When Larry Berra was a teenager, one of his teachers took him to stamp collecting, a hobby he enjoyed for years. Finding magic in all the tiny portraits of artists, icons and presidents, he asked his teacher: What would it take for your father, Yogi Berra, the famous baseball player, who was then at the end of his career, to put a stamp?
The master explained that a person who is still alive cannot appear on a seal. “I said, ‘Well, I hope that doesn’t happen for a while,’” recalls the young Berra, now 71. But that high school conversation came back to him last year, when he got a surprise call from America. Postal Service to say that his father, who died in 2015, would finally have a stamp of his own.
“I was surprised when they asked me,” says Berra. “It’s an incredible feeling.”
Yogi Berra’s hallmark was sleepless in January and will be released later in 2021. The honor that places him in a select company: The other people honored with stamps this year are science fiction author Ursula K. LeGuin, nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu and artist Emilio Sanchez. For his family, however, it is a way of keeping his memory alive as he sends his face across the country.
“Having the image of dad in front of people all the time so they don’t forget him, that means a lot to me,” says Berra.
The process of putting a person on a stamp and finding the right design can take years; every little picture appears only after many exchanges. It begins with the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, a group of people with experience in various fields who meet four times a year to review proposals for new stamps that have been shipped from all over the United States (Berra’s name first appeared in 2016 ; the committee may select only a handful of names for stamps each year and usually searches a few years at a time.) Once a person has been chosen, a research group collects relevant material for possible works of art and the family is contacted to review legal paperwork. Then it is time to get down to work to discover the design.
“I wanted to make sure the stamp had some energy, that it wasn’t like a typical baseball card,” says USPS art director Antonio Alcalá.
Alcalá hired an artist to try to capture Berra, and when the first sketches failed to capture the vibe, he switched to another. This artist, Charles Chaisson, reviewed a dozen different images of Berra selected by the research group before producing a handful of sketches. A potentially promising example showed Berra hitting: “But at the size of a stamp, everything ends up being so small,” says Alcalá, “so if you’re showing the hitter on his swing, it’s hard to see Yogi and instead, he becomes another baseball player in a generic way. ” So he decided on a different route. The final selection focuses on Berra’s face, but with a “more dynamic angle” than you might find on your traditional baseball card, placed partially out of frame. You can see his chest protector, identifying him as a catcher, and his baseball cap, identifying him as a Yankee. But the focus is on him and his smile.
That’s exactly right for Larry Berra.
“I just remember my father smiling all the time,” says Berra. “And I would rather show his face than hide it behind the mask.”
While the label was being developed, Berra couldn’t discuss it publicly, subject to the terms of a nondisclosure agreement. However, after the announcement became official in January, he made a few calls to the children of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, his father’s teammates who have appeared on their own labels, to share the news and ask about their experiences. with the only honor.
“I think there are very few ways that the United States marks itself both for its citizens and for the world,” says Alcalá. “We have the flag, of course it is incredibly important, and we have our currency. But beyond that, there are few things that reach all parts of the country that say: This is something that the United States government feels represents who we are, the things we value, the things we think are important.. So, have a stamp celebrating your contributions to American culture, American life. … It’s significant. “
Berra is the 31st baseball player to appear on a stamp; However, 20 of the 30 above came together in an ensemble that was released to honor the MLB All-Century Team in 2000, so only a handful have been honored individually in this way. Jackie Robinson was the first: “They have put Jackie Robinson on a postage stamp” Y wrote at that time, “In the same league with Thomas Jefferson and the woman who founded the Red Cross.”
That league now includes Yogi Berra. And for Larry, the oldest of his three children, it is one last stamp to add to the collection that began so many years ago.
“His face brought joy to thousands of people,” says Berra. “As players age and die, their legacy wanes and wanes, but hopefully the label will keep it, that’s the most important thing to me, to keep it in the public eye, so they won’t be forgotten.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.