Yogi Berra: America's Funny Philosopher

Yogi Berra baseball cards
Yogi Berra baseball cards

A Living Legend

On a cool May day in 1925, St. Louis, Missouri, Yogi Berra was born on “The Hill”, the working-class Italian section of St. Louis. Today the Hill still features dozens of the city’s finest Italian restaurants, grocery stores with fresh proscuitto, sausages, gourmet olive oils, and other Italian specialties, bakeries, and blue-collar families maintaining their heritage. From this humble upbringing Yogi became arguably the most beloved baseball player since Babe Ruth, even having the cartoon character Yogi Bear named after him. Remarkably, the 8th-grade dropout also became possibly the most quoted living American, with eight entries in the latest edition of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations, more than any American president. He became America's funny philosopher.  Ever humble, Yogi has downplayed his knack for Yogi-is-ms - as they are called - saying “I never said the things I said.”


Yogi Berra with his catching gear.
Yogi Berra with his catching gear.

Not Just Your Average Bear

But who is Yogi Berra? Is he an author, philanthropist, TV pitchman, cartoon character, or philosopher? Yes. He is all of these, and many forget that he is also a legendary baseball player and manager. Having spent nearly his entire career with the N.Y. Yankees, he was one of only four players to be named Most Valuable Player of the American League 3 times, and one of only six managers to lead both American League and National League teams to the world series. His 10 world series rings is more than any other player. He was elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1972.

And remember this: During the seasons from 1949 to 1955, on a team packed with stars and future legends such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Berra who led the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons. According to the win shares formula developed by sabermetrician Bill James, Berra is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitcher in major-league history. An assessment with which many agree.

Berra slides safe into home.
Berra slides safe into home.

From the Mouths of Babes

The first Yogi-ism was uttered in 1947 in his hometown of St. Louis. He was being honored and asked a teammate for help with his opening line. When Berra got up to the mic, he mixed it up, saying “I want to thank all the people who made this day necessary.” The press had a field day with it, and that was only the beginning of a lifetime of humorous, Zen-like sayings.

Yogi-isms are most often non-sequiturial mondegreens. A non-sequiture is “a comment which, due to its lack of meaning relative to the comment it follows, is absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing. It is Latin for "it does not follow." A mondegreen is a misheard word, usually a song lyric, as in the Beatle’s song, Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds, when the lyric “the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes” is misheard as “the girl with colitis goes by.’ The goal of a non-sequiturial mondegreen is “making a point through surreally humorous, absurdist mis-use of language, especially the alteration of clichés through malapropism and mixed metaphor. [Many Yogi-isms] take the form of a tautology, a paradox, a contradiction or of some formulation of the law of identity,” a law attributed to Aristotle and meaning that an object is the same as itself: Literally A=A.

The Accidental Sage

While many Yogi-isms exhibit a philosophical wisdom as though crafted by a skilled wordsmith, Berra maintains that he didn’t say any of them intentionally. So how did a ballplayer with an abbreviated education become the philosophical dispenser of wise sayings?  America's funny philosopher?  Books have tried to figure it out, but Berra himself doesn’t even pretend to know. He told Bob Simon of CBS News, “I don’t mean to be funny. I, tell you the truth, Bob - them sayings come out. I don’t even know I said ‘em. I really don’t.”

So an MVP catcher from St. Louis goes down in history for leaving an enduring mark on the English language. He is quoted, ad infinitum, even by people who don’t know who he is. You can’t explain someone like Yogi Berra. Part of his legacy is the conundrum he represents. Are there any more Yogi-isms waiting to be spoken? Perhaps. As Yogi famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Yogi pics and "Yogiisms"

With Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
With Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
Celebrating with pitcher Don Larson after pitching a no-hitter in the world series.
Celebrating with pitcher Don Larson after pitching a no-hitter in the world series.

Yogi-isms: Say What?

As a general comment on baseball: "Ninety percent of this game is half mental."

