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Berra had lifetime love affair with hockey

Baseball Hall of Famer developed connection with sport growing up in St. Louis

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday. Once a month, he will let a picture from his vast collection do the talking in his "Picture is Worth 100 Words" feature.

This month, he writes about Yogi Berra, a baseball Hall of Famer who was also a lifetime hockey buff.

Yogi Berra is most famous as a baseball Hall of Famer with the New York Yankees and later a successful major league manager. But one of the sport's all-time great catchers was also a lifetime hockey fan as well as an occasional player in his native St. Louis.

Video: Lindsay Berra on Yogi's love of hockey

After his playing days, the 10-time World Series champion became a close friend of John McMullen, who bought the Colorado Rockies in 1982, moved them to the Meadowlands and renamed them the New Jersey Devils. But Berra's connection to hockey began a lot earlier.

One exhibit at Yogi's museum in Montclair, New Jersey, features him in full hockey gear with the St. Louis Flyers of the American Hockey League.

"I used to stay up past my bedtime, listening to the games on the radio," Berra told me during a visit to his museum. "I hid my little radio under my pillow so my mom wouldn't know I was sneaking in a listen. I sometimes dreamed of being a hockey player."

That wish eventually was granted by Flyers management, as depicted in a 1948 picture at Yogi's museum. Berra looked as comfortable on the ice as he did behind the plate.

Unfortunately for Yogi, Yankees management saw a photo of him and told him to stop. General manager George Weiss was terrified that his up-and-coming star catcher would get hurt and, as Berra remembered years later, told him, "You better get your butt off of them skates."

Instead, Berra had to settle for being a fan, attending games whenever he had the chance in New York and on the road. He also became friends with numerous NHL players over the years.

Yogi loved baseball, but there was no doubting his affection for hockey as well. After the Devils came to New Jersey, he was a regular in the locker room and delighted in their Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003. "Having Yogi around was a big, positive influence on us," longtime Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko told me. "He was our good luck charm because he knew all about winning."

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