From here on this will be a story without quotes. Well, there will be two Yogi Berra comments at the end, but that will be about it. There will be no new Yogi-isms. There will be no bits from others about how much Berra means to baseball. There will be none of that.
Yogi Berra is 86 years old, and he is probably the most quoted athlete of the last 100 years. The sampling above represent only a few of the dozens and dozens of quips and one-liners and bits of wisdom that have been attributed to him. Yogi Berra has now crossed into that American realm—with Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Will Rogers—in which just about any famous collection of words gains prestige by being connected to his name. Just throw "As Yogi Berra says" in front of anything and, voilà, you're ready for the banquet circuit.
As Yogi Berra says, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
As Yogi Berra says, "If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."
As Yogi Berra says, "I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."
Yogi Berra also says, "I never said most of the things I said," which is probably the most telling of all the Yogi-isms. He said some of those things, didn't say others, but at this point even he is not sure what he did or didn't say. He only knows that the quotes have created a folk hero and kept him famous almost 50 years after he stopped playing baseball. He doesn't resent the image—he embraces it. He has appeared in beer commercials as Yogi Berra. He has done movie reviews as Yogi Berra. He has laughed about his connection to a pic-a-nic-basket-stealing cartoon character. (The cartoon's creators always insisted that Yogi Bear was not named for Berra even though Yogi Bear debuted just a few years after Yogi Berra won his third MVP award.) Berra even agreed to have his own museum connected to a college baseball stadium in the town next to the one in which he lives, although, as he pointed out in another Yogi-ism, you really are not supposed to get these things until you're dead.
The image has been good to him. But the image is not him. Larry Berra was a shy boy who quit school when he was 14 years old and went to work at a shoe factory. His brothers had to persuade his father to let him play ball. He was passed over by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. He stuck his head out the window of a rocket boat so he could see the explosions over Utah Beach on D Day. He won more championships than any player in the history of baseball. He jumped into the arms of the only man to ever throw a perfect game in the World Series. He watched Bill Mazeroski's fly ball soar over his head to end a World Series four years later. He married Carmen, the waitress he had a crush on and has lived happily ever after with since. After he was wronged by George Steinbrenner, he made Steinbrenner apologize to him. He has perhaps the highest baseball IQ of anyone to play the game—in his own modest way, he calls himself the luckiest.
And when you ask what it all has meant, tears well in his eyes.
He doesn't say a word.
Here is something to blow your mind: From 1957 through 1981 New York baseball teams appeared in 13 World Series. Yogi Berra—as player, coach or manager—appeared in every one of them. In all, Yogi Berra appeared in 21 World Series. Think about that. The number is so staggering, so overwhelming, that it defies attempts to make sense of it. The St. Louis Cardinals, the second most successful franchise behind Yogi's Yankees, have appeared in 17 World Series in their long history. At one point this season San Francisco, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Texas and Tampa Bay led their divisions—all six combined have not been in as many World Series as Yogi Berra.