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Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra
Berra in 1956
Catcher / Manager / Coach
Born: (1925-05-12) May 12, 1925 (age 95)
St. Louis, Missouri
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 22, 1946 for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
May 9, 1965 for the New York Mets
Career statistics
Batting average .285
Home runs 358
Runs batted in 1,430

As player

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As manager

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Career highlights and awards
Induction 1972
Vote 85.61% (second ballot)

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (born May 12, 1925) is a retired American Major League Baseball (MLB) catcher, manager, and coach. He played almost his entire 19-year baseball career (1946–65) for the New York Yankees. He is widely regarded as one of the best catchers in baseball history.[1] He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Berra was an All-Star for 15 seasons.[1] He is one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times and is one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. As a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series including 13 World Series championships. He was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in a voting of fans in 1999.

Berra, who quit school after the eighth grade,[2] was also known for his pithy and paradoxical quotes, such as "It ain't over 'til it's over", while speaking to reporters. Simultaneously denying and confirming his reputation, Berra once stated, "I really didn't say everything I said."[1][3]

Early life

Lawrence Peter Berra was born in a primarily Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called "The Hill", to Italian immigrants Pietro and Paolina (née Longoni) Berra. Pietro, originally from Milan in northern Italy, arrived at Ellis Island on October 18, 1909, at the age of 23.[4] In a 2005 interview for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi said, "My father came over first. He came from the old country. And he didn't know what baseball was. He was ready to go to work. And then I had three other brothers and a sister. My brother and my mother came over later on. My two oldest brothers, they were born there—Mike and Tony. John and I and my sister Josie were born in St. Louis."[5] Yogi's parents originally nicknamed him "Lawdie", derived from his mother's difficulty pronouncing "Lawrence" or "Larry" correctly. He grew up on Elizabeth Avenue, across the street from boyhood friend and later competitor Joe Garagiola; that block, also home to Jack Buck early in his Cardinals broadcasting career, was later renamed "Hall of Fame Place".[6] Berra is a Roman Catholic,[7] and he attended South Side Catholic, now called St. Mary's High School, in south St. Louis with Garagiola. Berra has been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[8]

He began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues, where he learned the basics of catching while playing outfield and infield positions as well. Berra also played for a Cranston, Rhode Island team under an assumed name.[9] While playing in American Legion baseball, he received his famous nickname from his friend Bobby Hofman who said he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after a losing game.[10]

Professional baseball career

Minor leagues

In 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals spurned Berra in favor of his boyhood best friend, Joe Garagiola. On the surface, the Cardinals seemed to think Garagiola the superior prospect—but team president Branch Rickey actually had an ulterior motive: knowing he was soon to leave St. Louis to take over the operation of the Brooklyn Dodgers and more impressed with Berra than he let on, Rickey apparently planned to hold Berra off until he could sign him for the Dodgers.[11] However, the Yankees signed Berra for the same $500 bonus the Cardinals offered Garagiola, before Rickey could sign Berra to the Dodgers. The Yankees assigned Berra to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League, where his most memorable feat was driving in 23 runs in a doubleheader.[12]


Berra served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he served as a gunner's mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France,[13] Following his military service, Berra played minor league baseball with the Newark Bears and was taught under the mentorship of Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, whose number Berra took.

Major leagues

Berra played 7 games in 1946 and 83 games in 1947, for the Yankees. He would play more than one hundred in each of the following fourteen years. Berra appeared in fourteen World Series including 10 World Series championships, both of which are records. In part because Berra's playing career coincided with the Yankees' most consistent period of World Series participation, he established Series records for the most games (75), at-bats (259), hits (71), doubles (10), singles (49), games caught (63), and catcher putouts (457). In Game 3 of the 1947 World Series, Berra hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history, off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca (who later gave up Bobby Thomson's famous Shot Heard 'Round the World in 1951).

Berra was an All-Star for 15 seasons,[1] and was selected to 18 All-Star Games (MLB held two All-Star Games in 1959 through 1962[14]).[15] He won the American League (AL) MVP award in 1951, 1954, and 1955; Berra never finished lower than fourth in the MVP voting from 1950 to 1957. He received MVP votes in fifteen consecutive seasons, tied with Barry Bonds and second only to Hank Aaron's nineteen straight seasons with MVP support. (Ted Williams also received MVP votes in every year of his career, but it was twice interrupted by military service.) From 1949 to 1955, on a team filled with stars such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Berra who led the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons.

