Jerry Summers: Yogi And Me

  • Monday, April 15, 2024
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The 60 Minutes Sunday Show portion on April 7, on the theft and destruction of irreplaceable baseball memorabilia by the admitted thief attempting to get as low a federal sentence as possible by informing on his co-conspirators and “accepting responsibility" was informative but disgusting to true baseball fans.

On two previous occasions I have penned Chattanoogan.com articles on Yogi Berra “Lawrence to Yogi” (Feb. 12, 2024) “Yogi Berra’s Greatest Quotes” (Sept. 4, 2023). Not being an absolute opponent or supporter of capital punishment I still could not develop any sympathy for the self-confessed admissions by the offender of 21 burglaries over 20 years who is trying to get a “downward departure” to possible probation from a tentative 4 year federal guidelines sentence for a federal “Theft of Art Scheme”.

The stealing of Andy Warhol’s art works may mean more to art lovers, but Walter (Big Train) Johnson’s wool jersey, Roger Maris’ items, and the melting down and selling of the raw gold and diamonds of Yogi’s 10 World Series ring makes it personal to me for the following reasons.

As an eight-year old youngster for the Optimist Little League in St. Petersburg, Florida where my family lived for seven years from 1948-1955, I continued to don the “Tools of Ignorance” (baseball lingo for catching equipment).

The St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees both held spring training in St. Pete and during my eighth grade year I was privileged to be the starting catcher for the Mirror Lake Warriors, Pinellas County Junior High Champions.

For whatever reason my batterymate (another baseball lingo term) pitcher, the late Jack “Cub” Cunningham, and I were selected to do a 30 second television commercial with future hall of famers, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, for US Keds tennis shoes company.

Unlike today’s $250,000 commercial fees for a public appearance, my colleague and I got to keep the shoes.

Over the years I continued my non-descript athletic career at the razed high school on Dodds Avenue in Chattanooga, the “Loveliest Village on the Plains” in Alabama, and the little institution on Monteagle Mountain whose first four Vice Chancellors (presidents) were ex- Confederate generals that has overcome that stigma (of some) to become one of America’s leading liberal arts universities.

US Keds has changed corporate identities several times since the 1950s.

Unsuccessful personal attempts have been made to determine whether the black and white ad in 1953 has been lost to history.

As Yogi’s female relative stated on 60 Minutes, “Yogi would forgive you.” (the thief).

(Whether I could is undecided- it is personal!)

PS: I also lost my starting position on the summer American Legion Post 14 team to a transplant from Michigan, Bill Freehan, who would eventually be the player behind the plate in the 1968 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers, prior to my family moving back to Choo Choo City!

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

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