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Yogi Berra's children, granddaughter remember the devoted family man

Members of Yogi Berra's family (from left, granddaughter

Members of Yogi Berra's family (from left, granddaughter Lindsay, sons Dale, Larry and Tim) hold a press conference at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, N.J., on Sept. 24, 2015. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. - Yogi Berra's family knew his death late Tuesday would be big news after his seven decades as a much-loved celebrity. But the magnitude of the public reaction still came as a surprise.

"The Empire State Building [lights] in pinstripes!" his eldest son, Larry, said Thursday of one Berra tribute. "I don't think I've ever heard of that before. It is amazing . . . I sit there and say, 'Oh my God, it's incredible.' "

Larry spoke at a news conference at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center alongside his brothers, Tim and Dale, and Larry's daughter, Lindsay, in an hourlong discussion that featured tears, laughs, stories and, of course, Yogi-isms.

Lindsay recalled one in paying tribute to Berra's humanity: "We all can't be as good as Grandpa all the time, and as he said, if things were perfect, they wouldn't be. But if we all try a little harder to be perfect, his legacy is in that effort."

The museum, which opened in 1999, is among Berra's proudest legacies. A public memorial will be held at the facility Thursday, after a private funeral Tuesday at Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair, New Jersey.

One byproduct of the many Berra remembrances in the news media Wednesday was a reminder for younger people about how good a player the three-time American League MVP was.

"I think people think of him as these Yogi-isms all the time and they forget that he only struck out 12 times in 597 at-bats one year [1950], and that was insane," Lindsay said.

But more than anything, his family recalled him as a devoted father who taught by example.

"He had the incredible ability, innately, to treat the bankers and CEOs the exact same way he treated the tailor," said Dale, who briefly played for his father before Yogi was fired as Yankees manager early in 1985. "There was no difference."

Said Tim: "We blended in. And the reason we blended in was because of him."

Larry said that while Berra obviously was busy during baseball season, he made it a point not to leave home in the offseason.

"He was just a family man," Larry said. "He never saw us play a baseball game in our lives. He saw us play every football game, soccer game, basketball game. Every other sport he saw."

Said Tim: "I wasn't naive. I knew he was this iconic, great player. But that's not the way I saw him as a father. He was a buddy of mine. We did things together. We laughed. He supported me in everything I did."

Lindsay said she was heartened by the fact that Berra passed away before the birthday Thursday of his wife of 65 years, Carmen, who died in 2014. "He's up there having a little party with her," she said, fighting back tears.

Larry noted that like previous Yankees stars such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Berra always will be with us, even in death.

"He's just up there with all of those guys," he said.

Then Lindsay added, "Playing one hell of a ballgame."

Said Larry: "That's some team now."

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