On why he no longer went to a popular St. Louis restaurant: "Nobody goes there no more, it's too crowded!"

When giving directions to his New Jersey home, which was equally accessible via two different routes: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

"It's like déjà vu all over again".

"It's tough making predictions, especially about the future"

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."

On a trip to Cooperstown, to attend a dinner, Phil Rizzuto commented to Yogi, "I think we're lost." To which Yogi responded "Yeah, but we're making great time."

When told by a queen visiting New York on a particularly humid day that he appeared "quite cool," Yogi innocently responded "Thanks; you don't look so hot yourself."

When asked if he wanted a personal pizza cut into 4 or 8 slices, Yogi responded with "Better cut it into 4, I don't think I could eat 8."

"It's not the heat, it's the humility."

"They could make trouble for us if they win" on the American League situation

"The future ain't what it used to be."

"We made too many wrong mistakes."

"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

"I usually take a two hour nap from one to four."

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

"He must have made that before he died." -- Referring to a Steve McQueen movie.

"I'd find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I'd return it." -- When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars.

"Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."

"I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early."

"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."

"It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much."

"Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting."

"A nickel isn't worth a dime today."

"It gets late early out there." -- Referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.

Once, Yogi's wife Carmen asked, "Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?" Yogi replied, "Surprise me."

"Do you mean now?" -- When asked for the time

"You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left."

"90% of the putts that are short don't go in."

"I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."

"If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."

"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel."

"It's never happened in the World Series competition, and it still hasn't."

"How long have you known me, Jack? And you still don't know how to spell my name." -- Upon receiving a check from Jack Buck made out to "bearer."

"I'd say he's done more than that." -- When asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations for the current season.

"He can run anytime he wants. I'm giving him the red light."

"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"

"The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase."

"Know anything? I don't even 'suspect" anything!"


"Bill Dickey is learning me his experience."

“He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious."

“I don't know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads."

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

"In baseball, you don't know nothing."

"So I'm ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face."

"Take it with a grin of salt."

“We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.” - referring to his wife.

I hope you have enjoyed this visit with Yogi Berra, America's funny philosopher.  If you know of any Yogiisms or similar sayings, please leave them below in the comment section.

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Comments 61 comments

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

When told by a queen visiting New York on a particularly humid day that he appeared "quite cool," Yogi innocently responded "Thanks; you don't look so hot yourself." >>>

The above yogi-ism made me smile; he sounds like a sweetheart, with all that fame and yet he is simple, down to earth human being.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Hi, Violet Sun. Thanks for stopping by. Yea, I have been a fan of his sayings for a long time. It was fun collecting them and learning more about him than I had previously. Thanks!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Gotta love 'em! When he made these comments, they were unassuming and charming... and they still make us smile! I love the humility quote. Thanks for giving me a reason to smile myself to sleep, Christoph.


ajcor profile image

ajcor 8 years ago from NSW. Australia

This one "It's not the heat, it's the humility." reminds of the lady over here who said to her Sydney butcher (true) as she waved her hands around to cool down - the humditity is killing me!!" Thanks another great hub. cheers


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Storytellersrus: Thanks for dropping by and the comment. Glad I (or Yogi) could put a smile on your face. Thanks!

ajcor: Doing research I learned that many countries have a similar character. In Australia, I read, you have Dyer-isms - from Jack Dyer, Australian rules football legend? Ever hear of those?


spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

"I take a two hour nap, from one o'clock to four."

Definitely my personal favorite :)

This hub made me smile. Thanks for sharing Yogi with us!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Spryte: Sure have missed you around here. How ya been? Always happy to make you smile and to receive your comments. Is the game going well?


