A perfect model match to the accompanying late-1950s image of Berra, this mask is described as follows by John Taube of PSA/J.T. Sports: "Spalding Yogi Berra catcher's mask model 1514, circa 1955, is attributed to being game worn by Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. The magnesium frame displays excellent use and the surface of the padded leather face guard shows moderate staining from perspiration. Spandex and leather head strap is buckle fastened to the frame. Attached to this leather of authenticity is a photograph of Berra, circa 1957, wearing a mask that though not a photo match, is a confirmed model match. The Berra model was a popular catcher's mask that was available to the major and minor leagues as well as the retail market."
The very substantial, intricately crafted gear has an ample array of straps, laces, buckles, gromets, stitches and pads. There are a few spots of heavy surface wear on the reverse padding, along with expected scuffs and abrasions to the metal guards, especially at the chin. The name brand is impressively bold, while the leather remains nicely supple. An additional LOA comes courtesy of original owner Larry Belton, who tells the back-story: "Sometime in the mid 1950s, I believe 1958, my dad took me to St. Petersburg to see the Yankees in an exhibition game. I'm not certain of the exact relationship, but my dad & Yogi were casual friends. They met near the dugout & talked for a short time. I guess Yogi noticed that I was so excited to see him in person that he gave me his catcher mask. What an incredible thrill for a 10 year old kid. I recently decided to sell the mask, as no one in my family has any interest. Now I realize that I should have had it autographed. What a thrill & wonderful memory."