Yogi Berra Stamp May Be the Last Baseball One for a While

When the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center opened on the campus of Montclair University in New Jersey in 1998, Berra was effectively conscious of how uncommon it was for him to be there to rejoice.

“I’m lucky,” he stated. “Usually you’re dead to get your own museum.”

Not even Yogi was fortunate sufficient to see his personal United States Postal Service stamp. Nobody has ever been that fortunate.

The first U.S. postal stamps had been issued in 1847, and in all the years since, no residing individual has particularly been honored by a depiction on a stamp. And with the exception of American presidents — usually commemorated inside a yr of their loss of life — there has all the time been a multiyear interval earlier than somebody who has died can seem on a stamp. The present ready interval is three years.

The course of, nevertheless, often takes considerably longer.

Berra died practically six years in the past. It wasn’t till final Thursday, outdoors Berra’s museum and with Bob Costas serving as M.C. of a star-studded ceremony, that the Postal Service formally issued its Yogi Berra commemorative stamp.

That ceremony put Berra in uncommon firm. Traditionally, the single highest honor for a baseball participant is election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In the establishment’s 86-year historical past, 263 males have been elected as gamers. But Postal Service commemoration is a much more unique membership, as Berra is just the 30th baseball participant to have his image on a stamp.

Antonio Alcala, an artwork director for the Postal Service, combed by way of archives for a excellent photograph of Berra. He finally selected this Associated Press picture.Credit…Associated PressThe photograph served as inspiration for Charles Chaisson, who painted the last picture with artwork path from Alcala.Credit…United States Postal Service, through Associated Press

A terrific majority of these stamps have been a part of multiplayer “issuances.” Berra is in an excellent rarer group: He is the first participant since Lou Gehrig in 1989 to obtain an issuance all his personal. After Gehrig, each participant who has appeared on a stamp has been a part of a bigger set: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Roger Maris in the 1998-99 “Celebrate the Century” collection; a whopping 20 gamers in the “Legends of Baseball” set in 2000; 4 midcentury stars in the “Baseball Sluggers” issuance of 2006; and an “M.L.B. All-Stars” set in 2012 that featured Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams.

Now, 9 years after the final baseball stamp, Berra has the stage all to himself.

Will it’s one other 9 years earlier than we see one other participant honored? There is definitely no scarcity of candidates.

In 2020 alone, no fewer than seven Hall of Famers died: Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Tom Seaver. Then, shortly into 2021, baseball was dealt a crushing blow with the loss of life of Henry Aaron, who captivated the nation in the early 1970s along with his pursuit of Ruth’s profession file for dwelling runs, and later grew to become often known as a vocal civil rights advocate.

While neither Aaron nor any of these different just lately deceased Hall of Famers are at the moment eligible for a stamp due to the present ready interval guidelines, there’s a powerful backlog of deserving candidates.

Ernie Banks and Stan Musial each predeceased Berra, and (like Berra) are additionally amongst the 14 baseball gamers who’ve been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Warren Spahn (like Berra, a battle hero) has been useless for practically 20 years and can most probably maintain the title of baseball’s winningest left-handed pitcher for eternity. The Postal Service additionally might think about Minnie Minoso, an Afro-Latino pioneer whose lengthy profession included stops with the New York Cubans in 1946 and the Chicago White Sox in 1980.

At the dedication ceremony, Yankees followers like Edson Atwood and his son Michael got the alternative to be amongst the first to personal Berra’s stamp.Credit…Michelle Farsi for The New York Times

Before M.L.B. selected to acknowledge the Negro leagues as the equal of main leagues, the Postal Service had already honored Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. But there are many choices from these leagues as effectively, together with Oscar Charleston, Buck O’Neil, Turkey Stearnes, Cool Papa Bell, Bullet Rogan and Bill Foster.

So when can we anticipate a few of these gamers to be honored?

The quick reply is: It’s sophisticated.

If you wish to see a Turkey Stearnes stamp in 2024, it’s possible you’ll submit your proposal in writing, through U.S. mail. (The Postal Service’s web site stipulates, “No in-person appeals, phone calls, or emails are accepted.”)

According to William Gicker, the Postal Service’s long-serving director of stamp providers, “We receive around 30,000 proposals a year for stamps.”

If your proposal meets the “stamp subject selection criteria,” it’s robotically thought of by the Postal Service’s citizen stamp advisory committee, at the moment composed of 13 volunteers appointed by the postmaster basic, whose work is carried out inside a figurative black field.

