ummertime sports compel fans around the world to talk about events such as the Tour de France or Wimbledon. Some summers, it’s the FIFA Men and Women’s World Cup, and other summers, it’s the ICC World Cup of Cricket.
Here in the United States, it’s the game of baseball that has, historically, been of most interest. Exchanges celebrate a rich history full of mythic personas, such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente.
One name is often excluded from discussions involving the greatest players of all time: Yogi Berra. Berra is the subject of “It Ain’t Over,” a pleasant documentary written and directed by Sean Mullin, an American filmmaker who also wrote “Amir and Sam” (2014), produced the film “Allegiance” (2012), and co-wrote/co-produced “Semper Fi” (2019).
To say that this film is atypical of Mullin’s previous work is not a stretch. However, it is not unlike his other features in that it also underscores how one’s individual character can be tested.
By all accounts, Yogi Berra did not seem to have the physical attributes to make it as a professional ball player, let alone become a member of the much heralded New York Yankees. Mullin traces how Berra’s skillful play put that notion to rest as the quirky 5’7” Italian kid from the Hill in St. Louis wound up playing on or managing teams that won 10 World Series rings (more than any other player), being selected Most Valuable Player three times, an All Star 18 out of 19 seasons, and becoming inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
But this is not merely a baseball film. Mullin draws attention to the fact that Berra’s personality became almost more significant than his role as a great baseball player. From his famous quips that have come to be known as Yogi-isms (on the baseball field: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” or off: “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”), to his numerous appearances in ads and television commercials, many people were more familiar with him as a cuddly celebrity rather than a rugged, excellent ballplayer.
The film does not rely on a pre-existing appreciation for the game. Mullin prevents statistics from becoming too pedantic, and dated action footage often plays in the background to season the human narrative rather than to overshadow it with sensationalized highlights. Aged baseball clips often come off as detached, but when used thoughtfully as they are here, they can affect sensibilities like the lingering aroma of hot dogs at the ballpark (whether you like them or not).
“It Ain’t Over” may not readily attract those not interested in baseball, or any sport for that matter. But as Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by watching