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Yogi Berra’s Funniest ‘Yogi-isms’

Yogi Berra made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees in 1946. The 21-year-old catcher would go on to play 19 seasons — all but the last season for the Yankees — in a career that made him a baseball legend. He won 10 World Series championships as a player (more than anyone else), was an 18-time All-Star, won the MVP award three times, and hit 358 home runs. In 1972, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he is still regarded as one of the greatest catchers of all time. But before he even made his debut, Berra was already a hero: He took part in the Normandy landings during World War II, earning a Purple Heart.

Beyond baseball, Yogi Berra became famous for what he said. Known as “Yogi-isms,” his comments were a mix of impromptu witticisms, observations, and occasional malapropisms. He has also been linked to a wide array of well-known quotes, often spuriously. He didn’t say, for example, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” despite often being attributed with it. (He might have coined, “The game isn't over till it's over,” but even that is unclear.)

Still, Yogi Berra did come up with many funny lines, even if some of his jokes were already in circulation. Whether the humor was deliberate or unintentional is sometimes hard to say. Berra himself said, “I don’t think I ever said anything intentionally funny in my life. Sometimes the quotes just happen — I just don’t know when I’ll say them.” Here are some of the funny “Yogi-isms” that have been attributed to the witty Yankee through the years.

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

This quote may not have originated with Berra, but he certainly helped popularize it. It’s also possible that he said it with unintentional humor. According to a 2009 biography, Berra was explaining how to get to his house, and said that you could take a right or a left at the fork as both roads eventually arrived at his home.

You can observe a lot by watching.

Berra said this line at a press conference in 1963. As with many of his famous quotes, it’s hard to say if it was a gaffe or intended to be funny.

Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.

Again, it’s hard to know if this was a gaffe or intentional humor. Either way, it’s another classic Berra line.

I want to thank everybody for making this night necessary.

Here we have an example of a Berra gaffe that had unintentionally funny results. He delivered the line, or a variation of it (reports differ), during a speech in 1947. He should have said “possible” rather than “necessary,” much to the mirth of the press.

If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.

Berra said this line, or a variation of it, when commenting on declining baseball attendances in Kansas City.

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Berra confirmed that he said this line in reference to Ruggeri’s restaurant in his old neighborhood in St. Louis. But it’s possible he’d heard the quip before, as it was already in circulation. Still, he definitely helped popularize it.

Nah, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.

This was Berra’s witty response when, very early in the morning, the phone rang and the caller apologetically said, “I hope I didn’t wake you.” Again, the joke was already in circulation, so it’s possible Berra had heard it before.

It doesn’t matter if you’re ugly in this racket. All you have to do is hit the ball, and I never saw anyone hit with his face.

Berra had to put up with some unpleasant comments about his appearance, including some from detractors who called him “The Ape.” This (or a similar version of it) was his stock reply to them.

I really didn’t say everything I said.

Berra came out with this witty remark in 1986, nicely demonstrating the classic style of his “Yogi-isms.”

Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor/ via Getty Images

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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