- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Yogi Berra

Even if the beloved Yankees Hall of Famer didn’t say all the witty things he supposedly said — and nobody really thinks he did — old Yog usually has the right idea. So it’s appropriate that the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, N.J., has followed suit.

Last week the museum, located on the campus of Montclair State University near Berra’s home, removed Roger Clemens’ jersey from a display honoring recent pinstripe powerhouses because of the controversy surrounding the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and performance-enhancing drugs.

And while nobody with the Berra museum wants to pass judgment on the issue — it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, y’know — there are enough doubts about Clemens these days to make tossing his No. 21 shirt entirely reasonable.

“Our staff [of four] made the decision. We advised Yogi, and he was OK with it,” said Dave Kaplan, the museum’s executive director. “We have no desire to condemn Roger, but we just wanted to remove controversy from the exhibit.”

Kaplan said the museum has caught some flak for its decision, which leaves just the jerseys of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera on display. Actually, this makes more sense because they were around for all four of the Yankees’ World Series championships from 1996 to 2000, while Clemens had a hand and arm only in the last two.

Clemens’ veracity has taken a double hit lately following his dubious testimony on Capitol Hill and the statement by buddy and former teammate Andy Pettitte that Roger told him he had used HGH.

As Yogi himself might put it, you can observe a lot by watching.

And you have to wonder whether Clemens is thinking it gets late early these days where steroids are concerned.

One reason the museum made its move is that hundreds, even thousands, of young athletes pass through its doors each year. As Kaplan noted, “There are a lot of unresolved issues involving Roger, and it was difficult to [explain] to the kids.”

Berra, an old-school guy who first appeared on the major league scene in 1946, is on record that performance-enhancing drugs are a definite no-no.

“I’ve heard Yogi tell kids not to take that stuff, that it’s dangerous and life-threatening,” Kaplan said.

Right on, Yogi baby. Too bad suspects like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds didn’t get the message.

And, likely, Roger Clemens.

As one of baseball’s most famous elder statesmen, Berra qualifies nicely as a link to what some call baseball’s golden era, meaning the late ‘40s and early ‘50s when there were 16 teams in the major leagues with none farther west than St. Louis, no postseason other than the World Series and his Yankees won 10 pennants in 12 seasons.

Of course, those times weren’t all that golden. Many players drank and smoked heavily, superstars earned no more than $100,000 a year and some teams (including the Yankees) remained segregated.

Heck, the game always has had problems. The year Yogi was born, 1925, baseball’s greatest player, Babe Ruth, missed part of the season with what almost certainly was a venereal disease; black fans were restricted to certain sections of most big league parks and open gambling went on in some horsehide venues.

Baseball, the greatest game ever played by man, survived all that and will survive steroids. But it’s nice to hear that people like the Berra museum folks still believe players should conduct themselves honorably on and off the field.

Hopefully this whole steroids business doesn’t turn off many more fans to what used to be known as the national pastime. After all, if people don’t want to come out to the park, who’s gonna stop them?

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