One of the most notable days of Berra's playing career came when he caught Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the first of only two no-hitters ever thrown in postseason play.[16] The pictures of Berra leaping into Larsen's arms following the 27th out are among the sport's most memorable images.

Playing style

Berra was excellent at hitting poor pitches, covering all areas of the strike zone (as well as beyond) with great extension. In addition to this wide plate coverage, he also had great bat control. He was able to both swing the bat like a golf club to hit low pitches for deep home runs, and chop at high pitches for line drives. Five times, Berra had more home runs in a season than strikeouts. In 1950, Berra struck out twelve times in 597 at-bats. This combination made him a feared "clutch hitter"; rival manager Paul Richards once called Berra "the toughest man in the league in the last three innings." When asked about swinging at "bad pitches", Berra reportedly said, "If I can hit it, it's a good pitch."[12]

As a catcher, Berra was truly outstanding. Quick, mobile, and a great handler of pitchers, Berra led all American League catchers eight times in games caught and in chances accepted, six times in double plays (a major league record), eight times in putouts, three times in assists, and once in fielding percentage. Berra left the game with the AL records for catcher putouts (8,723) and chances accepted (9,520). He was also one of only four catchers to ever field 1.000 for a season, playing 88 errorless games in 1958. He was the first catcher to leave a finger outside his glove, a style most other catchers eventually emulated.[17]

In June 1962, at the age of 37, Berra showed his superb physical endurance by catching an entire 22-inning, seven-hour game against the Tigers.[18] Casey Stengel, Berra's manager during most of his playing career with the Yankees and with the Mets in 1965, once said, "I never play a game without my man."[19] According to the win shares formula developed by sabermetrician Bill James, Berra is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitching player in major-league history.

Later in his career, Berra became a good defensive outfielder in Yankee Stadium's notoriously difficult left field.

Manager and coach

File:Yogi Berra 1969.jpg
Berra as the New York Mets' first base coach, 1969.

Berra retired after the 1963 World Series, and was immediately named to succeed Ralph Houk as manager of the Yankees. Much was made of an incident on board the team bus in August 1964. Following a loss, infielder Phil Linz was playing his harmonica, and Berra ordered him to stop. Seated on the other end of the bus, Linz could not hear what Berra had said, and Mickey Mantle impishly informed Linz, "He said to play it louder." When Linz did so, an angry Berra slapped the harmonica out of his hands.[20] All was apparently forgotten when Berra's Yankees rode a September surge to return to the World Series, but the team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, after which Berra was fired. Houk, who was general manager at the time, later said the decision to fire Berra was made in late August and that the incident with Linz had nothing to do with it. Although he didn't elaborate, Houk said that he and the rest of the Yankee brain trust did not feel Berra was ready to manage.[21]

Berra was immediately signed by the crosstown Mets as a coach. He also put in four cameo appearances as a catcher early in the season. His last at-bat came on May 9, 1965, just three days shy of his 40th birthday. Berra stayed with the Mets as a coach under Stengel, Wes Westrum and Gil Hodges for the next eight seasons, including their 1969 World Series Championship season. He then became the team's manager in 1972, following Hodges' unexpected death in spring training.

The following season looked like a disappointment at first. Injuries plagued the Mets throughout the season. Midway through the 1973 season, the Mets were stuck in last place but in a very tight divisional race. In July, when a reporter asked Yogi if the season was over, he replied, "It ain't over till it's over."

As the Mets' key players came back to the lineup, a late surge allowed them to win the NL East despite an 83–79 record, making it the only time from 1970 through 1980 that the NL East was not won by either their rival Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates.[22][23] When the Mets faced the 99-win Cincinnati Reds in the 1973 National League Championship Series, a memorable brawl erupted between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose in the top of the fifth inning of Game Three. After the incident and the ensuing bench clearing brawl that followed had subsided, fans began throwing objects at Rose when he returned to his position in left field in the bottom half of the inning. Sparky Anderson pulled Rose and his Reds off the field until order was restored. When National League president Chub Feeney threatened the Mets with a forfeit, Berra walked out to left field with Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones in order to plead with the fans to desist.[24] Yogi's Mets went on to defeat the highly favored Big Red Machine in five games to capture the NL pennant. It was Berra's second as a manager, one in each league.

