May 11, 2018:

May 12, 2018 marks the 93rd anniversary of the birth of the late Hall of Fame catcher and philosopher, Lawrence Peter Berra. The son of Italian immigrants, Yogi Berra dropped out of school after eighth grade to help support his family. He held jobs in a coal yard and shoe factory while also indulging in his life’s passion, baseball. 

Berra began his professional career in 1943, playing in the Class B Piedmont League. After 110 games, he put his baseball ambitions on hold and joined the Navy. Berra served as a gunner’s mate during the D-Day invasion and received several commendations for his bravery. Two months later he participated in an Allied assault on Marseilles in which he was bloodied by a bullet and earned a Purple Heart.

After returning to the U.S., Berra made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1946. The twenty-one-year-old Berra made up for his diminutive stature with his extraordinary athletic skills. He was a classic “bad ball” hitter, being able to swing the ball like a golf club to hit low pitches while having equal success with high pitches. His teammate, Hector Lopez observed “Yogi had the fastest bat I ever saw. He could hit a ball late that was already past him and take it out of the park. The pitchers were afraid of him because he’d hit anything, so they didn’t know what to throw. Yogi had them psyched out and he wasn’t even trying to psyche them out.” Commenting on Berra’s ability to hit in the clutch, rival manager, Paul Richards opined “After the seventh inning, when runs count the most, he’s the most dangerous hitter who ever lived.”

In addition to his batting prowess, Berra was a peerless defensive catcher and outstanding handler of pitchers. He is one of only four catchers ever to field 1,000% in a season, playing 88 errorless games in 1958. He made the all-star team 18-times and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in history. Most baseball lists rank Berra as one of the three greatest catchers of all time including ESPN which lists only Johnny Bench and Josh Gibson ahead of him. Statistical guru Bill James ranks Berra as the top catcher who ever played.  

Yogi might have said that but it wasn’t original:

Yogi Berra was one of the most entertaining people on the planet with his paradoxical sayings, baffling sentence structure and malaprops. Reporters continually pressed the great catcher for quotes and he enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate his wit and wisdom. The media soaked up Berra’s “Yogisms” and really didn’t care if he was the originator. Some examples of misappropriated Yogisms are:
“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” was originated by Dan Cook of the San Antonio News-Express in 1976
“It’s déjà vu all over again!” was found by “Quote Investigator” to have been used in several newspapers during the 1960s.
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” was dismissed as an original by none other than Yogi in his book, “I really didn’t say everything I said”.
“Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t go to yours.”, appeared in the New Yorker and other publications in the 1940s.

Yogi did originate:

 “I never said most of the things I said”
“You can observe a lot by watching”
“Pair up in threes” 
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is”
“Never answer an anonymous letter” 
“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” was part of Yogi’s driving directions to his house in Montclair, New Jersey. There is a fork in the road, and whichever road you choose will take you to the house.

“He made this picture before he died” Berra said this about Steve McQueen after watching “The Magnificent Seven”

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”  Yogi said this in August 1973 while the Mets whom he was managing were in fifth place. They went on a tear in September and won the National League East.

 Bottom’s up and a tip of the cap to Yogi- A true original.

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