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

So funny - and yet so touchingly child-like and innocent - thanks for a great read Christoph!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Shalini: Glad you had a look! Berra was and is quite a character. Thanks for the comment.


ajcor profile image

ajcor 8 years ago from NSW. Australia

Thanks for that Christoph - I hadn't heard of this Jack Dyer of football fame- but I had heard of Jack Dyer of radio fame -so I looked and found a couple of your dyerisms -little beauties.... some memorable "Dyerisms" "He keeps getting where the ball aint" "I won't say anything in case I say something.""Bartlett's older than he's ever been before." (1980). "Johnston missed one from the 10 yard square - it was impossible to miss that." (1981). "That's the beauty of being small - your hands are close to your feet." (1982)."There weren't too many best mans on the ground." (1982)."He's tuckled strongly by Tack." (1983). "He sets himself for a high mark - actually, that was a low high mark." (1983).


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Nice quotes about Yogi Berra. I didn't know much about baseball until I came to US. When in 2004 Yankees Vs Red Sox games heard about Babe Ruth (Reverse the curse).

I liked this quote "“We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.” - referring to his wife. "

Did the above quote mean similar to Kahlil Gibran's The prophet sayings for marriage "Let there be space in your togetherness. Love one another, but make not the bound of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your soul."


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

ajcor: Thanks for the info on Jack Dyer. Some of those sound very much like Yogi's. I especially like "I won't say anything in case I say anything." Thanks!

Countrywomen: Thanks for the comment. Here is what his wife said about the quote you mention:

“I know exactly what he means by that. He means he’s happy to be away from me for a little while, but he can’t wait until he gets home.”

Glad you could stop by. Thanks!

Ray Saunders: Thanks for the comment. Glad you found it funny.


sunforged profile image

sunforged 8 years ago from Sunforged.com

Yogi's the man, Im surprised there are no references to Yogi the Bear as Im pretty sure hes based off of him.

As a pizzamaker for ten years:

When asked if he wanted a personal pizza cut into 4 or 8 slices, Yogi responded with "Better cut it into 4, I don't think I could eat 8."

This type of statement is not as uncommon as one would imagine!

Im glad Yogi is getting some attention


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

This was a great hub, and given me an idea for a similar one based some of the things said by English people. I hope you don't mind Christoph.

Another quote I found online that cracked me up and was very funny is:

"A female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn't, turned to the weatherman and asked, 'So Bob, where's that eight inches you promised me last night?' Not only did HE have to leave the set, but half the crew did too, because they were laughing so hard!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Sunforged: Yes, Yogi Bear was named for him, which he didn't like because everyone started calling him Yogi Bear. I only hinted at it, but have now added in a more direct reference. Thanks!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Misty: Similar utterances are called "Colemanisms" or "Colemanballs" in the United Kingdom, presumeably by some guy named Coleman. Have you heard of him?

That news anchor story is hysterical! I love that stuff! Thanks for the comment.


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 8 years ago from Virginia

I had heard of Yogi, but I've never ever heard about all this detail. All those Yogi-isms are too funny! I'm gonna have to read through those again. I tried to pick out my favorite, but I couldn't pick just one.

"It ain't over till it's over." reminds me of something very profound that a nascar driver once said, "You start at the starting line and finish at the finish line." Hmmm. ;)


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Pam: Thanks for dropping in. I knew of him and some of his sayings, but I really didn't know he was that great as a baseball player. Glad I could share it. How about the quintissential New Hampshire response when asked for directions: "You can't get there from here."

Thanks for the comment!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Yes I have Christoph. His proper name is David Coleman and he used to host a TV Quiz show over here called "A Question of Sport" which featured sporting celebrities on the two teams. His quotes are not the best though, you want to see the late Cricket Commentator 'Brian Johnston's' quotes to be truly in stitches laughing. anyway, my new hub has just been published, featuring many of these, so do take a look if you have a spare few minutes :)


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Cindy - Didn't know that you were interested in Cricket. Brian Johnston quote "You've come over at a very appropriate time; Ray Illingworth has just relieved himself at the pavilion end"


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

LOL, I didn't know you were either CW, but I so love his quotes, and that is a great one :)


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Cindy - Are you kidding me!! An Indian can't avoid cricket esp with a father and brother who watch cricket like crazy and not to mention the huge gathering(atleast 5-10) of people in our house during those times. Me and my mother used to get tired of serving tea and snacks for them(and also their shouting whenever somebody hits a 4/6 or a wicket falls)...LOL


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

The Cricket Girls: Those are funny quotes! I'll take a look at your hub!


