Thursday, May 11, 2023

It Ain’t Over, the Yogi Berra Doc

Lawrence Joseph "Yogi” Berra probably appeared in more commercials than Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but instead of presenting himself as a secular superhero, the beloved New York Yankee always self-deprecatingly poked fun at his own image. One thing is certain, Berra had more championship rings than either of them—ten in total. Yet, over the years, the “Yogi-isms” overshadowed his exceptional baseball career. Filmmaker Sean Mullin sets the record straight with the help of his granddaughter (and executive producer), Lindsay Berra, who serves as the lead voice in It Ain’t Over, opening tomorrow in theaters.

In addition to the World Series championships, Berra was an 18-time All-Star, a 3-time American League MVP, and he called Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game. However, Berra is largely remembered for the funny things that kind of-sort of make sense, which he may or may not have really said. As his granddaughter and other friends and colleagues run through his accomplishments for the benefit of Mullin and the audience, they make an overwhelming case.

They cover it all, especially including Jackie Robinson safely stealing home on Berra during the World Series, a call the catcher disputed to his dying day. Nevertheless, the film emphasizes Berra was always a voice for tolerance and inclusion in Major League Baseball, particularly during the early days of the league’s racial integration. Appropriately, but somewhat frustratingly for Yankees fans, Berra’s feud with George Steinbrenner and his self-banishment from Yankee Stadium are also covered in length.

Perhaps the most eye-opening segments of
It Ain’t Over explore Berra’s relationship with his son Dale, whom he coached while he was the Yankee manager. Dale Berra talks candidly about his addiction issues, which sabotaged his own promising MLB career and the support from his father and family that help him overcome them.

Obviously, the Berras were behind this film. Mullin also scored sit-downs with a veritable Yankees who’s who, including Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera, Don Mattingly, and Willie Randolph (who also served as the Mets manager, as did Berra). Perhaps the most important footage is that of the late, great Vin Scully (the longtime voice of the Dodgers, dating back to the Brooklyn era). The world could use a Vin Scully doc too, so let’s hope Mullin got him talking on his own career, as well.

Berra is a prime example of why New York sports are interesting to a wider circle of people than traditional fans. Berra was an American self-made success, who was wounded serving his country on the beaches of Normandy. His unique persona and unique cultural impact come through loud and clear in
It Ain’t Over. Recommended for Yankees fans, Mets fans, and anyone who appreciates a good New York story, It Ain’t Over opens tomorrow (5/12) in multiple New York theaters, including the AMC Lincoln Square.