How someone you never met can impact your life is a bizarre thing. I never met Yogi Berra. But going back to when I was five or six, when I first started being interested in things other than Matchbox cars and Lincoln Logs, there were a few names that I was introduced to - in terms of stories, legacy names, the greatest players of all time, players my dad thought were great. Willie Mays. Hank Aaron. Babe Ruth. Carlton Fisk. Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. Harmon Killebrew. Sandy Koufax. Jackie Robinson. Ty Cobb. Ted Williams.
My obsession with baseball stats started at an early age. BaseballReference.com obviously didn't exist back then, so my only access to player stats was on baseball cards or in books. I regularly made up rosters of the best players of all time, splitting them into two teams and imagining how they'd perform against each other, making up box scores. I would fill notebooks with season stats of imagined seasons. One of the two teams always had Yogi Berra behind the plate.
Berra's playing career spanned 1945 - 1963, since nobody wants to count the four games he played for the Mets in 1965. In 1963 Berra was 38 and only played in 64 games, 35 of which he at least appeared in as a catcher. He was already a player-coach, and upon his retirement was given the manager's job. He took the 1964 Yankees to the World Series but lost to Lou Brock's and Bob Gibson's Cardinals in seven games. It was enough to get him fired due to, allegedly, a lack of communication.
Berra went across town to the Mets, where he coached and managed for a few years before returning home to the Yankees where he was a part of the organization off and on until a falling out with George Steinbrenner in the mid-80s. His final tour of coaching duties came with the Astros, whom Berra stayed with through the 1992 season.
All told, Berra spent 46 years in Major League Baseball. Yet even after he left, he was an indelible part of the game. His connection to baseball went beyond his Hall of Fame playing career and a mixed bag career as a coach and manager. Yogi Bear was named after him, which is great, but Berra's ties to the game cover a great deal of ground. He was tied to the great Yankee dynasties of the mid-20th century, having played with greats like Joltin' Joe as well as The Mick, tying together two other great generations of Yankees baseball. He was the living embodiment of a golden era of America's Pastime. Even now, Yori Berra is one of the five or six greatest catchers to ever play the game.
But what makes him such a memorable name, five decades after he played his last game of professional ball, is the personality. Everyone loved Yogi. And there is no greater public acknowledgement of Berra's personality than the popularity of his infamous quotes. Two or three of them have found their way into public lexicon, above and beyond their designation as Berra-isms.
Do you have any ties to Yogi Berra? Maybe you saw him play, or ran into him on the street. Let us know in the comments of your links to Berra, no matter how tenuous. In the meantime, my tribute to Yogi Berra is to leave you with a list of my favorite Berra quotes. Enjoy!
- "It ain't over 'til it's over."
- "It's deja vu all over again."
- "Never answer an anonymous letter."
- "We made too many wrong mistakes."
- "You can observe a lot by watching."
- "The future ain't what it used to be."
- "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."
- "It gets late early out there."
- "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."
- "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
- "A nickle ain't worth a dime anymore."
- "He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious."
- "I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."
- "In baseball, you don't know nothing."
- "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
- "I'm a very lucky guy and I'm happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary."
- "You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't come to yours."