My moment with Yogi Berra, the legendary Yankees catcher who died Tuesday at the age of 90, lasted all of perhaps nine seconds.
It was a photo op that Yogi wanted no part of. He barely had time to react.
It was in a large suite at Yankee Stadium on June 24, 2006 – Old Timers’ Day. All the Yankees old-timers were mingling at a pre-game breakfast reception that turned into a mob scene because it was raining, forcing more people than expected inside.
The game would end up being rained out and made up as part of a double-header the next day.
That meant there was time for a Marlins beat writer to kill.
Into the crowd of Yankees greats we wandered, two South Florida scribes who might as well have been invisible as we pushed past New York writers, photographers, season-ticket holders, hangers-on and, of course, fabled Bronx Bombers of years gone past.
In the distance, I could see their partial heads and faces — Reggie Jackson and Lee Mazzilli and Moose Skowron and Whitey Ford. And Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, a moment captured in a famous photo of Berra, in his number 8, jumping into the pitcher’s arm after the final out.
They were all too far away and not worth pushing through the packed crowd to attempt an interview. I turned to leave.
And there he was, Yogi Berra, the great catcher of the DiMaggio-Mantle-Maris Yankees, walking away from the buffet table with his wife, Carmen.
She held a plate of eggs and fruit and followed her husband, who was being stopped by person after person for hellos, handshakes and photo ops. Yogi wasn’t saying much. He was just trying to find a seat to eat his breakfast.
I was going to leave the old guy alone, but then he turned and walked right at me. I wasn’t about to drop the ball on this photo op. I handed my small camera to a reporter friend and asked Yogi if he’d be kind enough to take a photo with me.
He didn’t reply; I don’t think I gave him a chance to. I put my arm on his shoulder and smiled. Yogi didn’t say a word. I’m not even sure if he smiled, but he did look at the camera.
Faster than you can say, “It ain’t over till it’s over,’’ it was over. I had my picture with Yogi.
I thanked him but I don’t think he heard me. He turned and continued walking toward a table. Someone else moved in for a photo and I heard Yogi snap, “Now, that’s enough!”