Simanaitis Says

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YOGI BERRA WAS famed as a baseball catcher and also as a wordsmith of the highest order. He was an 18-time All Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player, more than any other in MLB history. In 1972, Yogi was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, 1925–2015, played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, all but the last with the New York Yankees. This image, from 1953, by Bowman Gum from Wikipedia.

But, what of his wordsmithship (if, indeed, there is such a word)? “Yogi-isms” are legendary, as noted recently by the website Inspiring Quotes, by Wikipedia, and at elsewhere on the Internet. Here are several of my favorites, all the better when you sense the innate logic lurking beneath Yogi’s comments.

Yogi, as first base coach for the New York Mets, 1969. Image from Wikipedia.

“When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It.” The joke’s on us saying, “But which fork?” Actually, he was giving directions to his home: Either choice got there.

On Rigazzi’s Restaurant, in his native St. Louis: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Of course, we all know what he meant. It’s understood who’s the nobody and who’s the crowd.

On Funeral Attendance. “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.” There’s a parallel here with the Rigazzi logic. 

On Ballgame Attendance: “If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how the hell are you gonna stop them.” 

On Repeated Redundancies: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” A first-born American of Italian immigrants, it’s likely Yogi spoke Italian. I suspect he didn’t speak italics, though Merriam-Webster does.

Yogi, in 2000. Image from Wikipedia.

On Wrong Numbers. From Inspiring Quotes: “Nah, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.” The website continues, “This was Berra’s witty response when, very early in the morning, the phone rang and the caller apologetically said, ‘I hope I didn’t wake you…’ Again, the joke was already in circulation, so it’s possible Berra had heard it before.”

It reminds me of the cartoon when the befuddled answerer says, “You’ve got the wrong idiot, you number!”

On Percentages and Fractions. “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” Inspiring Quotes comments, “Again, it’s hard to know if this was a gaffe or intentional humor. Either way, it’s another classic Berra line.” 

Wikipedia offers an erudite observation: “His “Yogi-isms” very often took the form of either an apparent tautology or a contradiction, but often with an underlying and powerful message that offered not just humor, but also wisdom. 

Apocryphal Yogi: “I really didn’t say everything I said.” 

This reminds me of the dotty old lady who said, “How ever do I know what I say until I say it.” Well into dotage myself, I know what she meant. And I often agree precisely with what Yogi said. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021


  1. Bill Rabel
    September 16, 2021

    My uncle Putt (Col. Milton Marsten Turner, U.S. Army Air Forces) would make this offhand remark after a cocktail had been going for a while: “Y’know, I feel a lot more like I do now than I did when I came.”

  2. Bob DuBois
    September 16, 2021

    I lived in St. Louis for many years, and had several chances to eat at Rigazzi’s. Great Italian food, but, mainly, HUGE schooners of draft beer!

  3. Keith Jackson
    September 17, 2021

    My vote for Yogi’s most apt baseball insight: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

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