The first sunrise of the year, the first hilarious movie, the first delicious meal, the first …

We enjoy many firsts each year.

For me, the first book I read in 2023 was a pleasure from start to finish. And the subject greatly interested me: a new biography of baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, which was written by Jon Pessah and published a couple years ago.

What follows is my short review of “Yogi Berra: A Life Behind the Mask.” Pessah’s book is more than 500 pages long, but none of the chapters or details are superfluous.


Everyone seemingly knew enough about Yogi Berra’s life and career.

What else was there to say?

It depends on who’s doing the talking (or writing) to make the familiar appear fresh or new. To his credit, Jon Pessah packed it all into this well-paced, exceptional book: funny anecdotes, tons of research, illuminating facts and figures and game details and statistics that underscore how great a player and baseball mentor (as a coach and manager with the New York Yankees and New York Mets) Yogi truly was.

Also, with an eye for detail and a deep knowledge of the important storylines of Yogi’s life and legacy, Pessah details key events in Yogi’s upbringing — family history, friendships, experiences in the Navy during World War II — to enrich our understanding of the American icon.

From the sandlots of St. Louis to the big leagues, Yogi’s lifelong friendship with Joe Garagiola is a recurring theme throughout the book. His love of competition as a 10-time World Series champion player with the Yankees (the all-time record) and business savvy also provide compelling storylines.

Pessah captures the pulse of the Yankees during their championship dynasty as seen through Yogi’s and his teammates’ eyes and the viewpoints of their opponents along with enlightening snippets of reports from that era. Readers relive key hits and incredible pitching feats along the way.

In addition, Yogi’s devotion to his family and commitment to excellence are highlighted again and again.

All of these themes are inspiring and revealing, helping unpeel the layers of myth surrounding Berra’s persona.

As a result, the real person is seen in all facets of his life and baseball career.

This book is a welcome addition to any baseball fan’s library. It’s one of the best American biographies of the 21st century.