2/1953- Yogi Berra of the NY Yankees. UPI color slide.

2/1953- Yogi Berra of the NY Yankees. UPI color slide. Credit: Bettmann Archive/Bettmann

There it was, in the March 2, 1959, edition of Sports Illustrated, in a feature on Yogi Berra written by the famed (mostly) golf writer Herbert Warren Wind:

“Berra is a personality of such original force and magnetism that sometimes it has even obliterated his real stature as a player.”

When Lindsay Berra, Yogi’s eldest grandchild, saw that article on a Twitter link, it reinforced the central point of the new documentary on Berra, “It Ain’t Over.”

That point is that Berra’s image has obscured his greatness, not only after he retired as a player in 1963 and after he died in 2015, but even during his prime.

“That [Sports Illustrated] story was in 1959, when he still was hitting home runs on the regular,” Lindsay told Newsday. “So that’s telling.”

The film debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and will premiere in New York- and Los Angeles-area theaters on May 12, with nationwide distribution rolling out from there.

Director Sean Mullin recounts the life and times of Yogi, complete with reams of vintage footage and A-list interviews.

In a half-dozen cases, the interview subjects have died since Mullin began the project in 2018, including Vin Scully, Hector Lopez, Bobby Brown, Ralph Terry, Roger Angell and Joe Garagiola’s widow, Audrie.

Berra’s sons, Larry, Tim and Dale, signed off on producer Peter Sobiloff’s idea for the film, and Mullin brought on Lindsay to help as an executive producer.

She is a freelance journalist who previously wrote for ESPN and MLB.com and has been an outspoken advocate for Yogi for years. Her motivation extends beyond defending his playing stature.

“He would have been an incredible human being if he had never set foot on a baseball field,” she said. “He’s a first-generation Italian immigrant. He volunteered to serve his country, joins the Navy and ends up on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion.

“He’s lucky enough to come home when so many other men did not. He becomes a professional baseball player and stays in baseball so many years after that, had this beautiful 65-year love affair with my Grammy Carmen, and he’s a great grandpa and a great father.

“He was the most humble, kindest, most compassionate person out there and I think it’s important for people to see that that can be.”

“It Ain’t Over” begins at the 2015 All-Star Game, when MLB honored the four greatest living players — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench.

Berra died two months later, but at the time he was very much alive, and very much a 10-time World Series winner and a three-time American League MVP.

“He was a giant,” actor/comedian Billy Crystal says in the film. “He was the most overlooked superstar in the history of baseball.”

Lindsay encountered another slight last year when Yadier Molina got his 1,000th RBI and she clicked on a story about it, only to find a composite photo that included Ivan Rodriguez and Bench as other catchers with 1,000. Not Yogi.

“I love all of these men and I’m not taking anything away from what they’ve done,” she said. “But in my head, I’m like, wait a second, Grandpa has 1,430 RBIs, which is the record by a catcher. They don’t even have him in this photograph. He is literally not in the picture.

“That’s what I want the documentary to do is to literally put him back in the picture in this discussion of who’s the greatest catcher of all time. He belongs in that discussion and people just forget about him.

“He led a team with Joe DiMaggio on it at the beginning and Mickey Mantle at the end, and he led the team in RBIs seven years in a row. He was a big cog in that machine and they don’t think of him.”

That is a function of an image that was part fact, part fiction and often painted him as a less-than-serious figure, one who did not look the classic part of a sports star.

Thanks to his years as a product pitchman, coach and manager, Berra is known to fans too young to recall him as a player — which covers everyone under 65 or so.

But Lindsay hopes the film reaches a very young generation to keep Berra’s life and example alive.

“I think he’s a great example for the way young kids should think about their lives,” she said, “I would love for a whole bunch of 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds to go and see it.

“My hope is that there are so many Yogi fans who kind of transcend team affiliation, so if you’re a White Sox fan or a Padres fan and you were around to see Grandpa, most fans are also Yogi fans, which is wonderful.

“And I hope those folks will bring their kids and grandkids to go and see it in other markets and they can learn about him, too.”

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