Other than Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, few historical Americans are more oft-quoted than former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, who died in 2015 at the age of 90, but will live forever for the things he said while he was alive.
His only real competition as the best American malapropist was former president George W. Bush, who was quite good at it but a minor leaguer compared to Berra.
In some ways, particularly after his playing days ended and he took up managing both the Yankees and the New York Mets, his memory has become more revered for his off-field comments than his on-field exploits.
In one humble sportswriter’s opinion (mine), he was one of the four greatest catchers of all time, the others being Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench and Yadier Molina.
Yogi was the spark plug on the Yankees dynasty in the 1950s and early ’60s, when the team appeared in 14 World Series and won ten of them.
He made the All-Star team 18 times in his 19-year career – still a record – and was league MVP three times. His election to the Hall of Fame in 1972 was an automatic formality.
Berra was also known as probably the best bad-pitch hitter in baseball history. The strike zone didn’t exist when Yogi was batting, because he was only 5’7″ and swung at everything. He could hit golf shots off the ground and tennis shots over his head.
He was also a great player defensively and one year (1958) played every game without making an error.
Pitchers loved him, because they almost always won when Yogi was catching. He was so familiar with his opponents’ weaknesses, he knew exactly which pitch they couldn’t hit when the pressure was on.
One of the most famous photos in baseball history was Yogi jumping into Don Larsen’s arms after the last out in a 1956 World Series perfect game, the only time that’s ever been done
Yogi was a classic on the field and off, but will always be beloved for his colourful language. When he passed on, baseball columnists everywhere reposted his most memorable quotes and published them in his honour.
Some of them, like the one above in the headline above, seem as if they’ve been around forever. But they all came out of Yogi’s mouth, including the one where he said he didn’t say all the things he said.
My personal favourite is the one about refusing to buy encyclopedias for his kids. Here are ten of Yogi’s most popular comments:
1. “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
2. “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
3. “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
4. “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.”
5. “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”
6. “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
7. “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
8. “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”
9. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
10. “I never said most of the things I said.”
Maybe he was missed quoted.