Revisiting the wisdom of Yogi Berra’s Yogi-isms

Published 8:58 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

The name Yogi Bear always makes me think of the late, great Hall of Fame catcher Lawrence Berra known as Yogi Berra. The nickname was given to him by friend Jack Maguire who said watching a film about India he saw a person doing Yoga and those people were known as a yogi.

Maguire said that when Berra sat around with his arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or looking sad after a loss he reminded him of a yogi.

Berra actually filed a defamation lawsuit against cartoon company Hanna-Barbera for using the similar name. Hanna-Barbera argued it was just a coincidence. The defense was considered implausible but Berra withdrew the lawsuit.

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Berra attended South Side Catholic — now St. Mary’s High School — but quit after the 8th grade to work because his family was barely above poverty level.

Berra signed with the New York Yankees in 1943 just before serving in the United States Navy. He was a gunner’s mate in the Normandy landings at Utah Beach in France on D-Day during World War II.

Berra was wounded in his left hand but did not fill out the paperwork to receive the Purple Heart because he did not want his mother to get a notification telegram and cause her to worry about him. He never got the medal until it was awarded to the family posthumously.

Once the war was over, Berra made his Major League Baseball debut in 1946 and put up great numbers with a career batting average of .285 with 358 home runs, 1,430 runs batted in and 2,150 hits.

He appeared in 14 World Series and set records for most games at 75, 259 at-bats, 71 hits, 10 doubles, games caught 63 and 457 putouts. In game 3 of the 1947 Series, he hit the first pinch-hit home run in Series history.

Now, while all that is interesting, many fans remember Berra for the famous Yogi-isms.


Yogi-isms are quotes by Berra that made you laugh but also made you stop and think what in the world was he talking about. Many of the quotes were obvious but were said in a unique way.

For example, Berra held the record of most career home runs by a catcher until the Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench — widely considered the greatest catcher of all-time — broke the record. Bench got a letter of congratulations from Berra. It read, “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”

There have been a plethora of Yogi-isms but here are some of the best ones:

• Probably the best and most famous, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

• Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical. (There is also a quote that said half the game is 90 percent pitching.)

• When talking about a popular St. Louis restaurant, “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

• You can observe a lot by watching.

• Talking about the effects of the sun in left field at the old Yankee Stadium, “It gets late early out there.”

• Talking about his predecessor Bill Dickey, “He learned me all his experience.”

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

• We made too many wrong mistakes.

• Pia a la mode, with ice cream.

• I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.

• You tell the stupidest questions.

• Never answer an anonymous letter.

• When he was a manager he instructed the players on lining up for a spring training drill, “Pair ‘em up in threes.”

• Talking about the great pitcher Sandy Koufax, “I can see how he won 25 games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

• On the 1973 New York Mets stunning World Series championship, “We were overwhelming underdogs.”

• On being honored in his hometown of St. Louis during his rookie season, “I want to thank everybody for making this day necessary.”

• The future ain’t what it used to be.

• As for his pre-game ritual, “I usually take a two-hour nap between 1 to 4.”

• He was offering advice to a young player who was trying to emulate Frank Robinson’s swing, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”

• I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.

• So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.

• Explaining his hitting approach, “I can’t think and hit at the same time.”

• He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.

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

• A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

• Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.

• And saving the best for last, “It’s deja vu all over again,”

Now you can understand why everyone called him lovable


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.