The Yogi Book: “I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said”

Author’s Note: Yogi Berra passed away on Sept. 22, 2015 at the age of 90.

The month of October is upon us and to each reader October carries unique meanings. For some, the month of October means the arrival of autumn in its entire colorful splendor. For others, October conjures the excitement of Halloween. However, for me October means: The World Series. The month of October has given birth to many sports legends. As a Red Sox fan, (I will pause for your collective groans,) and like most baseball fans experiencing games in October can be either exasperating or jubilant. I may be a Red Sox fan but one of my favorite all-time sports personalities and heroes is the great Yankee’s Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi Berra.

Berra, who is often one of the most quoted celebrities, as his “Yogisms” have been a pop culture staple for decades. Berra’s Yogisms have retained their notoriety and show no indication of fading from cultural linguists. For those who are unfamiliar with Yogisms, Yogisms are Berra’s famous, off-color, quirky and often dead-on life sayings or observations. Berra compiled his favorite Yogisms into a book entitled, The Yogi Book or as I like to call it “The Book of Yogi.” In celebration of the arrival of October and the World Series, I am counting down my favorite Yogisms.

5. “I really didn’t say everything I said!” Yogi writes that he said this to a reporter when the reporter inquired about his famous phrases. Yogi does not remember saying all of his famous colloquiums, therefore prompting the response “I really didn’t say everything I said.” Do we really say everything we actually speak? The answer is no. Everything we say is clouded by individual interpretations, memory, personal experiences and our own biases and judgments. Basically, Yogi is right. No one says everything they say.

4. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi details these directions when helping friend Joe Garagiola navigate to Yogi’s house in Montclair, New Jersey. Yogi’s directions are more about life than geographical directions. I always view this quote as meaning when coming to a fork in life’s road (making a difficult decision) take that fork in the road (make that decision with confidence). Making decisions and taking the fork in the road is the true meaning behind Yogi’s words.

3. “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.” This phrase originated at a batting practice when Yogi’s teammate Ron Swoboda remarked he wanted to hit like Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson. Swoboda copied Robinson’s style of standing close to the plate but did not have the same success as Robinson; hence Yogi’s famed phrase. Yogi’s advice can be simply defined as do not idly and blindly copy those you admire. Foolishly imitating others does not yield successful results. We can imitate our heroes’ styles as a form of flattery, but learn from their styles to better yourself. Unwisely and uncritically emulating those whom we admire will not make us superior versions of ourselves.

2. “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Generations have been voicing this opinion for years. Aging generations lament to those who are younger that the future is not what it used to be and nothing can be truer. It always seems that we hold the opinion that the world has been falling apart since the conception of time. Yogi is not stating that the future is worse off or better. Our present situations and choices affect our opinion and hopes for the future. Yogi simply means that as present times change so does our expectations and realties of the future. As Yogi himself explains, times are “just different.”

1. “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over!” For Yogi the game was not over until the last out of the ninth inning. Often we throw in the towel too easily. When the going gets tough, it is often easier to stop short of our expected goal. Equally devastating is when others doubt our abilities and the faith we have in ourselves, as they hope for a premature ending to our goals and objectives. Yogi reminds us that it is not over until these goals have been reached. For countless years to come, Yogi’s influence will make a lasting impact through not only his accomplishments on the field but his inspirational and sometimes humorous words.

I believe it is important for the reader to consider that as a three time MVP and ten time World Series Champion, Berra’s life observations should not be considered mindless or uneducated. Writing off his words would be committing a great injustice not only to this brilliant man but to the reader, who can learn to appreciate Berra’s play on words and Berra’s play on life. After all Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching.” We can all learn/observe a lot just by watching Yogi Berra’s joy for life, which oozes from the pages of Berra’s text. Rest in Peace Yogi.