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Great Hub CR, that Yogi sounded like a real hot! Glad you shared with us.


spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

*waves to Chris*

Miss you too! The game is going fairly well...a lot of new and crazy stuff! I don't want to bore you with all the details though. I know how you non-gaming geeks are :)

*hugs*

Is everyone ready for Turkey Day?


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

How could anyone not love that guy's smile and way with words? Thanks for all the great quotes and history. And also for the analytical look at mondegreens and the non sequitur. Thumbs up as always, Christoph.


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Christoph - Me (a Cricket Girl) is missing your wonderful presence here at hub pages. So what are you upto? Iam eating a lot of high calorie foods and breaking all my diet resolutions....LOL


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Gwendymom: Thanks for stopping in. We haven't seen each other in a long time. I've had more computer problems (now I Have a new one) and some writing work, so I've been scarce. I guess you have been too. Good to see you!

Spryte: You've been scarce too! Hope your Thanksgiving was good. Sounds like you're having fun with the game. Hope to see more of you.

Sallys Trove: Good to see you. Glad you enjoyed the article. Your comments are always appreciated!

Countrywomen: I have missed you guys too. Sounds like you are enjoying Thanksgiving and eating lots of high-calorie foods. That's what the holiday is for! See you around!


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Christoph- I wish I could eat all I want and then you exercize for me to get rid of it..hehe. I mean it would be cool isn't if someone could workout for me(maybe give some sort of remuneration in cash or kind) and I get to lose all those calories...LOL


quicksand profile image

quicksand 8 years ago

A great hub indeed!

T'was after a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng time that I burst out laughing at something! The one about the 8 slices of pizza being overmuch was ultra-hilarious ... !!!

"The future is not what it used to be" was also brilliant!

Let me try a little of that "non-sequiture" stuff in the atheists forum! LOL!

Anyways, I was not aware that Brian Johnston is no more. I hope Chris Martin-Jenkins is around!

Great hub - thanks!

 


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Countrywomen: It's a funny thing about the holiday season, but you can eat as much stuff as you want and not gain wait. Nobody knows why this is so. If you should accidentally gain weight, I promise I will work it off for you so you needn't worry. Go ahead and have another piece of pumpkin pie with extra whipped cream!

Quicksand: Glad you stopped by and got a laugh out of Yogi. My interest in him started just recently when I decided to see what other stuff he had said. I would be hardpressed to pick a favorite.

As for trying that non-sequiture stuff in the forum...why not? That's what the other side does, isn't it? With statements whose conclusions literally "do not follow?" Thanks for the comment!


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Thanks for not making me have the guilt (that too even with extra whipped cream!!). No wonder you are the most sought after Male Presence on hubpages since you know exactly the nicest things to say to a woman..hehe


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Hi guys, hope your Thanksgiving was a great one!!!!


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Gweny- It was great at my end. I went to my friends place and helped her with a little cooking. Had lots of rich food, saw couple of movies and the days just went by without even realizing Monday is almost here. So how was yours?


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

CW: You always say pretty nice things too!

Gwendy: Fancy seeing you here tonight. I have hardly been here this week and I take it you haven't either. How was your Thanksgiving?


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

My thanksgiving was great. I had family come from colorado so was very busy and have not bben able to get on. I was just about to go to bed when I seen you guys had posted so I thought I'd say hello.

CW, glad your Thanksgiving was good.

CR, how was yours?

