Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (born May 12, 1925) is a retired baseball player and, later, team manager. Born on the Hill in St. Louis, he picked up his nickname from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu holy man (see yogi). He began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues, where he learnt the basics of play as a catcher. After rejecting an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals he signed with the New York Yankees in 1942.
Berra is also famous for his tendency to malapropism and fracturing the English language in provocative, interesting ways. Examples include:
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”
This quote is undoubtedly the most well known Yogi-ism. It is also one of the more coherent ones. He first said this about the 1973 National League pennant race.
“I want to thank you for making this day necessary”
This was said at Yogi Berra day in St Louis in 1947. It is supposed to be the first Yogi-ism. By his account, he asked a teammate to write a short speech, and he misspoke, replacing the word ‘possible’ with ‘necessary’.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Many people think that Berra would have never said the word déjà vu, as it wasn’t his kind of language. But Yogi himself insists that he said this in reference to home runs by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who often hit homers.
“When you get to a fork in the road, take it”
Berra insists that this is part of some driving directions to his house. In his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, there is a fork in the road and either way you take, you will get to his house. Some people find this to be a very poignant quote, thinking it means that when you find a challenge, overcome it.
“I didn’t really say everything I said”
Yogi can’t even escape creating a Yogi-ism in his disclaimer for not creating all of the Yogi-isms. He was pointing out that he didn’t say everything that people think he said, which is very likely.
“Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”
This one may have been invented by someone else. Yogi said it regarding a restaurant that had become very popular.
“We have a good time together, even when we’re not together”
This quote was talking about his wife Carmen. Apparently it makes perfect sense to them, and it means that he likes to spend a little time away from her, but wants to be back together after it.
“Our similarities are different”
This quote was actually said by Dale Berra, Yogi’s son. It’s interesting to note how similar they are in their linguistic ability.
“I thought they said steak dinner, but then I found it was a state dinner…” “…It was hard to have a conversation with anyone; there were so many people talking”. This was about a fancy dinner he attended at the White House.
“We make too many wrong mistakes”
“Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting”
“You can observe a lot by watching”
“It gets late early around here…”
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore”
“If I didn’t wake up I’d still be sleeping”
“I usually take a two hour nap from 1 to 4”
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else”
“The future ain’t what it used to be”
“If they don’t want to come, you can’t stop them”
“Always go to other people’s funerals otherwise they won’t go to yours”
“You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn’t enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left.”
“Never answer an anonymous letter”
“Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?”
“Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel!”
“Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”
When asked what makes a good manager of a baseball team, he said “A good ball club”
When asked what time it is, he said “What? You mean right now?”
When he was asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations, Yogi said “I’d say he’s done more than that!”
His wife Carmen asked where he would like to be buried, to the reply “Surprise me!”
He was told that he looked cool in his summer suit by the Mayor of New York’s wife, and he said “You don’t look so hot yourself”
At a dinner in an Italian restaurant, he was asked how many slices should be cut in his pizza, and he replied “You better make it four, I don’t think I could eat eight”
Following a spell in the US Navy during World War II he played minor league baseball with the Newark Bears before being called up for 7 games in the major leagues in 1946. The following season he played 86 games for the Yankees, and he would play 100+ for each of the following 14 years. During his 19-year career as a Yankee the Bronx Bombers dominated baseball, appearing in 14 World Series and winning ten championships. Yogi himself was a 15-time All-Star, and won the league MVP award three times (in 1951, 1954 and 1955) and caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 Series.
In 1946, he wore uniform number 38 on the Yankees, switching to 35 the next year. In 1948 he changed to number 8, which was to be made famous as his number for the rest of his career on the Yankees and Mets. The number 8 was retired in 1972 by the Yankees, jointly honoring Berra and Bill Dickey, his predecessor as the Yankees’ star catcher.
In 1972 he was elected to the United States Baseball Hall of Fame.