Just about every sports fan has heard a “Yogiism”—a funny, illogical, yet often meaningful quote from Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankees catcher. In some ways, Yogi will always be known for the memorable expressions he’s uttered throughout his life. Like this one:
Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.
However, Yogi Berra was a great catcher and is considered by many to be the best ever to play at that position. So it seems only fair to look at what he accomplished on the field and in the dugout, as well as the famous sayings he’s known for, like this:
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi being Yogi.
Unless you were around to follow the Yankees in the ’50s, you’d never know what an amazing career he had. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra played 19 years in the Majors, all but four games with the powerhouse New York Yankees from 1946 to 1963. They won the World Series 10 times, with Yogi playing in a total of 75 World Series games. During his playing days…
• He was a three-time Most Valuable Player winner
• He led American League catchers in home runs and RBIs in nine straight seasons
• He hit the very first pinch-hit home run in World Series history
• He caught both games of 117 double headers
• He was an All-Star 15 times
Keep in mind that Yogi played with Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and other Yankee greats when he won his MVP awards. Yet from 1949 to 1955, Berra had the most RBIs by a Yankees player each season—more than any of his more famous teammates.
The “Say What?” Kid.
It was one day in the early ’60s, after Mantle and Maris had hit back-to-back home runs, that Yogi uttered maybe his best-known malapropism (an inadvertent misstatement). Today, this one is practically standard usage in all of journalism (sports, politics, arts, business), as a nod to Yogi:
It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Still, that’s probably not the most used Yogiism in sports. There’s one that you’ll hear practically every time someone rallies from behind to win or if a team blows a lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth:
It ain’t over ’til it’s over.
The sayings of Yogi that people like the most are the ones that make you laugh while being brilliant and wise at the same time, like these gems:
A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.
You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.
Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.
Here are some things very few people know about Yogi Berra. The website for the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center tells us this:
Yet often overlooked is his service during the deadly combat of World War II. As 19-year-old Second Class Seaman Lawrence P. Berra, he played a significant part in one of the war’s most important campaigns, the Normandy Invasion (better known as D-Day). Yogi was one of a six-man crew on a Navy rocket boat, firing machine guns and launching rockets at the German defenses at Omaha Beach. He was fired upon, but was not hit, and later received several commendations for his bravery.
Maybe that’s what made him such a tough player throughout his entire career. At the age of 37, he showed how tough he was by catching all 22 innings of a seven-hours-long game. And maybe that gave him perspective on life and death, from which he drew his special brand of wisdom and advice.
Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.
You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.
The future ain’t what it used to be.
Little things are big.
If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.
There’s never been anyone like Yogi Berra. He’s the original. Someone once asked Yogi what time it was and he supposedly replied, “You mean now?” It’s only fitting that the website for the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey, announces their hours in genuine Yogi style:
We’re open till we close.
You can’t imitate him, but you can certainly appreciate him.
Sources: What Time Is It? You Mean Now? Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All. Yogi Berra, with Dave Kaplan; NYTimes.com: news about Yogi Berra, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.