June 12, 2003

Pride of the Devils By Yogi Berra

When people ask me what I think of the New Jersey Devils, I always say, I think they're pretty darn good. I don't think it matters that they play in a so-so arena near a highway. Or that they don't have big-name stars and get knocked for being in New Jersey. So they can't decide on a good place for a parade so what? How many teams are raising another Stanley Cup?

I've been a fan of the Devils since they moved to New Jersey more than 20 years ago. I've seen them grow from a rinky-dink team to three-time Stanley Cup champions. Now people are making a fuss over a parade to have it in the arena's parking lot like before, or somewhere else. I say, no parking lot. Just have the parade down Bloomfield Avenue, starting in Newark and passing through the towns where lots of Devils fans live. It's not Broadway, but you'd still get a lot of people who'd appreciate it.

Maybe a few more people should appreciate the Devils. The team gets criticized just for being good. A former Rangers coach said they're just a bunch of interchangeable parts. Well, I've always been a Rangers fan, too, and I wish they had more interchangeable parts. Good teams always have them guys who play for the team, not for themselves, and the Devils typify teamwork at its best.

They remind me of the Yankees teams I played on during the late 1940's through the early 60's. We were a team of interchangeable parts. Casey Stengel, our manager, platooned guys all the time. In 1949, his first year, we had seven different first basemen. We had one player, Gil McDougald, who made the All-Star team at three different positions. Casey was known for being funny, but not with us. He could be pretty demanding. If you play, you better produce. If you don't play, tough. The team always came first.

That's how it is with the Devils. All the guys know their roles and don't try to be something they're not. Everyone contributes. It starts with Lou Lamoriello, the general manger. He knows what it takes to build a team and keep it running strong, a lot like the way our old Yankees general manager George Weiss did. They both put a lot into scouting, instruction and the farm system. Weiss got young guys to come up the Yankee way and traded them for older veterans to fit in. The Devils do it the same way.

One last thing about that parade: I don't remember being in one when I played for the Yankees. This is what I told the guys in the Devils practice center in West Orange, where I work out. They don't have big egos, so it's no big deal. The Devils are pretty darn good and that's not too bad. [18:39] [ ]