Berra had a long history with the chocolate beverage company, which produced a series of highly valuable and collectible ads.
Many remember the St. Louis-born New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra for his nearly two-decades-long run playing Major League Baseball. You may also remember him for his years-long stretch coaching and managing the New York Mets, or even just his quotable quips. But the 10-time World Series champion loved something else almost as much as (winning) the game: Yoo-hoo.
Berra, who passed in 2015, was famous for his obsession with the chocolatey beverage. Not only did Berra receive the honorary title of company vice president in 1956, but the legendary catcher was a favorite at the beverage company’s various factories, especially the one in Carlstadt, New Jersey. He carried out sales calls at supermarkets, owned stock in the company and was even sent to conventions to represent the family-owned brand.
“Yogi and Yoo-hoo just seemed to make sense,” former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton told the New York Times in 1993. “We used to keep it in a cooler in the clubhouse. I once went out to the Yoo-hoo plant with Yogi. He was like a god there.”
The adoration was (clearly) mutual and quite lucrative for both Berra and Yoo-hoo’s founding family, the Olivieris. That is until a changing of hands—and an altered recipe—essentially severed the famous player’s relationship with the summer-time drink. While Berra would eventually show some small support decades later during a baseball greats card and memorabilia sweepstakes promotion, things between Berra and Yoo-hoo never quite returned to their former branding glory days.
Now what’s left of the golden age of the Berra x Yoo-hoo partnership is mostly aging advertisements and baseball cards. Berra often recruited his teammates to help him promote the non-caffeinated (but still sugary) drink, resulting in some truly iconic beverage promotions. The rarest and biggest of one was put up for sale in a Clean Sweep Auction last month. Featuring both Berra and Yankees’ first baseman Mickey Mantle, the 33 x 26-inch ad sees the players chumming up in front of a Yoo-hoo branded counter, with Berra holding his drink in one hand while Mantle playfully places the top of his bottle between his lips. (It looks as if Mantle plans to remove the cap with his teeth, but that would be impossible as removing the metal would have required a bottle opener.)
A slightly smaller version of the ad sold during the 2010 Robert Edward Auction for $3,500 and Forbes projected that Clean Sweep, which bills itself as the largest combination auctioneer and seller of vintage sports cards, autographs and memorabilia in the world, would have garnered around $5,000 for its larger copy. But when bidding closed on the night of Wednesday, January 31, the rare piece of beverage and baseball memorabilia had only gone for $2,148. The final sale price was closer to $2,600, meaning one baseball fan got a huge steal.
The Clean Sweep auction may be over, but for those interested in getting their hands on some rare Baseball-branded Yoo-hoo collector’s items, you’re in luck, sort of. One of only a known ten 1959 Mickey Mantle Yoo-hoo baseball cards is up for sale on eBay for $75,000, along with a plethora of other rare and (less) expensive Yoo-hoo baseball promotion items featuring Berra.