In the recent past, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inducted three former professional players because of their lifetime achievements in the sport. One of them was Rickey Henderson, a flamboyant and fiery player who was elected by the ballots of sports writers in his first year of eligibility for the Hall (five years after retirement). A second honoree, Jim Rice, was on the ballot for the 15th (and last possible) time before being voted in by 75% of the official ballots. A third player, Joe Gordon, was honored posthumously, having died in 1978. He was elected by a special ballot of the Veterans Committee, which has the responsibility of evaluating older players who may have been mistakenly kept out of the Hall of Fame immediately following their retirement.
As I thought about great American baseball players of the past, I was reminded of an American icon of the game, New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. Berra was a baseball star of the 1940s and 50s and is still alive at this writing. More than just an elite athlete, he is seen as a kind of down-home American philosopher. Although Berra had only an 8th grade education, he is more quoted than most American Presidents. His quotations, called Yogi-isms, have an undeniable element of truth to them, even though they are not always logical, grammatical, or complete.
Here are a few of his unintended witticisms:
- About the outcome of a baseball game: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
- “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
- “I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”
- “It’s deja vu all over again.”
- “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
- “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
- The champion 1969 NY Mets were “overwhelming underdogs.”
- “Do you mean now?” he said when asked what time is was.
- To the crowds on Yogi Berra Day, St Louis, 1947: “I want to thank you for making this day necessary.”
- On why New York lost the 1960 championship to Pittsburgh: “We made too many wrong mistakes.”
- “You can observe a lot by watching.”
- “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
- On sunset in the western U.S. time zones: “It gets late early out here.”
- “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
- On public attendance at games: “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.”