Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Yogi!

Roughly 11 years ago, I had the opportunity to interview that lovable baseball legend and word-smith Yogi Berra at his museum in Upper Montclair, N.J.

The man who wound up in both the Baseball Encyclopeida and Barlett’s Familiar Quotations graciously took me on a tour of his miniature Baseball Hall of Fame.

I remember stopping at the case housing the 10 World Series rings the Yogster won as a catcher with the New York Yankees.

“I have this running joke with Derek Jeter,’’ he told me. “He already has three rings in just four years, and he asks me how many more he needs to catch me. When I tell him seven, he says, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ He says he will keep plugging away because one day he wants to be like me. He calls me the ‘Liberace of Baseball’ because I have a ring for every finger.”

Jeter has since added two more pieces of World Series jewelry to his collection, but it’s doubtful the 37-year-old shortstop will ever supplant Berra as the Bronx Bombers’ Lord of the Rings.

I bring up Yogi on this fine, sunshiny, spring day because it is his 86th birthday.

In honor of this festive occasion, I offer a sampling of some of Lawrence Peter Berra’s more famous malapropisms:

• It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

• I really didn’t say everything I said.

• If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

• A nickel ain’t worth a dime any more.

• You can observe a lot by watching.

• Ninety percent of the game is half mental.

• Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.

• There’s a record that’ll stand until it’s broken.

• If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?

• Let’s pair up in threes.

• We won even though we were overwhelming underdogs.

• You can’t think and hit at the same time.

• If I didn’t wake up, I’d still be sleeping.

• It gets late early out there.

• Kid, you ain’t in no slump. You just ain’t hitting.

• It’s deju-vu all over again.

By the way, that photo I took of Yogi is one of my favorites. He's standing in front of a photograph of Jackie Robinson stealing home against Whitey Ford in the World Series. The umpire called Jackie safe, but a half-century later, Yogi continues to insist otherwise.

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