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Volume 22 No. 31
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‘Observe a lot just by watching:’ Yogi Berra movie options signed

Ready for Yogi Berra, the movie?

More than 50 years after retiring as a player, 30 years after his last MLB coaching job, and 3½ years following his death, two movie options have been signed this year for Berra productions: one for a feature film and one for a documentary.

Actor Nick Basta, whose credits include roles on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” signed the option in March to do a Yogi Berra feature film. Basta said he’s been working on the screenplay for around a year and hopes to finish it within a few months. Peter Sobiloff, executive producer of the short film “Skin,” which this year won an Oscar, has signed an option to produce the Berra documentary.

Each now has around two years to complete scripts and fund their projects.

“I don’t see this as a baseball movie, just a film about one of the most unique American characters ever,’’ said Basta, who grew up a Yankees die-hard with an Italian family in upstate New York. “Some people think Yogi’s more quoted in America than Shakespeare. His life was so American and he was an immigrant, so politically, it’s an important time to tell his story.”

Attorney Ed Schauder of the firm Phillips Nizer was the legal representation on the deal for the Berra Estate and LTD Enterprises, which also handles the estate’s commercial affairs.

The film options are the latest examples of the remarkable endurance of Berra as a commercial icon. He won 10 World Series rings as a player and three more as a coach, but was nearly as successful as a pitchman. Other than his celebrated Yoo-hoo connection, which dates from the 1950s, Berra’s endorsement portfolio included a remarkable array of brands: Aflac, Ballantine Beer, Camel cigarettes, Pepsi, Stove Top stuffing, Visa and Entenmann’s pastries. Amazon already lists dozens of books by and about Berra. Yogi’s son, Dale, will join that group with the release of his book, “My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball,” next month.

“Dad’s story is still meaningful today because he’s a rags-to-riches story, because he had such a record of accomplishment on the field, and he was just one of a kind,” Dale Berra said.