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Maddon: Yogi half baseball great; the other 90% great friend

Joe Maddon (left) with Don Zimmer and Yogi Berra (right) during a fundraiser for the Hazleton Integration Project in Pennsylvania while Maddon was the Rays' manager.

Among the countless lives touched by the legendary Yogi Berra was that of a first-time big-league manager in Tampa Bay nearly a decade ago. That’s when Maddon met the iconic Berra through the Rays’ Don Zimmer – who, at Maddon’s request, arranged an introductory dinner in 2006.

“From that moment on, man, we hit it off,” Maddon said. “And then eventually he’d come and see me every time we’d play at Yankee Stadium.”

A friendship that included long conversations about baseball and Italian neighborhoods, occasional golf tournaments and Hazleton, Pa., fundraisers, ended early Wednesday morning when Berra died at 90.

“We all lost him,” said Maddon, who tweeted out an appropriate Yogi-ism Wednesday. “Not many people are recognized by one name only. And he was special – he is special. All that stuff you’ve ready about what he says, he says. … We’re going to miss him.”

The quote Maddon tweeted: “You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t come to yours.”