LOS ANGELES - Whenever a Dodger makes a gaffe and is totally, instantly forgiven by his manager, he can thank Yogi Berra. That is the way Berra treated at least one of his Yankees and that is the way that player, Don Mattingly, is determined to treat his players.
"I played for a lot of different guys in my tenure in New York. But I don't know if I ever ran across a better person than Yogi,'' the Dodgers manager said after his team's workout Thursday in preparation for Friday night's NLDS Game 1 against the Mets. "I think just the way he handled himself and treated people was something that rubbed off on me for sure.
"As manager, just the way he treated you as a player was, I thought, something that I wanted. Off the field, it was normal. There was no carryover from the game. There was nothing held against you. He treated you like everyone else at that point.''
Mattingly wears No. 8 in tribute to the man who managed him with the Yankees in 1984 and part of 1985 and remained a friend and good sounding board for years after that.
Dave Kaplan, founding director of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in New Jersey, said that when Yogi was a coach in 1981, he vigorously opposed a proposed trade of the young first baseman (at the time, the Yankees were said to think Mattingly was too skinny). "I will tell you that over the last three years, whenever the Dodgers would come in to play the Mets, Don would make it a point to visit Yogi at our Museum for lunch, share stories and laughs,'' Kaplan said.
When it was clear that Mattingly's job was in jeopardy, the two men never discussed it directly. Berra just told him to stay the course, as he had done under pressure as Mets manager in 1973 -- a season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the World Series.
What's more, Mattingly inspired some Yogi-isms. Once, Berra watched the player's indefatigable batting practice regimen and told him, "Don, you're going to hit yourself right into a slump.'' Another time, Berra was asked if Mattingly had exceeded expectations during a season. The manager answered, "I'd say he's done more than that.''
Mattingly thinks of Berra every day, when he puts on his Dodgers jersey, and every time he has to help a player through a tough patch.
"He had a huge impact on the way you want to treat people,'' he said, "and the way you want to be viewed by people for the way you treat them.''