Opinion

Yogi Berra’s first pro training camp was in Excelsior Springs

Former New York Yankees great Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday, had his first professional training camp in Excelsior Springs with the Blues. He roomed with Sid Bordman, a future sports writer for The Star.
Former New York Yankees great Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday, had his first professional training camp in Excelsior Springs with the Blues. He roomed with Sid Bordman, a future sports writer for The Star. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Unlike other Yankees icons like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra wasn’t connected to Kansas City through the minor-league Blues. But Berra’s first professional training camp was spent in Excelsior Springs with the Blues.

Berra was a 17-year-old prospect when he reported in 1943, and his first roommate as a pro was Sid Bordman, the Blues’ clubhouse boy who would begin a sports writing career of nearly 35 years at The Star in 1954.

“I guess they wanted a young guy” to room with Berra, Bordman said in a 2014 interview with The Star.

Yankees catcher Yogi Berra's first roommate as a professional baseball player with the Kansas City Blues was future Kansas City Star sportswriter Sid Bordman, who roomed together at the Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs. "He said a few things that w

Bordman got a sneak preview of the Berra who would become one of baseball’s most endearing figures through his wit and famous quotations.

Although at the time, Bordman wondered about this young player away from his St. Louis home for the first time.

“I thought he was pretty dense,” Bordman said. “He said a few things that were sort of silly.”

Those silly things became part of Berra’s persona — “Yogi-isms” — and he could always hit. Bordman recalled an American Legion game that Berra had played in a year earlier.

“He drove in eight runs,” Bordman said.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost talks about the passing of Yogi Berra and how the game has changed concerning strikeouts.

At Excelsior Springs, Berra played in a handful of games and was assigned to the Yankees’ lower-level, minor-league team in Norfolk, Va.

After three years in the Navy — Berra was on a boat stationed off the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, D-Day — he returned to the minor leagues in Newark, N.J., in 1946 and began his storied major-league career the next season.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.

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