My husband Jerry and I were reflecting on Yogi Berra last week, shortly after his death. Yogi was known for his many hysterical “Yogisms,” as a great catcher, and as quite a character. He was also a 15-time All Star, 3-time MVP, and he won 10 world championships, more than any other player. Let’s not forget, he was a celebrated war hero.
Aspects of Berra’s conduct reminded Jerry of how his sports heroes used to act on and off the playing field. Jerry said that there seemed to be an unwritten code of honor in the players he admired. They played all out, were hard-nosed and fundamentally pure — no showboating and never showed up a coach, a ref or an opponent.
Jerry, while, thinking of Yogi, recalled how he learned to play ball in Camp Raleigh. He believed he learned from the best. As a camper, he watched the graceful Larry Schiffman, the savvy and competitive Jonathan Halpert, and the Stuie Poloner, the greatest Jewish player he ever saw play. What distinguished them was not only how they technically played the game (which was really great), but how they conducted themselves before, during and after the game (win or lose). They played and acted with great honor and humility. As Yogi said, “You can observe a lot, just by watching.”
A few years later, when he got to play with them, he saw another dimension of their leadership and character. Jerry, although much younger and less experienced, recalled how they were supportive, constructive and patient as they helped teach him how to play the game the right way.
Throughout Jerry’s basketball career, he always aspired to live up to the standards of hard work, fair play and respect for the game that they taught him, way back when.
The great values that Jerry and his teammates (Bruce Wenig, Neil Stein, Mike Blumenthal, Mark “Witzy” Hoenig and many others) were taught and infused by their mentors in Camp Raleigh, was something that the great Yogi Berra would have appreciated.