Thursday, May 12, 2011

Top 10 Yogiisms

Happy 86th Birthday to Lawrence Peter Berra. The one and only Yogi. Here are my 10 favorite Yogiisms.

10. "I didn't really say everything I said." In other words, not every line attributed to Yogi is his own. For example, Yogi is often quoted as saying, "Ninety percent of baseball is mental. The other half is physical." Which is also sometimes written as, "Ninety percent of this game is half mental."

Apparently, though, this was first said by 1970s Phillies manager Danny Ozark, who was once asked about his team's morale, and he said, "Morality is not a problem on this club." He also said, instead of "Waterloo," "Even Napoleon had his Watergate."

9. "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore." I've heard that Yogi didn't really say this one, but when asked about it, he said, "Well, it ain't!" Which goes to show that, with a lot of Yogiisms, there's some truth to it.

8. Friends of Yogi and Carmen showed up at their house in a new car, and got out with a new dog. The wife said, "How do you like my new Afghan?" Yogi thought she was talking about the car, and he said, "It's nice. I'm thinking of getting a Vega."

7. "He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious." You mean "ambidextrous," Yoag. He may have been talking about Mickey Mantle.

Another Yogi story, which may be apocryphal (God only knows what Yogi would do with THAT word), says that Yogi was on a radio show, and the host wanted to play Word Association with him: I say something, and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. The host said, "Mickey Mantle." And Yogi said, "What about him?"

6. A woman once called Yogi a "fatalist." He said, "No, ma'am, I don't collect stamps." Fatalism, according to Wikipedia, "is the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. Included in this is that man has no power to influence the future, or indeed, his own actions." A stamp collector is not a fatalist, he's a philatelist.

5. Yogi was in Florida for spring training as a coach with the Mets while John Lindsay was Mayor of New York, and Lindsay took his wife Mary down to Florida for a vacation at the same time. Mrs. Lindsay sees Yogi dressed in a white suit to beat the Florida heat, and she says, "My, how cool you look." And he says, "Thanks. You don't look so hot yourself."

As far as I know, neither Mrs. Lindsay nor the Mayor held it against him. Asked about it years later, Yogi said, "She knew what I meant."

4. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." Depending on who you talk to, this was about Ruggiero's, a restaurant he and his across-the-street neighbor and fellow future big-league catcher/character Joe Garagiola, worked at as teenagers; or a restaurant in Minneapolis called Charley's.

On the DVD version of The Bronx Is Burning, there's a deleted scene where the actor playing Lou Piniella offers Yogi (played by Joe Grifasi, you played Phil Rizzuto in 61*) some pizza from a pizzeria near Yankee Stadium. Yogi says, "I don't know why they cut the pizza into 8 slices. I can't eat 8 slices. If they cut it into 4, I could eat the whole thing." (Well, sure, it's a mind game: If you see 4, you can eat 4, never mind that the 4 slices give you the same amount of pizza as the 8.) Yogi asks Lou where he got the pizza, and he names the place, and Yogi says, "Me and Carmen used to go there all the time." You don't anymore? "Oh, nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Then Lou asks about Carmen, and Yogi launches into a bunch of them: "We have a great time together, even when we're not together. 'Cause our similarities are different. You know what I mean?" Lou: "No, I don't." Yogi: "You know, I get that a lot." And somebody yells, "Hey, Yogi, what time is it?" And he says, "You mean now?"

Anyway, what Yogi meant was, "It's so crowded that you shouldn't go there anymore." Or maybe he meant, "Nobody that I know goes there anymore, because it's too crowded."

3. Take your pick of lines made up for Yogi to use in commercials. "What's your favorite Entenmann's?" "That's easy: Chocolate chip cookies. You can taste how good they are just by eatin' them." Can't argue with that! But if the Entenmann's ad takes the cake (Is that a Yogiism?), the AFLAC ad burns down the bakery: "If you get hurt and miss work, it won't hurt to miss work. And they give ya cash, which is just as good as money!"

If it had been Yogi, rather than Joe DiMaggio, who did commercials for The Bowery, he might've said, "If you don't go to The Bowery to get your money, you'll be broke." If he'd done commercials for The Money Store instead of Phil Rizzuto, he might've said, "They'll loan you money, just to type you over." And if he'd done commercials for Panasonic, instead of Reggie Jackson, he might've said, "With Panasonic, you can watch anything on TV, even when there's nothing on."

2. "It ain't over 'til it's over." Yogi said this as manager of the Mets during their 1973 Pennant run, which often gets overlooked due to its proximity to their 1969 "Miracle," but it was one strange race, in which 5 teams (the Mets, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs and even the Montreal Expos, in a Pennant race for the first time; every team in the National League Eastern Division except the Phillies) were in it, but none seemed to be trying too hard. The Mets ended up winning the Division at 82-79, the worst record any Division winner has ever had. (In 1994, the Texas Rangers were below .500 but still in first place in the AL West when the strike hit, but that doesn't count.)

Somebody tried to do a little revisionist history and said that Yogi actually said the line during another furious Pennant race, in 1964, when he was managing the Yankees and they held off the Chicago White Sox by 1 game and the Baltimore Orioles by 2. But it's too well-documented that he said it in '73. Nevertheless, this never-give-up wisdom is inscribed on his Plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.

1. "In baseball, you don't know nothin'." How true: Just when you think you've got this game figured out, it slugs you in the gut and proves you haven't got anything figured out. Or, rather, you ain't got nothin' figured out.

My mother came up with a Yogiism once: She said, "Turn out the light, I want to see something." I swear, I'm not making that up. She made it up.

I was watching a Yankee game a few years back, and the lumbering, oft-injured Jason Giambi was on first base. I knew he wouldn't be stealing second, because, as I put it, "Even when he could run, he couldn't run."

In light of Yogi's alleged response to a phone call, "Did I wake you up?" "No, that's okay, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway," which may have evolved into, "If I didn't wake up, I'd still be sleeping," on my first visit to the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, in Little Falls, New Jersey on the campus of Montclair State University, I wrote in the guest book, "If I hadn't come, I wouldn't have known what I was missing."

Did I do this list last year? I don't think so. If I did, then, as the man himself said, "It's deja vu all over again."

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