The iconic New York Yankees baseball player, Yogi Berra, passed away recently at the age of 90. Born Lawrence Peter Berra, he was nicknamed by childhood friends who noticed his cross-legged pose while waiting to bat resembled that of a Hindu practicing yoga, which they’d seen in a movie. His nickname would have to be one of the most recognized nicknames in sports.
Not only does his name precede him, but his wit and wisdom, evident in the many memorable phrases that he may (or as it turns out, may not) have coined. Such phrases have become fondly known as ‘Yogi-isms’, and continue to be referenced today. For example, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” and “it’s déjà vu all over again” and “you can observe a lot just by watching.”
He had a knack for stating the absurdly obvious in a philosophical kind of way. Apparently he was one of the most quoted Americans since Mark Twain, and his sayings have been mentioned in 124 decisions by federal judges, according to lawyer Michael McCann.
Beyond his goofy sense of humor and sharp-witted one-liners, what Yogi Berra was, first and foremost, was a sporting hero. He had a cracking baseball career (pun very much intended). If you’re a baseball fan (and even if you’re not), the stats speak for themselves: over 18 seasons, he hit 358 home runs and only struck out 414 times.
Described as a notorious bad-ball hitter, he set the career home-run record for American League catchers, and holds numerous World Series records. His former manager, the late Casey Stengal, once said of his pitching talent: “He looks cumbersome, but he’s quick as a cat.” After retiring as a player he went on to become a manager and a coach.
Those who knew Berra adored him, not only for his athletic prowess, but for his generosity of spirit, often supporting and mentoring others. He always stood up for himself (“I never said most of the things I said”) and had strong principles. At the end of his baseball career Berra reminisced: “It was fun. If I had to do it over, I’d do it again.” That’s a sign of a life well lived.