This afternoon, I have been watching and hearing grown men come to tears over the passing of Yankees Legend and War Hero, Yogi Berra. When I heard the news at 5 a.m. this morning, I both felt a pang of hurt, followed by a warm hug. “Maybe Pop Pop can meet Yogi now.”
I have been blessed over the last 20 years to meet many super stars and heroes of the sports world due to my career. Some I can now call friends or even mentors.
As for my late maternal grandfather, Angelo Corino, who I called Pop Pop, he grew up in the Depression, and served in World War II. His hard work as a contractor and dedication to his family business allowed him and his brothers to treat themselves and buy tickets to Yankees games. He used to tell me stories of what he saw with his own eyes, Joe DiMaggio hits, Mickey Mantle home runs and his favorite player, Yogi Berra.
When I started working in sports broadcasting, I was a runner / production assistant at tons of Yankees games from 1996 – 2000 before I became a regular on-air talent. Pop Pop would always ask me … “Did you see Yogi at the game?” I did get to meet Joe DiMaggio once in an elevator, and couldn’t wait to tell Pop Pop. And I did see Yogi at some games, but never got to talk to him. Pop Pop would say, “I’d like to meet Yogi, we could talk about the war, that’s for sure.”
In the summer of 2004, my fiance, Kevin (now husband) and I took Pop Pop to Yogi’s Museum on the campus of Montclair State University, just two miles from where we just purchased a townhouse. “Maybe Yogi will be there,” PopPop said. When the three of us got there, it was closed! Closed on Wednesdays. “We’ll come back Pop Pop,” I assured him.
Pop Pop passed away suddenly four months later, the week of my wedding. That day we arrived to Yogi’s museum to locked doors, will always haunt me. I always tell my husband when I go the museum for work or to speak at events, “Remember when we took Pop Pop …” and both of us tear up and can’t talk about it.
When I moved to Boston in 2006 to cover the Red Sox on NESN, my mother always said to me, “I wonder what Pop Pop thinks?” We knew, he probably wasn’t thrilled as he looked down upon us, but I knew he was proud I had earned myself such a prestigious reporting job. And, I made a new friend there … Johnny Pesky. We lost Johnny just a few years ago as well, but during my two seasons with the Red Sox … he was the gentleman I would always run to if I was feeling down, and I’d ask him to tell me stories about when he played baseball. There is something about that generation. Their stories are golden. Yes, I’d hear about Ted Williams’ grumpy attitude and brilliant career, and of his dear friendship with Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, but who knew what great stories he would tell me about … the enemy!!! Yes, Johnny adored several Yankees, Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra. I told Johnny about Pop Pop, even though he was a Yankees fan, and Johnny would say, “I think I would have liked your grandfather.” When Johnny passed away in 2012, I thought … “maybe he can meet Pop Pop now. They would get along, and I’m sure Pop Pop would thank him for being so nice to me in Boston.”
I have never covered the Yankees to the extent I covered the Red Sox. But when I returned to New York in 2008, I was at the Final Game at Yankee Stadium doing stories for MSG Network. At one of the press conferences, Yogi was waiting for his turn to step to the mic. This was 7 years ago, so Yogi was still robust, strong, and his wife Carmen was by his side. I was close. I got closer. I told Yogi quickly and quietly … “My late grandfather used to have box seats at this Stadium and watch all your games, you were his favorite.” I was a little nervous. He looked like my Pop Pop. They had the same mannerisms. Yogi answered! “Did he ever play ball?” I answered, “no, but he served in World War II.” He asked where and I told him he did radar and radio communications in London. Then, and I don’t remember EXACTLY what he said, because I was so nervous and emotional, but he said something … along the lines of a Yogi-ism … about “then he got me to where I was going.”
And then we said good bye to Yankee Stadium. And my grandfather’s box seats. And all the history Yogi was a part of.
Today we say good-bye to Yogi. And all he meant to so many people, bringing strangers and broadcasters, sports stars and war heroes to tears.
But maybe, just maybe … now … Pop Pop can meet Yogi.