Column: Remembering the talented, whimsical, iconic Yogi Berra

A ball placed by Aaron Bertone, 9, of Clifton, N.J., is seen at the feet of a statue of former New York Yankees hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra outside of the Yogi Berra Museum, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Little Falls, N.J. Berra died Tuesday at the age of 90. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Have you ever asked somebody for directions and gotten the response, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it?” You might have, if you had asked baseball icon Yogi Berra. 

Lawrence Peter Berra, more famously known as “Yogi” Berra, died of natural causes on Wednesday. Following the news, fellow big names in the MLB took to social media to offer their condolences and memories of Berra.

“Yogi Berra’s legacy transcends baseball," Hal Steinbrenner, current owner of the New York Yankees, said in a statement. "Though slight in stature, he was a giant in the most significant of ways through his service to his country, compassion for others and genuine enthusiasm for the game he loved.”

Berra was a professional baseball catcher for 19 years in the MLB, spending most of his time with the New York Yankees. His astounding career included 358 homeruns, 1,430 RBI’s and a .285 batting average. Following his years as a player, Berra coached and became a manager first for the Mets, Yankees and then Astros.

As a player, Berra was recognized as one of the most valuable players in the league, culminating with his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. In his 19 years as a professional player, Berra saw 14 World Series, ten of which he won. He was also elected as an all-star 18 times.

Baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike recognize the name Yogi Berra, if not for his baseball stats then for his famous quotations. When I was in the fourth grade, I was a dedicated Red Sox fan. Despite my devotion to Boston, I spent much of my free time in school reading a book my teacher kept in the class library about a famous Yankee. “The Yogi Book” made me laugh and never got old. 

I admired Yogi’s disrespect for basic mathematical equations, as seen in the quote, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” 

Or his friendly advice on how to make sure your funeral wasn’t lame, “Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.” 

His philosophical observations, which, by the way, “You can observe a lot just by watching,” (Berra), weren’t to be taken too seriously, but they always had some truth behind the initial humor. 

I remember someone describing his quotes, which have been deemed “Yogisms,” as just being oxymorons. While some of his quotes seem to fit that category, “No one goes there nowadays its too crowded,” or “We made too many wrong mistakes,” they were more than that. They were funny, they were puzzling and often times they contained buried pieces of advice.

Yogi was also quoted as saying, “I really didn’t say everything I said.” I picture Berra saying this with a smirk, neither confirming nor denying his famous quotes, rather throwing another into the mix and continuing to vex us all.

Many are familiar with Berra’s incredible baseball record and or his famous Yogisms, but let’s look at some things that you might not know about the legend. 

Lawrence received the nickname “Yogi” in his late childhood after a friend thought he resembled a yogi in a movie about India. The name stuck ever since. Yogi’s schooling career ended when he dropped out in the eighth grade.

In 1998, he opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ. The center is located on the Montclair State University Campus, and contains artifacts from his career. The museum offers baseball and softball training camps, as well as recognizes leadership in student athletes with the Best Teammate Award Program. Berra took a break between signing with the Yankees in 1943, and making his debut in 1946. During those three years, Berra served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. 

Yogi will be missed in and out of the baseball world and his witty quotes will carry on his legacy beyond his passing. As the great Yogi once said-or didn’t say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”


Mary Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mary.burkhardt@uconn.edu.