Yogi Berra once got a load of Red River spuds
FARGO — Yogi Berra was famous for catching baseballs for the New York Yankees. But he once managed to catch quite a few Red River Valley potatoes.
The story of Yogi and the potatoes, which involved a visit here 30 years ago, came up Wednesday after news reports of his death at age 90 in his New Jersey home.
Berra flew to Fargo to play in the 1985 Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament. Maris, who grew up in Fargo, had been a fellow Yankee.
Vince Lindstrom, who then served as the convention and visitor's bureau director, drove Berra from the airport to his hotel.
"His first comment was, 'My God, it's so flat out here, what do you grow?'" Lindstrom said.
When told potatoes were a staple crop in the Red River Valley, Berra expressed fondness for spuds but skepticism of their abundance here.
"You wouldn't have enough potatoes for my front lawn," Berra said, according to Lindstrom's recollection.
Lindstrom amiably offered to send Berra home with a bag of potatoes, but that good deed went unfulfilled.
When the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association met in Fargo that November, a prankish spark jumped when Lindstrom told the farmers of Berra's doubts.
"Somebody, maybe after a few drinks, said let's send a truckload of potatoes," Lindstrom said.
Soon, in time for Thanksgiving, a truck carrying 46,000 pounds of Red River Valley potatoes was bound for Berra's home in Montclair, N.J., half an hour from New York City.
Lindstrom flew in to be on hand for the arrival, and contacted news outlets. The NBC "Today Show" broadcast the spuds' arrival, as did CBS.
The New York Times ran a front-page photo, Lindstrom said. The Forum ran a photo showing Berra, his wife and a granddaughter inspecting boxes of potatoes stacked on the front lawn.
"A neighbor said, 'Why didn't you tell them you liked shrimp?' " Lindstrom said.
Jon Lindgren, who was Fargo's mayor at the time, arranged for the potatoes to go to a local food charity.
"I just recall the person laughing and saying they needed the potatoes," Lindgren said. "He said Yogi would like a joke like that."
Lindstrom, now retired and living in Maple Grove, Minn., said Yogi did indeed get a laugh."
We got tons of publicity," he said, still relishing the spotlight glare the stunt produced. "Fargo was famous for awhile."
The prank even inspired a question in Trivial Pursuit, then a popular game.
"That's the Yogi Berra story," Lindstrom said. "It's a great story."