Some Yankees don’t like being called Yankees.
And though Charleston is renowned for its good manners, too many folks born and raised here retain the rude habit of saying “Yankee” in an ungracious way.
But before associating that word with 19th century conquerors or 21st century newcomers, consider a positive early-1960s (as in 20th century) meaning that the word “Yankee” conveyed in these parts.
Way back then, the Braves were still in Milwaukee, and the Yankees — as in the ones wearing pinstripes in New York City — were my team.
OK, so lots of Americans outside of — and even some within — the Big Apple rooted against the Bronx Bombers.
Still, my Yankees allegiance was shared by many in this community. WTMA-AM 1250 carried Yankees broadcasts, featuring play-by-play man Phil “The Scooter” Rizzuto, the slick-fielding shortstop (1941 to 1956) who repeatedly yelled “Holy Cow!” on the air from 1957 to 1996.
Prized personal possessions included a Yankees uniform, Yankees jacket and autographed pictures — sent by the team in response to my fan letters — of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Clete Boyer and Sumter’s own Bobby Richardson.
And, of course, Yogi Berra.
So Berra’s passing at age 90 on Tuesday night at his home in Montclair, N.J., threw me another nostalgic curve.
When I jumped on the Yankees’ bandwagon early in the 1960 season at age 6, they had long dominated what was then — and had long been — America’s most popular sport, aka “The National Pastime.”
Meanwhile, Mantle and Berra so thoroughly dominated my youthful sports fixation that I named two terrier puppies for them.
Mickey, who was black, white and brown, died very young.
Yogi, all white except for his black nose, also died too young a few years later. (Reminder: Letting a dog run loose into the street can be hazardous to the precious pet’s physical — and your emotional — health.)
My Yankees mementos of that simpler time are long gone.
Yet my fascination with Mickey (as in Mantle) and Yogi (as in Berra) endures.
Mantle looked the part of the country boy-handsome superstar who won three American League MVP awards and millions of little kids’ hearts. Too bad my idol had a serious drinking problem and died of liver cancer at age 63 in 1995.
Too bad we don’t call our Charleston RiverDogs, a Yankees farm team, the Charleston Yankees.
Berra was the short, stout (5-7, 185 pounds in his playing days) catcher vastly underestimated by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, who foolishly rated his pal, Joe Garagiola, above him at that position.
So Berra signed with the Yankees at age 17. He went on to win three AL MVP awards and manage two pennant winners (1964 Yankees, 1973 Mets).
Off the field, he matched his funny-looking face with a quick wit. The “Yogi” moniker, bestowed by early-teen buddies when they saw him sitting cross-legged like a Hindu holy man, further enhanced the comic effect.
And his biggest fame extends beyond sports as the source of oddly worded — yet often insightful — observations.
Then again, the title of his 1998 best-seller conceded, “The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said.”
Among the many “Yogi-isms” credited to him: “Nobody ever goes there anymore — it’s too crowded. ... A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore. ... If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
What Berra said in 2004 while being interviewed on MSNBC by Keith Olbermann also bears repeating.
Recalling an early fork in his road, he told how he spent June 6, 1944 (as in D-Day, for you non-history majors) as 19-year-old Navy Seaman First Class Lawrence Peter Berra:
“We went off 300 yards off beach. We protect the troops. If they ran into any trouble, we would fire the rockets over. We had a lead boat that would fire one rocket. If it hits the beach, then everybody opens up. We could fire one rocket if we wanted to, or we could fire off 24 or them, 12 on each side. We stretched out 50 yards apart. And that was the invasion. Nothing happened to us. That’s one good thing. Our boat could go anywhere, though. We were pretty good, flat bottom, 36-footer.”
Olbermann: “What was the boat called?”
Berra: “Landing craft support small, but we used to say landing craft suicide squad. We had the nicknames for all. We called a LST (Landing Ship Tank) a large stationary target.”
And: “I thought we were going to win because I’d never seen so many planes in my life that came over for the invasion of Normandy. I sit and I thank the good Lord I was in the Navy. We ate good, clean clothes, clean bed. You see some of these Army men, what they went through, that’s the ones I felt for.”
Back in 1944, American military service was a much more widely shared burden.
Back in the early ’60s, the big business of big-time sports didn’t seem nearly as jaded as it does now.
So to borrow another Berra line: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
For Yogi-ism inspiration, though, focus on this maxim that he certifiably did deliver:
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
And if you — or your team — is on a losing streak, remember this advice from a victor in not just 10 World Series but World War II:
“Take it with a grin of salt.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.