Yogi Berra, Baseball’s Often-Quoted Sage of Wisdom

September 19, 2022

To say that Yogi Berra, baseball player, coach, and manager, had a way with words would be just plain wrong. The master of malapropism, Berra so abused the English language that his off-the-cuff quips have become just as legendary as Berra’s athletic accomplishments. 

Yankee Yogi Berra set a new home-run record for catchers when he hit the 237th homer of his career during the 5th inning of the New York-Detroit game on September 14th. In this colorized photograph, Berra holds the ball which he hit to make the new record

Berra never had more than an eighth-grade education (he did receive an honorary doctorate in 1996 from Montclair State University) and simply spoke quicker than his brain processed the words he was saying. In these colorized photos, let’s look at the career of Yogi Berra and some of the unintentionally witty, head-scratching quotes attributed to him. 

The Ballplayer with the Funny Name

Born in 1925, Berra’s given name was Lawrence. But when he and a friend saw a movie with a yogi character, his buddy, Jack Maguire who also went on to play professional baseball, began to call him “Yogi”. Soon, everyone called him that. Berra’s Major League Baseball career began in 1946, after he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II (and storming the beaches of Normandy), and lasted until 1965. During that time, he hit 358 home runs and was named the American League Most Valuable Player three times, making him one of only six players to hold this honor. One of the greatest catchers to ever play the sport, Berra caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. 

What Is a Malapropism? What’s a Yogism?

A colorized photo of New York Yankee Yogi Berra batting during the 4th World Series game against the San Francisco Giants. (Getty Images)

By definition, a malapropism is a phrase or a single word that is misused or inadvertently switched with a similar-sounding word. The result is often quite comical. Yogi Berra’s humorous slips of the tongue sometimes fell into the malapropism category. Others were mixed metaphors or simply baffling word choices. When interviewed by reporters after a game or trying to motivate his team, Berra could be counted on to leave folks with an amusing comment or two. These quips were so frequent that a new term was coined to explain them – Yogisms.

Famous Yogisms

Some of the best-known Yogisms credited to Yogi Berra include, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” “It’s déjà vu all over again,” and “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Berra once told his players to “Pair up in groups of three” and remarked, “It gets late early here.” Some of his Yogisms were so obvious that they were humorous when spoken out loud. He noted that “You can observe a lot by just watching” and “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” He once congratulated another player by saying, “I knew the record would stand until it was broken” and told an opponent “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”