Who is the most quoted living American in the latest edition of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations? It’s not a president, an actor, an author, or some titan of industry. It’s not even a highly regarded academic, scientist, nor philosopher. It’s a long-retired baseball player. Of course, it’s Yogi Berra.
There is even a sub genre within the world of quotations known as “Yogi-isms.” Yogi himself tries to brush off all the hoopla around his legendary, oft-quoted, comments by saying, “I never said the things I said.” Which of course is another Yogi-ism, itself.
Yogi, while playing with the Yankees, won three MVP awards, one of only four players in history to do so. From 1949 to 1955, playing on a team that included Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, he led the Yankees in RBIs for seven consecutive seasons. His ten World Series rings is more than any other player in history. And as a manager, after retiring as a player, led teams in both leagues to World Series appearances, one of only six men to ever do so.
According to many baseball experts, Berra was the greatest catcher of all time, and detailed analysis of baseball statistics places Yogi as the 52nd greatest non-pitcher in major league history.
Enough about Yogi. Below are some of my favorite Yogi-isms. While they all make you smile, some may even make you think. Yogi may be a master philosopher after all.
As a general comment on baseball: “Baseball is 90% mental — the other half is physical.”
On why he no longer went to a popular St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there no more, it’s too crowded!”
When giving directions to his New Jersey home, which was equally accessible via two different routes: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“It’s like déjà vu all over again”.
“It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future”
“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
When told by Mayor John Lindsay’s wife, on a particularly humid day that he appeared “quite cool,” Yogi innocently responded “Thanks; you don’t look so hot yourself.”
When asked if he wanted a personal pizza cut into 4 or 8 slices, Yogi responded with “Better cut it into 4, I don’t think I could eat 8.”
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.”
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
“We made too many wrong mistakes.”
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
“I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.”
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
“He must have made that before he died.” — Referring to a Steve McQueen movie.
“I’d find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I’d return it.” — When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars.
“Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
“I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.”
“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”
“Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”
“A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.”
“It gets late early out there.” — Referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.
Once, Yogi’s wife Carmen asked, “Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” Yogi replied, “Surprise me.”
“Do you mean now?” — When asked for the time
“You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn’t enough in the second half you give what’s left.”
“90% of the putts that are short don’t go in.”
“I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”
“If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.”
“Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.”
“It’s never happened in the World Series competition, and it still hasn’t.”
“How long have you known me, Jack? And you still don’t know how to spell my name.” — Upon receiving a check from Jack Buck made out to “bearer.”
“I’d say he’s done more than that.” — When asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations for the current season.
“He can run anytime he wants. I’m giving him the red light.”
“Know anything? I don’t even ‘suspect” anything!”
“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”
“I don’t know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.”
“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
“We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.” – referring to his wife.
“I want to thank you for making this day necessary.” — On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in St. Louis in 1947.
“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
“I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”
Speaking of his pitching staff when managing the Yankees, “We have deep depth.”
“There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.”
“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”
“No, ma’am, it’s not even carbonated.” (Yogi’s answer when asked if the word Yoo-Hoo was hyphenated.
And my favorite: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”