Lawrence Peter Berra - more commonly known by his nickname 'Yogi Berra' - was a great baseball player of his time. He was an excellent catcher for the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s, and was one of the great hitters of the time (indeed, he shot to national prominence because of it). He won three league MVP awards and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Unfortunately, his linguistic ability is not quite on the same level as his baseball ability. Yogi Berra is notorious for his oxymorons (contradictions), tautologies (saying the same thing twice) and other statements that, on reflection, just don't make sense. He's also one of the most-quoted sporting individuals in the world. US President Bush1, who also has a reputation for 'misspeaking', often quotes Yogi Berra, and jokingly credited him as his speechwriter.
Of course, there is good cause to think that Berra didn't say all of these absurd things. Many are invented and Berra can't remember saying some. But they are still very entertaining, so read on, and enjoy.
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 team mate to write a short speech, and he misspoke, replacing the word 'possible' with 'necessary'.
It's like déjà vu all over again2.
Many people think that Berra would have never said the words 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 these.
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 was probably invented by someone else, but still doesn't quite make sense.
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 father. 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.
This quote was about his team, the New York Yankees lost the World Series in 1960.
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% 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 was, 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'.