Son of a Legend
Where Are They Now
By Doug Kennedy
in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1975 draft
(20th overall), Dale Anthony Berra had a lot to live up to his
father- one Lawrence "Yogi" Berra.
"I think only in retrospect can I answer that question," said the fifty-two year old Berra when asked what it was really like living up to the image of his Hall of Fame father. "When it's current you don't realize it. I took it for granted. I would go to Shea Stadium, put on a uniform, bother the players, and was even a bat-boy."
When his father was the manager of the Yankees, Dale remembers going to a game and meeting guys like Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson, and Tony Kubek.
The family home has been and still is in Montclair, New Jersey. For twenty-one years, Dale lived in that same house and had three siblings that included two older brother, Larry and Tim and a sister, Betsy.
Playing together on the streets was part of the growing up process for the Berra boys. "When I asked my dad to play catch with me, he would say that's what you have brothers for," laughed Dale. "When I asked him if I could go to a game, he would say go play."
"I knew I was going to be a number one draft pick," said Dale, referring to when he came out of high school as a three-sport star in baseball, football, and hockey. "Hockey was actually my favorite," he said.
But it would be when Dale started in the minors that teammates would begin to raise their eyebrows. "If I messed up in the field or struck out, there were guys who would say look at the number one draft pick. So there was a lot more pressure on me being a number one draft pick than being Yogi's son."
You know the commercial that says life comes at you fast- well that could have easily been the storyline for one Dale Berra. In 1977, Rennie Stennett broke his ankle and the Bucs needed an infielder. "I felt I was ready," said Dale. "At the time, I was the best player in AAA." All the Pirates did was to recall him, move Phil Garner from third to second base and insert Dale at third.
"I was only twenty," he said, "and I remember how much fun it was. At the time, I didn't think it was too early, but it was a big jump from AAA."
Two years later, he was contributing to the "We Are Family" World Series champion, Pittsburgh Pirates, earning a ring in the process.
loved Pittsburgh," said Dale. "They had the Lumber Company and
that was fun. I never had a problem with the fans in Pittsburgh."
Berra actually got to contribute for quite of few of those important
September games playing for Tim Foli. "We won a lot of those,"
Dale proudly said.
After serving as a backup third-baseman/shortstop, Berra got the starting nod at the beginning of the 1982 season. "I had the chance to play for a great manager," said Berra, who ended up starting for three straight seasons as the Bucs' shortstop.
As far as Dale Berra is concerned, Chuck Tanner was the manager who not only gave him confidence, but stuck with him. "I struggled for the first month," said Dale. "Rather than replacing me he kept saying you're going to be my shortstop and that gave me confidence to keep going out there, and I did pretty good for the last five months. He kept telling me that I was going to be a good player and eventually I became one."
Batting 8th in the lineup, Berra hit .263, had 10 homeruns, and drove in 61 during that 1982 season. "That was a pretty good year for a shortstop. There were only one or two other shortstops who did better and they were batting higher."
But as he would admit, he could have done better. For two more seasons, he remained as the Pirates starter at short, but his career declined rather than escalate. "I should have got better, but I regressed," said Dale "and you don't do that for any reason."
What happened to Dale's career was his involvement with drugs, something he admitted to in the well publicized Pittsburgh Drug Trials of 1985 that saw five of his teammates and numerous other well known players become involved in a scandal not seen since the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" World Series fix.
"I was a good player and I would have been much better. I shortened what would have been a very productive career and I really regret that," said Dale, who believes he would have been an All-Star.
"But it was too late to move forward. I made some bad choices and bad judgments and it cost me my career," said Berra, who has been clean and sober for the last fifteen years.
In 1985, he joined his father in New York, playing for the Yankees, but after twelve games,Yogi was fired and lifelong friend, Billy Martin took over. "I actually hit over .300 when dad was there," said Dale.
But when Martin took the reins, Berra's performance dipped, and he played very little. "He (Martin) was like an uncle to me and he would say that I was like a son to him, but not playing me was nothing more than a function of my poor play." In his two somewhat tortuous years in New York, Dale hit .229 and .231 with a total of just 3 homeruns and 21 runs batted in.
By 1987 and 19 games into the season with the Houston Astros, the 10-year baseball career of Dale Berra was finished.
Athletics and the Berra family have always been synonymous as older brother Larry played a few seasons as a catcher in A ball before injuring his knees and middle son, Tim, played a season as a wide receiver/kick returner for the 1974 Baltimore Colts.
Besides being one of the immortals of Major League Baseball, Yogi played other sports like street hockey when he was younger. "He was probably as good a soccer player as he was a baseball player," said Dale. "He was just so natural and gifted."
And that gifted talent and the name of Yogi Berra has led to the business LTD Enterprises that the Berra family operates. Tim and Dale are the principals, while Larry is the silent partner and Betsy contributes.
The business is located in Montclair, New Jersey and markets everything that is Yogi Berra related.
"We have taken the agents out of dad's life," said Dale. "We're the third party. Anything that dad does is done through the Berra family. LTD handles everything like the AFLAC commercials."
He goes onto explain that any percentage that an agency or company would take, the Berra family, instead, runs it through their company. "We control his autographs, shows, corporate appearances, and functions. It's all Yogi's stuff," said Dale.
The Museum and Learning Center offers numerous programs that include the 10 Building Blocks of Learning, an Institute for Coaching, and customized team and leadership workshops.
And at 83, Yogi still routinely makes his appearances along with Dale's mother, Carmen.
2009 is certainly a happier time in life for Dale Berra than it was even as a major league baseball player. "I just wish I had the approach to the game then that I have in the approach to my life right now."