An online petition urging President Obama to give New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra the Presidential Medal of Freedom cleared a hurdle Monday night, beating the deadline by which it needed to amass 100,000 signatures.
Now, the decision rests with the White House and there’s plenty of evidence that supports giving Berra the award. One of the greatest catchers of all time and a Hall of Famer, Berra’s off-the-field achievements offer more than substantial support. In addition to his humanitarian efforts, Berra was a hero of World War II, fighting on D-Day as a young Navy sailor.
D-Day wasn’t the first time Berra came up against moments of historical significance. “…[H]e befriended the first black and Latino baseball players in Major League Baseball,” as the petition points out.
— Lindsay Berra (@lindsayberra) June 9, 2015
It’s easy to recall Berra’s famous malapropisms (like “it ain’t over til it’s over), but that does him a disservice. As a 19-year-old kid, he was a Navy gunner on an LCSS (landing craft support, small) boat tasked with protecting Allied troops by firing at Germans during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
“You saw a lot of horrors,” Berra, who is 90, told The Associated Press last year on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. “I was fortunate. It was amazing going in, all the guys over there.”
As for his accomplishments on a baseball diamond, Berra was a three-time AL MVP during his 19-year playing career, spending all but one season with the Yankees. A member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, Berra’s teams won the World Series 10 times.
“Everybody knows what my Grandpa did on the baseball field and some even know about his time on the battlefield,” Berra’s granddaughter Lindsay told Fox News. “I don’t think they know a ton about all the humanitarian work he has done. He’s been an advocate for education,” Berra added. “He was one of the first players to embrace players across racial lines. He’s really used his fame to embrace people. He helped to push the civil rights movement into the forefront.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., was established in 1960. Two former ballplayers, Stan Musial in 2011 and Ernie Banks two years later, have received the honor.