File:Yogi Berra 1981.JPG
Berra hitting fungos prior to a game in 1981.

Berra's tenure as Mets manager ended with his firing on August 5, 1975. He had a record of 298 wins and 302 losses, which included the 1973 postseason. In 1976, he rejoined the Yankees as a coach. The team won its first of three consecutive AL titles, as well as the 1977 World Series and 1978 World Series, and (as had been the case throughout his playing days) Berra's reputation as a lucky charm was reinforced. Casey Stengel once said of his catcher, "He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch."[25] Berra was named Yankee manager before the 1984 season. Berra agreed to stay in the job for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be fired, but the impatient Steinbrenner did fire Berra after the 16th game of the season. Instead of firing him personally, Steinbrenner dispatched Clyde King to deliver the news for him.[26] This caused a rift between Berra and Steinbrenner that was not mended for almost 15 years.[27]

Berra later joined the Houston Astros as bench coach, where he again made it to the NLCS in 1986. The Astros lost the series in six games to the Mets. Berra remained a coach in Houston until 1989.

In 1999, after George Steinbrenner ventured to his home in New Jersey to apologize in person for the way his firing as Yankee manager was handled, Berra ended his 14-year estrangement with the Yankee organization and worked in spring training camp with catcher Jorge Posada.[28]


Yogi Berra's number 8 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1972.
Yogi Berra's plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame (top) and in Monument Park. (bottom)

In 1972, Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The No. 8 was retired in 1972 by the Yankees, jointly honoring Berra and Bill Dickey, his predecessor as the Yankees' star catcher.

On August 22, 1988, Berra and Dickey were honored with plaques to be hung in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Berra's plaque calls him "A legendary Yankee" and cites his most frequent quote, "It ain't over till it's over." However, the honor was not enough to shake Berra's conviction that Steinbrenner had broken their personal agreement; Berra did not set foot in the Stadium for another decade, until Steinbrenner publicly apologized to Berra.

In 1996, Berra received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State University, which also named its own campus stadium Yogi Berra Stadium, opened in 1998, in his honor.

In 1999, Berra appeared at No. 40 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and fan balloting elected him to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. At the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, Berra had the honor of being the last of the 49 Hall of Famers in attendance to be announced. The hometown favorite received the loudest standing ovation of the group.

On July 18, 1999, Berra was honored with "Yogi Berra Day" at Yankee Stadium. Don Larsen threw the first pitch to Berra, to honor the perfect game from the 1956 World Series. This was a part of the celebration to mark the return of Berra to the Stadium, which ended his 14-year feud with Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner. The feud started in 1985 when Steinbrenner promised Berra an honest chance as manager, then fired him in the third week of the season. Berra vowed to never return to Yankee Stadium so long as Steinbrenner owned the team. On that day, Yankees pitcher David Cone threw a perfect game against the Montreal Expos,[29] only the 16th time it had ever been done in Major League history.[30]

In 2008, Berra was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.[31]

Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center and Yogi Berra Stadium

In 1998, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center[32] and Yogi Berra Stadium (home of the New Jersey Jackals and Montclair State University baseball teams) opened on the campus of Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. The museum is the home of various artifacts, including the mitt with which Yogi caught the only perfect game in World Series history, several autographed and "game-used" items, and nine of Yogi's championship rings. (Berra only wears the 1953 ring, in commemoration of the Yankees' record fifth consecutive World Championship.) It was an appearance on behalf of the museum by George Steinbrenner that led to their ultimate reconciliation. Berra was given the 1951 Yankee World Series banner.

Berra is very involved with the project, and frequently visits the museum for signings, discussions, and other events. It is his intention to teach children important values such as sportsmanship and dedication, both on and off the baseball diamond.[33]

On October 8, 2014, a break in and theft occurred at the museum, and several of Berra's World Series rings and other memorabilia were stolen.[34]

Other activities

Berra and former teammate Phil Rizzuto were partners in a bowling alley venture in Clifton, New Jersey, originally called Rizzuto-Berra Lanes. The two eventually sold their stakes in the alley to new owners who changed its name to Astro Bowl before those owners sold the property to a developer, who closed the bowling alley in 1999 and converted it into retail space.

