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Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly fondly remembers Yogi Berra

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has fond memories of Yogi Berra, whose No. 8 Mattingly adopted as his own when he joined the Dodgers.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has fond memories of Yogi Berra, whose No. 8 Mattingly adopted as his own when he joined the Dodgers.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Don Mattingly was still a training camp instructor then, not yet a Yankees coach. His charge was to follow young first baseman Nick Johnson around, which on that day had meant a bus ride to an away game in Florida.

By the time they returned to camp, everyone there had been gone for hours. Everyone but Yogi Berra, still dressed in his uniform.

Mattingly said he approached him and said:

“Yogi, you been here all day? What are you doing here? And he’s like, ‘Yeah, it would have been all day at the hotel too.’”

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The Yogi-isms, they’re everywhere. Mattingly spent an early part of his major league career playing for Berra, and although saddened to learn of the Hall of Famer’s death Tuesday, he enjoyed the constant telling of Berra stories on all the broadcasting networks.

“It was even on that little TV when I stopped for gas,” he said.

Mattingly played for Berra when he managed the Yankees in 1984, and the first 16 games the next season.

“People have it right,” Mattingly said. “The reason he was so loved, it wasn’t about his career -- even though he was a great, great player -- it was really more about the person, how great a guy he was, the way he treated people, how humble, how sincere and kind he was to people. That’s really what defined him and why he’s touched so many people.”

When Mattingly first came to the Dodgers, Derek Lowe already wore the No. 23 that Mattingly had always been identified with, so he chose No. 8 in honor of Berra. When Lowe left the Dodgers after the 2008 season, clubhouse manager Mitch Poole asked Mattingly if he wanted his old number back.

“I told Mitch I wanted to stay with eight,” Mattingly said Wednesday in the Dodgers dugout. “Everything Yogi touches turns to gold and I was looking for gold.

“There’s not a day I don’t look at No. 8 in there and don’t think about him. I usually don’t wear the jersey out, I don’t usually wear it during the game, but I wanted to have eight on today.”

Mattingly still talked of Berra in the present tense.

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“Yogi is just great. I love him,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s met Yogi and not liked him. He treats everyone with respect from top to bottom.”

Twitter: @stevedilbeck


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