The precise venue for their discussions is a nondescript assembly room on the prime ground of the Postal Service’s headquarters in Washington. Four instances a yr, the advisory council meets in that convention room (or, when a pandemic is raging, through Zoom) for a day and a half. Their deliberations, as they sift by way of proposals for particular person stamps, or bigger packages, are strictly confidential.

“We enter each meeting with an agenda,” stated Gicker, who has attended the conferences for greater than 20 years, “and while the discussions can get passionate, we encourage collegial debate. We want the decisions of the committee seen as decisions of the whole committee, not individuals.”

Like Berra, Ernie Banks was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Joining Berra in showing on a stamp might come all the way down to some sophisticated property points. Credit…Win McNamee/Getty Images

Approval by the committee is simply the first step (or a first step). Once a stamp or program is given the go-head by the committee and the postmaster basic, it wants an artwork director. The stamp program has 4 of them, together with Antonio Alcala. When a sports activities topic comes up, Alcala stated, “I usually raise my hand, and maybe a little higher” than the others.

Once Berra was authorized in 2018, Alcala acquired the task. He collected dozens of images that would function fashions for an outdoor artist and be obtainable for the proper value (the Postal Service has a comparatively small price range for every stamp). Once Alcala winnowed the photos to 6 or eight, he stated, he reached out to the painter Charles Chaisson, who had by no means labored on a stamp.

“In 2018, Antonio contacted me,” Chaisson stated. “I remember him telling me how long the whole process would take and thinking, ‘Oh, man.’ I come from a family of letter carriers — between my mom, my uncle and my grandfather, my family’s got 90 to 100 years with the post office in New Orleans — and keeping this secret was really hard. I did tell my mother, but swore her to secrecy.”

Chaisson wanted a week or so to submit a sketch — based mostly on an undated Associated Press photograph taken throughout a Yankees spring coaching camp in Florida — and as soon as it was authorized, he stated, “Then I drew everything by hand, to resemble an oil painting. That took about a week, too.”

All this was practically three years in the past. For a lot of that point, no person outdoors the Postal Service and Chaisson (and his mom) knew something about a Berra stamp.

“Our whole process is very confidential, and we don’t want any false starts,” Gicker stated. “So nothing becomes public until everything is fully cleared legally, and everyone — both the U.S.P.S. and the estate, the family — is fully satisfied with the design.”

Berra’s sons, Larry, Dale and Tim, appeared at the ceremony for the stamp, which was held at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. The Postal Service required the Berra household’s approval on the stamp. Credit…Michelle Farsi for The New York Times

“They contacted me in August last year and said the U.S. Postal Service is interested in putting out a stamp of your father,” stated Larry Berra, the oldest of Berra’s three sons. “They sent us the artwork, and my brothers and I approved it. They also had to get permission from M.L.B. As executor of my father’s estate, I signed over rights to use his image for the stamp. Everything happened pretty quick.”

“We also signed an N.D.A., agreeing to keep quiet until the official announcement this spring,” he stated. “I would tease people, though, saying we had a big surprise coming.”

M.L.B. weighed in as effectively, with notes about kind at the prime of the stamp.

The lettering of Berra’s title, a distinctive typography Alcala had commissioned from a lettering artist for this mission, was adjusted some as effectively, as had been a few different particulars, to realize what Alcala referred to as “a greater sense of Yoginess.”

While the course of had many steps, choosing a topic for a stamp, and the group to design it, is the simple half. The actual X issue is the rights situation.

“At the end of the day,” Gicker stated, “the Postal Service wants the issuance of a stamp to be a celebration and for that celebration not to be marred by any upset or ill feelings.”

Will we ever see Ernie Banks on a stamp? That is a query sophisticated by his will having been contested for years. What about Musial or Minoso or Dottie Kamenshek of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? Or, maybe most notably, Aaron? Only the individuals in that Postal Service assembly room may even start to know. For now, we are able to enjoy the wit, knowledge, and visage of the singular Berra.

“So I’m ugly,” Berra was as soon as reported as saying. “I never saw anyone hit with his face.”

Ugly? Berra was being too onerous on himself. His stamp, although? That fantastically wrought, sticky little rectangle is now crisscrossing America on its option to hundreds of fortunate mailboxes.