Berra remains involved in causes related to his Italian American heritage. A longtime supporter of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), Berra has helped fundraise for the Foundation, even signing baseballs at NIAF events for auction. In 1996, he received the NIAF Special Achievement Award for Sports at NIAF's 21st Anniversary Gala.

Berra is a recipient of the Boy Scouts of America's highest adult award, the Silver Buffalo Award.

Berra has frequently appeared in advertisements for Yoo-hoo, AFLAC, Entenmann's, and Stove Top stuffing, among others, frequently demonstrating his famous "yogiisms." He is among the longest running commercial pitchmen in the U.S.; his television commercials span the early 1950s to the present day. Based on his style of speaking, Yogi was named "Wisest Fool of the Past 50 Years" by The Economist magazine in January 2005.[35] He appeared on the YES Network in Yogi and a Movie where he and Bob Lorenz comment on different movies intermittently as they play.

In the 2007 television miniseries The Bronx is Burning, Berra was portrayed by the actor Joe Grifasi. In the HBO sports docudrama 61*, Berra was portrayed by actor Paul Borghese, and Hank Steinberg's script included more than one of Berra's famous "Yogiisms". In 2009, Berra appeared in the documentary film A Time for Champions recounting his childhood memories of soccer in his native St. Louis.[36]

Yogi and his wife Carmen were played by real life newly married actors Peter Scolari and Tracey Shayne in the 2013 Broadway play, Bronx Bombers.[37]

Personal life

Berra married his wife Carmen on January 26, 1949. They have three sons and he was a longtime resident of Montclair, New Jersey, until his wife's declining health caused them to move into a nearby assisted living facility. Two of Berra's sons also played professional sports. His son Dale Berra played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees (managed by Yogi in 1984–85), and Houston Astros; his other son Tim Berra played pro football for the Baltimore Colts in 1974. Carmen Berra died on March 6, 2014 due to complications from a recent stroke, the couple having recently celebrated their 65th anniversary.[38] Following Carmen's death, the house in Montclair was listed for sale for $888,888 (a reference to Yogi's uniform number) and quickly sold.[citation needed]


Berra in 2007

Berra is also well known for his pithy comments and witticisms, known as Yogiisms. Yogiisms very often take the form of either an apparently obvious tautology or a paradoxical contradiction.


  • As a general comment on baseball: "90% of the game is half-mental."[3]
  • On why he no longer went to Ruggeri's, a St. Louis restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."[3]
  • "It ain't over till it's over." In July 1973, Berra's Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East. The Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season.[3]
  • When giving directions to Joe Garagiola to his New Jersey home, which was accessible by two routes: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."[3]
  • On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet: "Thank you for making this day necessary."[3]
  • "It's déjà vu all over again". Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the Yankees' seasons in the early 1960s.[3]
  • "You can observe a lot by watching."[3]
  • "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."[3]
  • His stock answer to a writer's cruel nickname, "The Ape": "It doesn't matter if you're ugly in this racket. All you have to do is hit the ball, and I never saw anyone hit with his face."

Berra appeared as himself in an AFLAC commercial. In a barber shop, he told another customer, "They give you cash, which is just as good as money," a reference to his "Yogiisms."


  • Yogi, The autobiography of a professional baseball player Yogi Berra and Ed Fitzgerald (1961) LOC: 61-6504
  • Behind the Plate, Lawrence Yogi Berra and Til Ferdenzi (1962) ISBN 9781258114039
  • Yogi: It Ain't Over (1989) ISBN 0-07-096947-7
  • The Yogi Book: 'I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said (1998) ISBN 0-7611-1090-9
  • When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball's Greatest Heroes (2001) ISBN 0-7868-6775-2
  • What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All (2002) ISBN 0-7432-3768-4
  • Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons (2003) ISBN 0-06-051381-0
  • Let's Go, Yankees! (2006) ISBN 1-932888-81-0
  • You Can Observe a Lot by Watching (2011)