Can't stay long guys, have kids in the morning so have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

CW and CR, I am sorry but I have to get to bed now. I will be on here tomorrow and hope I will get to talk with you both then. Have a great night, sweet dreams to you both, see you tomorrow, hopefully!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Good night, Gwendy. I have another busy day tomorror, but will get on some I'm sure.


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Good Night Gwendy and Have a great week ahead. Thanks for that compliment christoph (It means a lot coming from you). I am also planning to hit the bed fairly soon. Good bye folks.


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 8 years ago from Hell, MI

Good one, Christoph! Here's one I heard several years ago, don't know if it's true, though. Yogi had a house fire. When he called the fire department, they asked him how to get to his house, and he replied: "In them great big trucks ya got!"

That's one of my favorites, whether it's true, or not.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Christoph. this hub is hilarous! great read!

On asking directions "How do you get there?"

Reply "One step at a time!"


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

B.T. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. I don't know if that's a yogiism, but is funny never the less!

Sixty: Thanks for the support! Say, maybe you should start writing down "sixtyisms!"


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

I guess That might be an interesting idea. It is true that you don't know what you don't know until you know!


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 8 years ago from Australia

Hey Chris just catching up with everything due to unforeseen circumstances I haven't had the time to Hub with you guys and I really miss it.

This Yogi Bear is a guy after my own heart. I think I've must have one of those non-sequentionel evergreen brains you mention because I'm always getting my mords wuddled! Then again it could be Oldtimers as well!

Thanks for doing the Hub it looks like it was a labour of love and it shows!

btw the Jack Dyer the footballer you mention was the captain of the football team Richmond (Tigers) a suburb of Melbourne and MY team. His nick name was "Captain Blood", sorry to be so long winded but AFL is one of my passions.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Hey Ag, glad to see you around. I hope things are ok with you, we've missed you!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Yea. Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well!


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 8 years ago from Australia

Thanks guys, I do appreciated the kind sentiments. No probs health wise just time constraints keep me from my friends here at Hubpages. Hopefully I can spend more time here shortly!


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

The group has seemed to thin out lately and our timing is all mixed up. I hope things return to normal soon. I miss all my HP friends so very much!


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Speaking of timing, It is @1:00 am here and have kids coming at eight so I better get going to bed.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis Author

Me too, Gwendy. Good night, all.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Good Night all, sweet dreams to you all! I hope to see you guys around again soon!


shane john backx 6 years ago

One of Jacks best ones was when someone asked him his thoughts on euthanasia, and he said " They're the same as the kids here arent they?"


shanejbackx 6 years ago

Or when he was coaching Richmond, in the team was a set of twins. He went up to one of them and said "Is it you or your brother who isn't here?"


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Shane John backx: Those are both great ones and I hadn't heard them before, so thanks, and thanks for the comment!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

Cristoph - I apologize for being so late to your Yogi table. My favorite Yogi tale goes to when his garage in that new place in New Jersey caught afire. He telephoned the local fire department and asked for their assistance. "We'll come on over, Mr. Berra, but tell us how to get to your place." "Don't you guys use those little red trucks anymore?"

Way back when, we used to call Yogi "the fireplug with ears."

Gus :-)))


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

I never heard that one, Gus! Being from St. Louis, he is somewhat a local hero here, in spite of the fact he didn't play for the Cardinals.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 5 years ago from Bishop, Ca

So sorry I missed this wonderful tribute, Christoph. As was Mr. Berra, you're in rare form!

Take care, my friend!


DonM 2 years ago

I recently heard a story about Yogi. When he was doing the AFLAC

commercials on TV, some old friends visited him in Florida, and asked

him how he liked doing commercials. To which Yogi replied,

"You know the duck don't talk."


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 2 years ago from St. Louis Author

Ha, ha.


Sugar 24 months ago

Superior thinking deemtstranod above. Thanks!


ProSportandSpine profile image

ProSportandSpine 14 months ago from Gig Harbor, WA

Thanks for the great quotes from one of the greats!

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