Yogi Berra‘s baseball exploits as a New York Yankees catching great spoke for themselves. He spoke for himself in a charmingly fractured way that introduced “Yogi-isms” such as “It’s déjà vu all over again” into the American lexicon.
The Hall of Famer died at the of 90 on Tuesday evening, the Yogi Berra Museum announced. He undoubtedly would be reminding people of what he once said: “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
Berra was a free swinger who loved to chase pitches way out of the strike zone. “If I can hit it, it’s a good pitch,” he said of a career that spanned 18 seasons with the Yankees. Thirteen of those seasons ended in the World Series, and Berra was a part of 10 Yankees championship teams.
He batted .285 with 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in a career that finished with a short stint with the New York Mets in 1965.
Behind the plate, he was a classic catcher, adept at handling pitchers, comfortable in the squat position and skilled in using his quickness to smother their wild offerings.
He also managed the Yankees and Mets and led both to the World Series, never winning. But long after his playing/managing days, Berra maintained a public profile as one of baseball’s all-time classic personalities.
Joe Garagiola, a childhood friend of Berra’s in an Italian neighborhood in St. Louis known as “The Hill,” also became a catcher in the major leagues but gained his fame as a broadcaster and baseball humorist.
He once told the story of how Berra gave his wife, Carmen, an anniversary card signed, “Yogi Berra.” She asked him if he figured he had to sign his last name so that she wouldn’t confuse him with somebody else named “Yogi.”
Berra became known for saying lots of memorable things — although whether he actually said some or they were created by the media has been a matter of conjecture. One of the many books he authored said it all: The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!
Some other Yogi-isms:
“When you come to a fork in the road … take it.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
“It gets late early out here.”
After being fired as manager of the Mets in 1975, Berra became a coach with the Yankees. He was named their manager in 1984, but was fired by owner George Steinbrenner early in the 1985 season.
That caused a split between Steinbrenner and Berra, who said he never would return to Yankee Stadium. The rift ended in 2000 after Steinbrenner went to Berra’s Montclair, N.J., home to visit. When Steinbrenner died in 2010, Berra remembered him as a “gracious and great man.”
Berra’s personality made him much sought after as an advertising pitchman. He did ads for Yoo-Hoo chocolate drinks, Puss ‘n Boots cat food and many more products. In 2010, Berra was featured in a national ad campaign by iXP Corporation, which provides public safety and security strategies for municipalities, hospitals, colleges and more.
One iXP ad focused on budget issues faced in public safety with a line from Berra: “A nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore.” Another Berra line in that campaign: “If it’s an emergency, it’s usually urgent.”
In the early 1990s, Berra’s sons Larry, Tim and Dale formed LTD Enterprises to meet the demand for their father’s autographs and memorabilia. LTD
operates YogiBerra.com and the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, Berra opened with a kidding reference to one of his Yogi-Isms: “I guess the first thing I should do is thank everybody who made this day necessary.”
He went on to thank the Yankees and Mets, the fans, his friends and teammates and family.
“And last of all,” he said, “I want to thank baseball. It has given me more than I could ever hope for.”