When Yogi Berra died two weeks ago at age 90, I lost one of my childhood heroes. As a kid growing up, my favorite baseball team was the New York Yankees, and my favorite player was its catcher, Berra.
In my mind, he was the greatest bad ball hitter ever. He played in 14 World Series and was on the winning team in 10 of those. At about age 12, I recall writing him a fan letter and requesting an autograph, and he sent back a signed post card photo. I kept that for years and wish I could find it now.
Berra is a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame and is one of 21 Yankees to have his number retired, even though he shares that honor with the man he replaced behind the plate, Bill Dickey. Both Berra and Dickey wore No. 8.
Berra dropped out of school when he was in the eighth grade, but he has provided wisdom in the form of quotes that are unforgettable. I’m sure you have seen many of them published since his death.
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His most famous is, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” He wrote a book entitled, “I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said.”
Some other famous gems from Berra are:
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
“I always thought the record would stand before it was broken.”
“Always go to other peoples’ funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
On his wife Carmen going to see “Dr. Zhivago,” he said, “I didn’t know she was sick.”
“Ninety percent of the game of baseball is mental and the other half is physical.”
“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
On why he no longer went to a restaurant in his hometown of St. Louis, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet, “Thank you for making this necessary.”
On coming up short on a putt while playing golf, “If I had hit it harder, I would have missed it closer.”
And, “Steve McQueen looks good in the movie. He must have made it before he died.”
Bill Peterson, the late former head coach at Florida State and with the Houston Oilers in the NFL also had some great quotes:
“You guys line up alphabetically by height.”
“Pair up in groups of three and then line up in a circle.”
“Lead us in a word of silent prayer.”
“I’m the football coach around here, and don’t you remember it.”
“I used to have a slight speech impediment and couldn’t remember things before I took the Sam Carnegie course.”
“Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl.”
“Just remember the words of Patrick Henry. Kill me or let me live.”
“The greatest thing that just happened to me. I just got indicted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. They had a standing observation for me.”
And while Abe Lemons, who coached basketball at Texas and Oklahoma City, made better use of the English language than Berra or Peterson, he had some entertaining comments during his career:
“Finish last in your league, and they call you an idiot. Finish last in medical school, and they call you a doctor.”
“I don’t jog. If I die, I want to be sick.”
“I was in a hole-in-one contest and I had a three.”
“One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It doesn’t do you any good.”
“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
“Doctors bury their mistakes. Mine are still on scholarship.”
And when asked how to stop illegal recruiting, Lemons said, “Just give every coach the same amount of money and tell them they can keep what’s left.”
And finally one quote from boxer Muhammad Ali: “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com