Willie Mays, Yogi Berra Among Medal of Freedom Honorees

Obit Berra Baseball

Baseball legends Willie Mays and the late Yogi Berra will be honored with the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

They are among 17 people who will be recognized by President Barack Obama at a Nov. 24 ceremony.

In a statement Monday, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said, "This honor is a  fitting tribute to a man who not only represented the sport of baseball with unequaled dignity and humor, but exemplified the best virtues of our country through his military service and compassion for others. His life was truly the embodiment of the American dream.”

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Berra was an 18-time All Star and 10-time World Series champion who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. 

The White House announcement of the Medal of Freedom honorees said of Berra: "Always quick witted, Berra was famous for his 'Yogi-isms,' teaching us all that we can observe a lot just by watching. Berra was also a lifelong ambassador for inclusion in sports. Berra put his professional career on hold to join the Navy during World War II, where he fought with Allied forces on D-Day and eventually earned a Purple Heart."

Mays, know as the "Say Hey Kid," spent most of his 22 years as a center fielder for the New York and San Francisco Giants, ending his career with 660 home runs, making him the fifth all-time record-holder. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 and landed on MLB's All-Time team. In 1951, Mays became one of the first African-American players in Major League Baseball history and won the Rookie of the Year award.

Mays also served his country in the United States Army, the White House biography of Mays states. In his return to Major League Baseball, Mays won the MVP award, and in the 1954 World Series Mays led the Giants to a surprise victory, while making one of the most spectacular plays in sports history, later known simply as “The Catch.”

Honorees from the entertainment world include Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Stephen Sondheim, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, James Taylor and Itzhak Perlman.

Politicians include Sen. Barbara Milkulski, former Rep. Lee Hamilton and the late Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

Other honorees include veterans advocate Bonnie Carroll; NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; and former EPA chief and deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus, known for refusing to fire the Watergate special prosecutor. Posthumous recipients include Indian tribal advocate Billy Frank Jr. and civil rights advocate Minoru Yasui.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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