’s grandpa’s 87th birthday. That’s an exciting milestone to celebrate, no matter who’s blowing out all those candles. But his birthday brought more attention than most. Lindsay’s grandpa is Yogi Berra. And for years, my dad has been asking, “When do I get to meet Grandpa Yogi?” (Lindsay’s family is my family, so I call her grandparents what she calls them. It seems too weird to call them Mr. and Mrs. Berra, and I could never bring myself to call them Yogi and Carmen. So GY and GC, it is.)
My dad is a baseball fan. And a history buff. And, as we all discussed at dinner on Thursday, he had the privilege of watching Roberto Clemente play–in person! There probably isn’t a current baseball player he’d give two hoots to meet. But Yogi Berra? That’s a different story. Besides, my mom got her sports make-a-wish last January at the Steelers-Packers Super Bowl in Dallas. Why shouldn’t dad get his?
So this past weekend, my dad and I flew to Montclair, NJ, to attend Yogi Berra Museum Day at Yankee Stadium and hang out with Lindsay and her family. Thursday night after dinner, we went over to her grandparents’ house and watched the end of the Yankees game with her dad and grandpa. When the talk turned to how well C.C. Sabathia is pitching this year–and how on earth he landed such a smokin’ wife–I heard my dad ask GY, “You caught for a lot of great pitchers. Who do you think was the greatest?” After GY started ticking off a list of the best … “Whitey was great. They were all great. There were so many …” I stopped eavesdropping and let Dad have his moment.
Saturday, we visited the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State. [Side note: If you’re ever in the area, it’s a MUST. And if you have $10 to spare, the museum is a non-profit and teaches kids not only about the history of the Yankees, but about how to be a good teammate and a good person. Text YOGI to 80088 to donate 10 bucks.] Then we went to the stadium early to visit the Yankee museum inside Gate 6 and check out Monument Park in the outfield. We watched the first four innings (and ate way too much carmel popcorn) from seats in a suite (Thank you, Berras!) and then joined the party to sing, “Happy Birthday,” and eat cake with Grandpa Yogi. Dad met Doc Gooden, Mickey Rivers and Gator Guidrey. Oh, and Amber Sabathia, C.C.’s hot wife.
That night, I posted some photos to Facebook so he could share the experience with everyone back home. (Mom was simultaneously enjoying a relaxing dad-free Mother’s Day weekend at the beach.) As I posted the photos, I realized of all the photos we took over the three days–Dad with me, Linz, her dad and GY; Dad with Mickey, Dad with Gator, Dad with Doc, Dad with me–we never took a photo of just Dad and Yogi. I started to feel really bad. Oh man, he didn’t even get a photo with him. Everyone got a photo with him, even the bartender. All that time, and I never thought to take their photo. He must be so bummed.
Then I snapped out of it. But I wondered why a photo seemed so important. I’ve never been much for autographs, but I do treasure some of the photos I have with folks I’ve met over the years. But why? I think what I like about them isn’t the photos themselves. It’s the memories they evoke. The stories they elicit when people see them on my refrigerator and ask, “When did you meet ______?” Hopefully Dad won’t need a photo to do that. Hopefully the memory of those three days will be enough.
On second thought, maybe I should feel bad about not taking a photo of him … and Amber Sabathia.