Yogi Berra – baseball legend, D-Day veteran, lovable philosopher – will be missed for many reasons.
But he’ll live on through his Yogi-isms – a treasure trove of witty quips widely credited to him, more or in some cases less accurately.
Made that much funnier because the humor was unintended, they were, and will continue to be, a godsend to politicians trying to be amusing, and to reporters struggling with writer’s block.
I confess that I resorted to them a few times during my days as a City Hall and legislative correspondent, but it’s a rare journalist who hasn’t typed the phrase: “As Yogi Berra once said …”
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You’ve heard Yogi-isms, and probably used them yourself:
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
“It’s déjà vu all over again.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
Or my personal favorite: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
His death late Tuesday has been somewhat overshadowed by the historic visit of Pope Francis. But Berra’s life of accomplishment shouldn’t go unnoticed. On the field, he was a Hall of Famer and a key player in 10 World Series titles won by the New York Yankees. He took part in the Normandy landing and was awarded a Purple Heart after being shot in Marseilles. He even inspired a beloved cartoon character, Yogi Bear.
Those who knew him say he was much more intelligent and shrewd than his public persona. Berra himself wrote a book claiming that he didn’t necessarily say everything attributed to him, or at least not precisely the way it was reported.
Still, not many of us can boast that our words, or even our supposed words, are part of popular culture. While the quotes may have been mangled, they often had a kernel of truth, or advice for a good life.
As the Yogi-ism says, “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
There will be plenty of people at Berra’s, in person and in spirit.