Words From the Yogi

by wjw on June 26, 2015

9-yogi-berra_650The great Yankees catcher Yogi Berra was famous for his “Yogisms,” malapropisms that kept the sports press amused (and Yogi in the headlines).  Things like, “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”

Which is amusing enough, but maybe I (and the rest of the world) have been underestimating Yogi’s profundity all this time.  I’d been assuming all along that “Yogi” was a name or nickname from whatever part of Old Europe the Berra family hailed from, but I recently learned that the nickname was bestowed on him by a fellow ball player, who thought he looked like a yogi when he adopted his habitual cross-legged, cross-armed position in the dugout.

Which started me thinking— what if Yogi Berra actually was a Siddha?  Because, if you look at them the right way, a lot of Yogisms have a kind of koan-like quality that might be indicative of a great spiritual teacher.  (Consider the photo above, where Yogi is caught making the Varada mudra with one hand, and the Chin mudra with the other.)  Consider how profound the following would be considered if they came from Bodhidarma instead of a baseball player:

“The game’s isn’t over until it’s over.”

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

“Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

“Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.”

“How can you hit and think at the same time?”

“I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”

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

“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”

“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice there is.”

“I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”

“I never said most of the things I said.”

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

“You can’t just tell people an apparently obvious tautology or paradoxical contradiction without talking about apparently obvious tautologies or paradoxical contradictions.”

“It gets late early out there.”

“It’s like deja vu all over again.”

“Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

“Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

“Take it with a grin of salt.”

“You can observe a lot just by watching.”

“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

When it comes to Yogi Berra, maybe we know only half of the fifty percent of the iceberg that’s not above the surface.

(Which leads to a question.  I have seen Hanna-Barbera cartoons played in countries outside of the U.S., where they wouldn’t know baseball players.  What do they make of Yogi Bear over there?  Do they think he’s meant to be a profoundly spiritual cartoon character or something?)

Chris Krohn June 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

His comment about tautologies rocked me back on my heels.

TRX June 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I dunno, I don’t know any American sports figures or team games. Particularly not those of a couple of generations before mine. I’m pretty sure I was just as clueless about some of those cartoons as the proverbial Trobriand Islander.

Similarly, Disney was never a part of my childhood. I’ve picked up the usual bits and bobs by cultural assmosis, but probably half the world is more familiar with the oeuvre than I am.

mearsk June 30, 2015 at 10:20 am

It actually took me years after watching the cartoons to make the connection between Yogi Bear and Yogi Berra. I only had the vaguest idea of who Yogi Berra was until that Aflac commercial, years ago.

grs1961 July 1, 2015 at 10:28 am

Here in Oz, “Yogi” was just a bear in a cartoon series, baseball didn’t exist. (It does, now. Along with those stupid caps that lead to melanoma of the ears.)

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