NEW YORK — Bill Spahr tapped the bronze Yogi Berra plaque in Monument Park with his hand, nodded his head in tribute and recalled the day he once talked to the Yankees great for 15 minutes at an airport.
"It was easily the greatest experience I've ever had," said Spahr, 58, a lifelong Yankees fan.
From the makeshift memorial outside the main gate at Yankee Stadium to the extended moment of silence before New York hosted the White Sox, it was a time to remember the beloved Berra with smiles and tears Thursday night.
"We all looked up to Yogi," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The champion he was. A ring for every finger. I think we'd all like to have that."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura echoed the sentiment, treasuring the days when he played for the Yankees and Berra would wander into the clubhouse.
"When he came in, there wasn't a guy who didn't want to talk to him," Ventura said.
Berra died Tuesday at 90.
The pregame ceremony lasted 10 minutes, fitting for someone who played on a record 10 World Series champions.
As both teams lined up outside their dugouts, Girardi put a wreath of blue and white flowers in the shape of Berra's No. 8 in the catcher's box. A Navy bugler played Taps in a salute to Berra's service aboard a Navy gunboat during the D-Day invasion.
The Yankees wore No. 8 on their left sleeves, Berra shirts dotted the crowd and concession stands featured Berra bobbleheads.
Current and former Yankees were featured in Yogi remembrances on the video board in the early innings, some of them citing his classic malapropisms.
Flowers arranged in the figure of an 8 were outside the stadium in a fan memorial, along with candles, drawings and a picture of Berra with Derek Jeter.
Earlier, at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J., sons Dale, Tim and Larry and granddaughter Lindsay spoke about him.
"He was such a normal, regular guy to the people he met," Dale Berra said. "I think because he grew up with immigrant parents during the Depression and had to go to work when he was in eighth grade, I think that made him humble."
Larry Berra said he moved back in with his parents in the family home in Montclair after separating from his wife.
"He would be like, 'So, are we going to watch Seinfeld tonight?'" Berra's eldest son recalled. "I ended up living there for 14 years. I remember telling my mother that I had to move out. She said, 'Your father will be devastated. He'd have no one to watch television with.' It was really something."
Lindsay Berra noted that Tuesday was Carmen Berra's birthday. Yogi Berra's wife died last year after a stroke.
"Grandpa wanted to spend her birthday with her," she said.