Review by Dan Skip Allen
It Ain’t Over tells the story of one of the most important athletes in baseball history. Yogi Berra was a baseball legend, but before he was Yogi, he was Lorenzo Pietro aka Laurence Peter Berra. He was dubbed Yogi Berra years later. He was born to Italian immigrants in St. Louis on Dago Hill, or “The Hill,” as people eventually called it — an Italian section of St. Louis. At the young age of seventeen, he enlisted in the Navy before he was drafted. He found himself on a boat headed for Omaha Beach on D-Day during WWII. Many of his boatmates died that day. He was injured, but he never wanted his parents to know, so he was never put in for a Purple Heart for valor in the service of his country.
Berra played baseball from an early age, and was very good at it. He turned down a deal to play for Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, to play for the Yankees, instead. He signed with and played baseball for the New York Yankees at age 20. He grew up with Joe Garogiola Jr., who was his best friend and played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Their competitive spirit helped them become great players. Growing up on the same street, these two wanted to become ballplayers their entire lives, and both achieved this goal around the same time.
Many documentaries have talking heads. Among the ones in It Ain’t Over were his sons Tim, Larry & Dale, his granddaughter Lindsay Berra, legendary play by play men Vin Scully and Bob Costas, comedian Billy Crystal, and ex-players and managers Joe Torre, Joe Madden, Derek Jeter, and Joe Girardi. All of these men and women paint a great portrait of who this man was.
Yogi's major league baseball career debuted in September 1946. His first plate appearance in the Major League, he hit a home run, and in the second game as well, Yogi was a great hitter. He played in 68 playoff games and got 68 hits. He won more World Series rings than the four men who were voted the greatest living ballplayers alive in a ceremony in 2015: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax. He was behind the plate for Don Larson's perfect game in the World Series. And in one season, Yogi only struck out twelve times in an entire season with a batting average of 295. He won 3 MVPs, 10 World Series rings, and went to 18 all-star games. His career is comparable to all the greatest players of his day and afterward. He was a great player, bar none.
One of the things Yogi was most famous for was his Yogi-isms. A couple of them were: "it ain't over till it's over," and "when you come to a fork in the road, take it." He was quoted by presidents like Bill Clinton and George Bush, and even during his presentation with the Medal of Honor by President Obama. These were often taken out of context, but eventually Yogi accepted them as his own way of speaking. This became part of who he was to the American public.
Another thing that made Yogi one of the good guys was that he was accepting of Jackie Robinson and other Black players who started playing ball in the majors. Still, he was mad when Robinson stole home against the Yankees in the 1955 World Series. They both thought they were right on that argument as far as who was safe or out. They both were cultural icons in their own right. Yogi was an ad man. He put his name and likeness on various products, like Yoohoo, and actually was turned into a cartoon character Yogi Bear, but he wasn't a fan of the cartoon.
The film used a lot of archival footage of his interviews and playing baseball. Yogi's most famous quote was used when his Mets came back and won the World Series in 1974. He was hired by the Yankees and helped them in the ‘70s, but a feud between George Steinbrenner and Yogi that caused him not to return to Yankee Stadium for 15 years for firing him in 1984 was a stain on his legacy, even though most people supported him over Steinbrenner. They reconciled at his museum in Montclair, New Jersey. He once again showed back up on Yogi Berra Day with Don Larson, who picked that famous perfect game and wouldn't you know it? David Cone, a Yankees pitcher, pitched a perfect game the same day,
There is no secret that I'm a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. That doesn't matter when I'm watching a film about a cultural icon and legendary ballplayer like Yogi Berra. Who wears what uniform or plays in what city isn't relevant anymore. The way the writer/director crafted It Ain’t Over was incredible. He made me care about this man, his family, his career, and his relevance in society. He was a great baseball player. No one doubts that. It's what type of person he was off the field that showed what a great human being he truly was. This documentary depicts that in terrific realism for all to see.
It Ain't Over hits theaters on May 12.