A son polishes his famous father’s legend while confessing how and why he fell short of his own potential.
Nobody ever thought Dale Berra would be another Yogi, but Dale wasn’t just riding his father’s coattails. As he tells it, “I was the best prospect in the Pirates organization, the best minor league prospect in the country. Triple-A is filled with the best prospects, and I was better than all of them.” Even more than his father, who had faced considerable resistance from his Italian immigrant father about making a living by playing a game, Dale was set on playing major league ball—and there was no Plan B. Though he made it to the majors before he was 22, he was out of baseball less than a decade later. Even if it hadn’t been for the cocaine, he likely wouldn’t have been good enough to fulfill the expectations of a first-round draft choice. This memoir is really two stories: First is the familiar one of the famous father as seen through the eyes of the sons who loved him. (Dale’s brothers are quoted extensively, and they all loved and respected their father even if he didn’t play catch with them and wasn’t around much during the baseball season.) Those who want to learn about Yogi Berra will get a good introduction here, but there are better biographies, along with plenty of accounts of the Yankee championship teams of which he was such an integral part. That leaves Dale’s story, and it is no more exceptional as a drug recovery story than his baseball career was. He used cocaine “because, literally, everyone was doing it,” and one of his arrests cost him his first marriage. His family staged an intervention when he continued using, and he has been sober for two decades since.
The author is to be commended for straightening out his life, but his memoir is not very reflective or illuminating.