See also

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  1. ^ a b c d "Yogi Berra". National Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 29, 2015
  2. ^ "About Yogi Berra: Biography". Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. Archived from the original on 2011-11-13. Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Berra, Yogi (1998). The Yogi Book. New York: Workman Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 0-7611-1090-9. 
  4. ^ Williams, Dave (April 1, 2013). Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees. Society for American Baseball Research. University of Nebraska Press. Chapter 44: Yogi Berra. p. 170. Archived at Google Books. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  5. ^ "Yogi Berra Interview". Academy of Achievement. American Academy of Achievement. June 1, 2005. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  6. ^ Waldstein, David (October 21, 2011). "An Incubator of Baseball Talent". The New York Times. p. B14. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ Blount, Roy Jr. (April 2, 1984). "Yogi". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  8. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ Iannuccilli, Ed (August 28, 2012). "More About Yogi". Italian American Writer. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  10. ^ Raab, Scott (January 1, 2002). "Yogi Berra: catcher, 76, Montclair, New Jersey. (What I've Learned)". Esquire. Retrieved February 24, 2013.  (subscription required)
  11. ^ "Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra". Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Yogi Berra - Fun Facts and Information". May 12, 1925. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ Dorman, Larry (January 19, 2010). "Berra Calls 'em as He Sees 'em". The New York Times. p. B14. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  14. ^ Donnelly, Patrick (2012). "Midsummer Classics: Celebrating MLB's All-Star Game". "there were two games a year from 1959 to 1962" ..."all players who were named to the AL or NL roster were credited one appearance per season." SportsData. Retrieved April 12, 2015
  15. ^ "Yogi Berra". Retrieved April 29, 2015
  16. ^ "Roy Halladay throws second no-hitter in postseason history". ESPN. October 7, 2010
  17. ^ Acocella, Nick (October 18, 2006). "Berra was great, which was as close to good as possible". ESPN. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Sunday, June 24, 1962, New York Yankees". Baseball Reference. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  19. ^ Ken Burns' Baseball: Inning 7 – The Capital of Baseball
  20. ^ Bouton, Jim (1970). Ball Four. New York: Wiley. ISBN 9780020306658. 
  21. ^ Reichler, Joe (February 28, 1965). "Notes: His biggest mistake was Yogi, Houk says". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  22. ^ Von Benko, George (July 7, 2005). "Notes: Phils–Pirates rivalry fading". Major League Baseball. Retrieved January 3, 2011. From 1974–80, the Phillies and Pirates won all seven National League East titles (Phillies four, Pirates three). 
  23. ^ "Pirates perform rare three-peat feat 4–2". USA Today. September 28, 1992. p. 5C. The Pirates...won three (NL East titles) in a row from 1970–72. 
  24. ^ "Our World Fall 1973 Part 1". YouTube. August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Yogi Berra Quotes". Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  26. ^ Merron, Jeff (June 16, 2003). "The List: Steinbrenner's worst". Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  27. ^ Bondy, Filip (January 6, 1999). "Yogi and Boss End Feud Hug and Make Up at Berra's N.J. Museum". Daily News (New York). Retrieved June 5, 2011. [dead link]
  28. ^ Araton, Harvey (February 21, 2013). "Posada Is Set to Help, as Berra Helped Him". The New York Times (New York ed.). p. B21. 
  29. ^ Ackert, Kristie (July 18, 2009). "Yankees celebrate 10th anniversary of David Cone's perfect game". Daily News (New York, NY). Retrieved September 18, 2009. 
  30. ^ Bondy, Filip (July 19, 1999). "For Berra Family, Day Is Also PerfecT". Daily News (New York, NY). Retrieved June 27, 2011. [dead link]
  31. ^ O'Connor, Julie (May 4, 2008). "Gala planned for New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees". The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey: New Jersey On-Line LLC.). Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Yogi Berra Museum". Yogi Berra Museum. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  33. ^ Posnanski, Joe (July 4, 2011). "Yogi Berra Will Be A Living Legend Even After He's Gone". Sports Illustrated 115 (1). pp. 64–68. Archived from the original on 2011-06-30. 
  34. ^ Foss, Mike (9 October 2014). "World Series rings stolen from Yogi Berra Museum". USA Today. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  35. ^ "Wisest Fools". The Economist (London: The Economist Newspaper Ltd). January 27, 2005. 
  36. ^ A Time for Champions (2009). KETC/Cappy Productions
  37. ^ Kepler, Adam W. (October 21, 2013). "A Broadway Run for 'Bronx Bombers'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  38. ^ Vinton, Nathaniel; Madden, Bill (March 7, 2014). "Yogi Berra's wife of 65 years, Carmen, dead at 85 following complications from recent stroke". Daily News. New York, NY. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 

Further reading

External links

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