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A lesson in forgiveness from the Yogi-Steinbrenner feud

A lesson in forgiveness from Yogi Berra
A lesson in forgiveness from the Yogi-Steinbrenner feud 05:41

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Jon Wertheim reported on the story of Tommy Trotta, a thief who worked with a crew to loot millions of dollars' worth of artwork and sports memorabilia from museums over a span of 20 years.

One of the most brazen and heartbreaking heists involved the theft and destruction of nine World Series Championship rings and two MVP plaques that belonged to Yogi Berra, the legendary player and former manager of the New York Yankees. 

On a rainy night in October 2014, Trotta broke into the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey and stole rings and memorabilia belonging to Yogi Berra. Then, according to Trotta, he and his crew did the unthinkable: they melted down their loot and brought the gold and gemstones to Manhattan's Diamond District, where a dealer paid them cash. Trotta says they got $12,000 for what U.S. Attorneys estimate was worth over a million dollars. 

Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of the late Yogi Berra and a journalist by trade, is still reeling from the loss of her grandfather's rings and "baffled" by the logic of destroying them.

"You sell the stuff that you steal for pennies compared to what it's actually worth… destroying historical artifacts with significance so much beyond the gold and diamonds that they're made of," she told Wertheim. "It's callous, and disrespectful, and dumb."

Over the course of the interview, Lindsay Berra shared a story about her late grandfather Yogi and his capacity for forgiveness. She recounted the long-running feud that started in 1985 between Yogi Berra, who was then a manager for the New York Yankees, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Just a few games into the 1985 MLB season, George Steinbrenner fired Yogi Berra, after promising he would give him a chance to manage the team until the end of the year, and sent the assistant general manager, Clyde King, to deliver the news. 

"Grandpa just had no respect for the way that went down," Lindsay Berra said. "He thought George should have been the one to do it himself."

Yogi Berra vowed to never return to Yankee Stadium while George Steinbrenner was in charge until Steinbrenner apologized. And for over a decade, Yogi Berra didn't set foot in Yankee Stadium. 

In 2002, 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon interview Yogi Berra and asked him if the decision made him mad. 

"Well, I wouldn't say [that] I wasn't mad," he told Simon laughing. "I said, 'I'll never go back to Yankee Stadium again.'"

It took 14 years for Berra and Steinbrenner to settle the feud. At the urging of his kids, Berra agreed to give Steinbrenner a chance to say he was sorry. Steinbrenner met Berra and his wife Carmen at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey and apologized. 

"He said the right things. But if he didn't, I would have thrown him out of this place," Berra told Simon with a smile. 

After Steinbrenner made amends, Berra returned to Yankee Stadium, spending the last 16 years of his life attending home games and going to Yankees spring training.

"I think that Grandpa can absolutely understand and respect the fact that people make mistakes," Lindsay Berra told Wertheim. "But what he doesn't have respect for is not owning up to your mistakes and apologizing to the people that you've hurt."

The law eventually caught up with Tommy Trotta and his crew. After being pulled over for reckless driving, police began matching Trotta to a string of home burglaries. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Trotta laid out all the details of the unsolved heists, including the theft of Yogi Berra's rings. Trotta also gave up his longtime crew. Four have pleaded guilty. Four have pleaded not guilty. 

For his part, Trotta told 60 Minutes he regrets stealing and destroying Yogi Berra's rings and hurting the Berra family in the process. 

"I suppose if the guys were to come here and tell me they were really sorry, and they meant it, I would probably forgive them," Berra told Wertheim. "But I'm still mad that the stuff is gone."

Photos and video courtesy of USGA and Getty Images.

The video above was produced by Will Croxton. It was edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger. 

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