I really didn’t say everything I said!”
We can attribute this quote to the late, great Yogi Berra, one of the most successful catchers in baseball history and also one of our most quotable American celebrities. Many of us know Yogi for some of his memorable quotes such as, “It’s deja vu all over again.” And some of his quotes are real head-scratchers; for example, when someone asked him whether to cut his pizza into four or eight slices, he replied four because he didn’t think he could eat eight.
Yet, some of Yogi’s quotes, though they seem outrageous on the surface, can actually be filled with wisdom. Here are some of my favorites:
“It ain’t over till it’s over.” This is one of Yogi’s most famous quotes. When he was managing the New York Mets in 1973, his team was far behind in the division, and he said this to a reporter. The team ended up coming back to win the division. The point is to never give up, no matter how bleak things may seem.
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” This is one of the more pessimistic quotes I selected. To me, it means that as things keep getting more expensive and material goods are harder to obtain, we should cherish and be thankful for what we have.
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi said this when he was giving directions to someone, but I think it has deeper meaning. When we are faced with a trial in life, instead of running away, we should confront it and give it our best effort. We often have no other choice.
“You can observe a lot by watching.” According to Yogi, this quote means that we should always stay alert. I think it can go deeper than that, however. A lot of us are always concerned with getting the first word (or last word) in during a discussion or a debate. We don’t learn by talking; we learn by listening to others and trying to understand them.
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” I thought about this quote recently when I had to wait in line for over two hours to go to the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago. But aside from that, Yogi believed that this phrase could also mean to not follow the crowd. If there are already lots of people doing something, you don’t have to do it just because they do.
“The future ain’t what it used to be.” We can have a vision for our lives, but things don’t always go according to plan. We need to be prepared to make adjustments as things change and life doesn’t go as expected.
“It gets late early out there.” I’m not just including this one because we’re at the shortest time of the year in terms of daylight. Yogi was actually talking about Yankee Stadium and how difficult it could be to play left field during the World Series due to shorter days in October. But I think this can apply to a lot of situations in life. Time moves quickly. We run out of time to do things when we think we have forever. So if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do, don’t hesitate. It will be too late before you know it.
“Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.” I’ve always thought it’s a shame that, for all the close relationships we have in our lives, only one of the two people will have a chance to pay their respects in each one. But there’s a broader lesson here: Have respect for others, be kind, and treat others as you would want to be treated.
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” It’s all the little imperfections that make life interesting. We use the phrase, “In a perfect world...” a lot, but the world would be boring if we had everything exactly the way that we want it. What would be the point of living if we had nothing to try to achieve?
“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.” This might be Yogi’s best advice. It’s always good to have a plan, a goal towards which you are working. Have a purpose for your life.
(Author’s Note: I can attribute a lot of the information about these quotes from “The Yogi Book,” which Yogi Berra released in 1998.)
Brian Johnston lives in St. Joseph with his wife and two children. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/brianjohnstonwriter.