Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said": Celebrating Yogi Berra at 90

90 years ago today, in "The Hill" section of St. Louis, one of the greatest of American legends--and yes, heroes--was born Lawrence Peter Berra to Italian immigrant parents. 

And within an assisted living facility in New Jersey, where he has lived for more than a year, one hopes the man forever known as Yogi--thanks to a teenage nickname that will accompany him long into immortality--can enjoy a celebration worthy of his rich life to date.

Even if he utters but a few words that don't seem to make sense but assuredly do, such will only add to the incomparable legacy of Yogi Berra.

As you can learn from Wikipedia and far more in-depth elsewhere, Berra grew up across the street from another future major leaguer, Joe Garagiola, now 89.

While playing in American Legion baseball, he was nicknamed Yogi by friend Bobby Hofman who said he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after a losing game.

During World War II, while still a teen, Berra served in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a gunner's mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France.

Yogi would play 17 full seasons as catcher for the New York Yankees, winning 10 World Series titles and 3 American Leage MVP awards (with four additional seasons finishing in the Top 4 in voting, and seven more in the Top 25).

He was an 18-time All-Star (thanks to some seasons in which 2 games were played), first ballot Hall of Famer, member of the All-Century Team and, with due deference to Johnny Bench, widely-regarded as the greatest catcher of all-time. (See his full statistics at Baseball-Reference.com.)

Berra won 3 additional World Series rings as a Yankees coach, and in 1973 managed the New York Mets to the National League Pennant.

Until she passed in March 2014, Yogi and his wife Carmen were married for 65 years.

Yet even with all these amazing accomplishments, on the field and off, Yogi Berra may be best known
today--and perhaps otherwise forgotten save for serious baseball fans--for his "Yogiisms." (Or for inspiring the name of Yogi Bear.)

Throughout his playing career, and long since, Yogi had a tendency to offer up quips that defied logic, but were often surprisingly sage because of it.

With apologies for slight phrasing variations that differ from source-to-source, and the possibility that Yogi was credited for some sayings he didn't actually originate--himself noting that he "really didn't say everything I said"--below are several of my favorite Yogiisms.

Happy Birthday #90, Yogi. Thanks for all the brilliance.

And, circuitous as it may often seem, wisdom. 

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."

"It's like déjà vu all over again."

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

On being told by the New York mayor's wife that he looked cool in his new summer suit:
"Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself."

"We were overwhelming underdogs."

"I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early."

"You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, 'cause you might not get there."

Referring to a Steve McQueen movie: 
"He must have made that before he died."

When asked if he wanted his pizza cut into four or eight slices:
"Four. I don't think I can eat eight."

"90% of the game is half mental."

"Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting."

"We made too many wrong mistakes."

 "You can't think and hit at the same time."

"A nickel ain't worth a dime today."

"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel."

"If people don't want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?"

"The only reason I need these gloves is 'cause of my hands."

On the acquisition of fleet Ricky Henderson:
"He can run anytime he wants. I'm giving him the red light."

Photo credit: Kathy Willens, AP
"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

"It's not too far, it just seems like it is."

"I usually take a two-hour nap from 1 to 4."

On being honored on Yogi Berra Day in St. Louis in 1947:
"Thank you for making this day necessary."

"It ain't over 'til it's over." 

"The future ain't what it used to be."

1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks Seth! A nice way to celebrate today...with a few smiles from Yogi. Remember: Always go to other people's funerals, or they won't go to yours.