It was just last Saturday that Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke to 90-year-old Yogi Berra on the telephone before the Yankees faced the Mets at Citi Field.
"You never think that's going to be the last time you're going to talk to someone," Girardi said Thursday night. "I miss him. I miss having him around here, the laughs that we had, the knowledge that he gave me, how he made you always feel comfortable. It's just not going to be the same."
The Yankees honored their franchise icon before the first game played at the Stadium since Berra's death on Tuesday. They placed a wreath in front of Berra's plaque in Monument Park, painted the on-deck areas with his No. 8 and lowered all flags to half-staff.
A video tribute to Berra was shown on the scoreboard before the game, and Berra's service in the U.S. Navy in World War II was honored by a Navy color guard and a trumpeter who played "Taps" near a No. 8 wreath laid in the catcher's box.
"It's been a tough couple of days for us," Girardi said. "Yogi meant so much to the organization, to the city, to all of us."
Although the sport was saddened by Berra's passing, those who knew him inevitably mourn with a smile. Former Yankees reliever David Robertson, who was in attendance with the visiting White Sox, beamed at his recollection of Berra.
"I felt like I saw Yogi all the time in the clubhouse," he said. "Maybe a little less last year with his wife [Carmen's] passing, but he was just the nicest guy you could ever meet. Always called me 'Slim,' always took a second to sit down and talk with me. He was a true legend of the game."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura recalled Berra's frequent presence in the clubhouse during Ventura's playing days with the Yankees. "He would just sit and talk baseball and funny things going on," he said. "You always loved being around him. Any time anybody talks about him, they immediately start smiling because that's the type of person he was."
Girardi acknowledged that the Yankees' pursuit of a postseason berth has been complicated by the emotions surrounding Berra's death, saying, "We're dealing with some emotions that we didn't expect to deal with. But I think everyone in that room knows what Yogi would tell us: 'Go finish the job . . . Go win.' Our hearts are heavy for Yogi and his family, but our guys know what they're supposed to do." With Mark Herrmann