The World Lost A National Treasure Today
I Never Saw Him Play
His time came and ended before I was old enough to watch him play. I only saw him in clips, videos, on various television shows detailing the greats of the game. But his personality, his love of life, his overall joy at just being who he was shone through in everything he did. Perhaps I know him best for the quotes, the sayings, the "Yogi-isms" attributed to him. Some he uttered; some perhaps not. Whether he did or did not give voice to some of the sayings they nonetheless were attributed to him and even if they were not his they speak volumes about how he was thought of, adored, even loved by a public that knew him in the same manner I did.
The statistics speak for themselves: 15 straight years he was an All Star; more RBI's (1,430) than any other catcher in Baseball; led the league in assists five time; 148 consecutive games without an error; a 10 time World Champion; 3 time MVP; and leading the team in RBI's five times when Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle were playing. Tell me: how does that happen?
Perhaps one of the most astounding statistics that jumped out at me in researching Yogi was that although he swung at almost anything within his reach he almost never struck out. Called "a notorious bad ball hitter" he only struck out 414 times in a 19 year career. If my information is correct, in his worst year he struck out 38 times. There are players today that strike out that much in a month and exceed his lifetime total in two years!
Fellow St. Louis native and Major League Baseball catcher/announcer Joe Garagiola grew up near Yogi. He was once questioned about his ability to play the same position (catcher) as Yogi. Reportedly he said "How could I ever say I was a great catcher when I wasn't even the best catcher on my block?" Even Joe had a Yogi-ism of sorts when speaking about Yogi.
"I Didn't Really Say Everything I Said!"
But it is the sayings, the "Yogi-isms" that I, and perhaps most people, know him best for. Sayings like:
"Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"You can observe a lot just by watching."
"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."
My personal favorite was "It was like deja vu all over again."
Then there was "It ain't over till it's over"; "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical"; and "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore".
Oftentimes his words would bring a "Huh?" or a chuckle but if you looked beyond the surface you just might find there was more wit there than simple humor.
Some years back, his wife Carmen asked of him "Yogi, where would you like to be buried?". He thought for a moment then told her he need to sleep on it. The next morning he gave her his answer:
How fitting, how typical of this beloved man. One who inspired a generation with his play, and more by his wit and wisdom. He was even used in a commercial in which he uttered the immortal words
"They give you cash, which is just as good as money". Oh Yogi, how you will be missed. Never will I see an episode of the cartoon inspired by him, Yogi Bear, again without missing his smile, his wisdom. Our nation lost another war hero, as Yogi fought on the beach at Normandy. baseball lost perhaps its greatest ambassador to the world, and the Yankees lost perhaps their greatest living legend.
He was a giant of a man on the field of play although he was only 5' 7". His play placed him on the shoulders of the average player and allowed him to reach into the upper echelons of the greatest to ever play the game. His place in the Hall of Fame, to which he reportedly stated (in his typical humble fashion):
"I guess the first thing I should do is thank everybody who made this day necessary" is revered alongside the Babe, the Mick, the Yankee Clipper and the Iron Man and other Yankee greats. Someday soon others will be added there, sharing the space inside the Hall such as Jeter and Mo, but forevermore there will ever be only one Yogi. God broke the mold when he was born and there will never be another. I know that somewhere up there, God is standing beside Yogi and something sweet and endearing is being uttered by Yogi causing a smile to crease the face of God. We lost him here but he gained a permanent home up there.
The world lost a national treasure today. I think that kind of sounds like a Yogi-ism itself, don't you?