Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons inMajor League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. An 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Yogi Berra’s plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame (top) and in Monument Park. (bottom).
A native of St. Louis, Berra signed with the Yankees in 1943 before serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Making his major league debut in 1946, he was a mainstay in the Yankees’ lineup during the team’s championship years in the 1940s and 1950s. Despite his short stature, Berra was a power hitter and strong defensive catcher. Berra caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the only perfect game in MLB postseason history.
After playing 18 seasons with the Yankees, Berra retired following the 1963 season. He spent one season as their manager, then joined the New York Mets in 1965 as coach (and briefly a player again).
Berra remained with the Mets for the next decade, the latter four years of which were spent as their manager. Berra returned to the Yankees in 1976, coaching them for eight seasons and managing for two, before coaching the Houston Astros. He was one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. As a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series and won 13 of them.
The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 in 1972 and honored him with a plaque in Monument Park in 1988. Berra was named to the MLB All-Century Team in a vote by fans in 1999. For the remainder of his life, he was closely involved with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which he opened on the campus of Montclair State University in 1998. Berra, who quit school after the eighth grade, was also known for his malapropisms as well as pithy and paradoxical quotes, such as “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, while speaking to reporters. Simultaneously denying and confirming his reputation, Berra once stated, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
Yogi Berra (right) with Sparky Anderson (left) and George W. Bush (center)
Berra married Carmen Short on January 26, 1949. They had three sons and were long-time residents of Montclair, New Jersey, until his wife’s declining health caused them to move into a nearby assisted living facility. Two of Berra’s sons also played professional sports. Dale Berra played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees (managed by Yogi in 1984–85), and Houston Astros;
Tim Berra played pro football for the Baltimore Colts in 1974. Carmen Berra died on March 6, 2014, from complications of a stroke, the couple having recently celebrated their 65th anniversary. Following Carmen’s death, the house in Montclair was listed for sale for $888,000, a reference to Yogi’s uniform number.
Berra as the New York Mets’ first base coach, 1969.
Berra died of natural causes during his sleep at an assisted living facility in West Caldwell, New Jersey, on September 22, 2015, 69 years to the day after his MLB debut. To honor Berra, the Yankees added an “8” patch to their uniforms, and the Empire State Building was lit with blue and white vertical “pinstripes”.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all flags in the city to be lowered to half-mast for a day in tribute. A moment of silence was held before the September 23 games of the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Mets, Nationals, Tigers, Pirates, and his hometown team the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as the ALPB’s Long Island Ducks.
“Yogi-isms”and Yogi Quotes
Berra in 2007
“A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
“It gets late early out here.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
“We’re lost but we’re making great time!”
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
“Take it with a grain of salt.”
“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
“We made too many wrong mistakes.”
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
“I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.”
“We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.”
“If you don’t set goals, you can’t regret not reaching them.”
“Ninety per cent of short putts don’t go in.”
“Eighty per cent of the balls that don’t reach the hole don’t go in.”
“I think they just got through marinating the greens.”
On travel gear:
“Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.”
“The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”
“I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”
On “fan” mail:
“Never answer an anonymous letter.”
On selecting a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
On economics: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
On a slipping batting average: “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. … I just ain’t hitting.”
On travel directions: “When you come to a fork in the road take it.”
On battling the shadows in left field at Yankee Stadium: “It gets late early out there.”
On being given a day in his honour: “Thank you for making this day necessary.”
On a spring training drill: “Pair off in threes.” The other half is physical.”
On death: “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
On his team’s diminishing pennant chances: “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
On the fractured syntax attributed to him: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
It’s deja-vu all over again.
(Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back to back home runs in the Yankees’ seasons in the early 1960s.)
The future ain’t what it used to be.
If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t come to yours.
We’re lost, but we’re making great time!
A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.
You better cut the pizza in four pieces. I’m not hungry enough to eat eight.
You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
You can observe a lot just by watching.
No, you didn’t wake me up. I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.
Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.
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.)
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?” To this, Yogi replied, “Surprise me.”
I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.
If you don’t set goals, you can’t regret not reaching them.
Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked.
If you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you will end up somewhere else.
(When bumped by a man carrying a grandfather clock) Why can’t you wear a watch like everybody else?
I really didn’t say everything I said.
If you ask me a question I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.
It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.
The only reason I need these gloves is ’cause of my hands.
You can’t think and hit at the same time.
If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.
If I didn’t wake up, I’d still be sleeping.
The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.
If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.
Never answer an anonymous letter.
90% of the game is half mental.
It’s never happened in the World Series history – and it hasn’t happened since.
I’m as red as a sheet.
It’s not too far, it just seems like it is.
Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.
We were overwhelming underdogs.
You mean now? (When asked for the time.)
We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.
Little League baseball is a good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets and the kids out of the house.
Pair up in threes.
Don’t get me right, I’m just asking.
I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.
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 short putts don’t go in.
We made too many wrong mistakes.
Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself. (After being told he looked cool.)
If people don’t want to come to the ball park, how are you going to stop them?
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. (On the acquisition of Rickey Henderson.)
I knew exactly where it was, I just couldn’t find it.
If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.
I don’t know, I’m not in shape yet. (When asked what size cap he wanted.)
I want to thank you for making this day necessary. (On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in 1947.)
I don’t remember leaving, so I guess we didn’t go.
I usually take a two hour nap, from one to four.
Steve McQueen looks good in this movie. He must have made it before he died.
It gets late early out there. (Referring to the sun conditions in left field at the stadium.)
It was hard to have a conversation with anyone – there were too many people talking.
I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.
Texas has a lot of electrical votes. (During an election campaign – after George Bush stated that Texas was important to the election.)
I really liked it. Even the music was good. (When asked if he liked the opera one evening.)
Shut up and talk.
Carmen said “I took Tim to see Doctor Zhivago today.” Yogi replied, “What the hell’s wrong with him now?”
On his own words:
“I never said most of the things I said.”