Sean Mullin’s documentary pays loving tribute to baseball great Yogi Berra.
If you grew up playing or watching baseball, It Ain’t Over holds immediate appeal. Even if you’re not a fan of baseball in any way, shape, or form, though, the name Yogi Berra may spark a nod of recognition.
Born in 1925, making him a member of my father’s generation, Lawrence Peter Berra became known as “Yogi” Berra, thanks to his propensity for sitting in a yogi-like position on the playing field. He signed with the New York Yankees shortly before volunteering to serve in the military. Upon the conclusion of World War II, he returned to baseball, making his major-league debut in 1946 and quickly becoming a cornerstone of the Yankees’ championship years throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s before becoming a coach and manager.
Berra’s life and career is recounted in loving detail by director Sean Mullin, who has made both documentaries and features. It Ain’t Over follows a well-trod path for documentaries, skillfully assembling a slew of new interviews with archival footage, interspersed with the ‘Yogi-isms’ for which Berra became renowned.
What sets this apart from other, similar documentaries is that Yogi Berra burrowed his way into popular culture in the 1950s without even trying. His friendly, gregarious personality, modest demeanor, and shorter stature than most professional athletes at the time — even though he was taller than me! — invited disparaging or demeaning comments by fellow players and the press, which he took in good humor.
In striking contrast with many pro athletes today, who freely boast and mock and preen, Berra’s personality comes across as incredibly relaxed and refreshing. As popular as he became as a commercial spokesman in his time, his self-mocking personality threw up a smoke screen around his singular accomplishments as a baseball player, lessening his reputation in the popular imagination.
With the passage, it becomes easier to reflect upon his place in the history of the game. The documentary goes further by presenting him as a man about whom nobody ever said anything negative. His children and grandchildren all speak lovingly of him, and so do a host of fellow players, from his and succeeding generations.
By not calling attention to itself, It Ain’t Over ensures that all interest accrues to Yogi Berra and his legacy as a husband, father, player, coach, manager and commercial pitchman. It’s a distinguished record that doesn’t need much burnishing, and director Sean Mullin pays tribute in a fleet and fast-moving 98 minutes.
The film opens Friday, May 26, via Sony Classics, at the following locations: Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano, AMC Grapevine Mills, AMC Firewheel 18, AMC Stonebriar 24, and Modern Art Museum of Ft Worth. For more information about the film, visit the official site.