Yogi Berra to have statue in front of his museum

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (AP) — Yogi Berra took a quick look at the rendition of what will be the statue placed in front of his museum before commenting on it.

On the poster, a muscular Berra kneels on one knee in the on-deck circle gazing upward while holding two bats. The planned statue is the latest highlight for the colorful New York Yankees Hall of Famer, who won 10 World Series titles as a player and three MVP awards.

"It looks great," the 85-year-old Berra said Monday after the statue rendition was unveiled at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. "I didn't know I looked that good."

While many pictures were considered as the guide for the bronze statue, museum director Dave Kaplan said the rendition came from a 1950s Sports Illustrated photo.

Sculptor Brian Hanlon said the pose combines Berra's talent on the field, his spiritual presence in the locker room and his impeccable behavior off the field.

"His neck and his hands are just ripped," said Hanlon, who said it would take him 6-to-8 months to sculpt the statue in clay before it is sent to a foundry to be bronzed. The cost will be between $100,000-to-$125,000.

"He's a baseball warrior," Hanlon said. "I think as Michelangelo was great at doing this, creating energy and stillness, and would be my goal here, creating energy in this reflective piece."

Berra admitted there are really only a couple of statues he likes. There is one of Mickey Mantle in Oklahoma and another of Stan Musial.

"I just hope this looks like them," Berra quipped.

Carmen Berra, Yogi's wife of 61 years, said that she visited the museum on a class trip about a week ago with her granddaughter, Alexandra. The 5-year-old wanted to know what the circle was outside the museum.

When told 'that's where they are putting Grandpa,' the child reacted quickly.

"You mean we have to come here to see Grandpa," Carmen Berra recalled Alexandra saying.

Yogi spent most of his time on Monday talking about his favorite topic — baseball.

"I liked to play," Berra said. "I loved to play the game and I liked to watch the games, too. My wife gets mad at me sometimes because I am taking away her programs. I have to get her a new TV."

Berra said he remains on very good terms with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"He has done a heck of a job. It's a beautiful stadium, everything."

On his beloved Yankees, Berra said it was exciting watching this past weekend's Subway Series with the Mets.

"We had chances," Berra said, not hiding his allegiance. "We just didn't hit at the right time. They scored all their runs yesterday with two outs and we had men on first and third with no outs and didn't score. In the last inning, we got to within 6-4 and with a base hit you never know what could have happened."

Berra said injuries have limited the Yankees in recent weeks.

"I think if we can just hang on till everyone gets back, we'll be all right," he said.

The former Mets manager also showed some love for the Flushing team, which won the series, 2-1.

"I still root for the Mets, but not when we play them," Yogi said.

When asked about his former teammates, many of whom have died, Berra said that's why he likes Old Timer's Day.

"I like seeing the guys come back, but a lot of our guys are leaving, the ones that I played with, a lot have passed away," Berra said. "It's still good to see the guys and other teams, too. It's great."

While baseball has changed since he retired, Berra said the essence of the game is the same.

"It's baseball," said the beloved icon who coined the phrase 'It ain't over till it's over.'

"You have to love to play it and I loved to play it," he added. "Where else could you make that kind of money playing ball. I still love baseball. If I'm not out there, I could watch three or four games."