One of the best-loved and greatest catchers of all time—and the most-quoted man in baseball. “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?” –Yogi Berra
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra may be one of the best-loved American athletes in history. Born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 12, 1925, Berra was given the name “Yogi” by a childhood friend, Bobby Hofman, who decided his friend looked like a Hindu snake-charmer he’d seen in a movie.
In 1942, he was offered a contract by the St. Louis Cardinals for $250, but he turned it down after learning that his good friend Joe Garagiola had been offered $500.
Berra signed with the Yankees a year later, and baseball historians credit his never-say-die attitude for much of the team’s success.
Berra is as well-known for his quirky quotes as for his superlative ball-playing, and is cited as the best catcher the game has ever seen, as well as one of its most-seen catchers (he has appeared on TV for a record 14 World Series games).
This three-time American League MVP (1951, 1954 and 1955) played on 14 pennant-winning teams and 10 World Series clubs, a record that is still unmatched, and was selected as a member of the All-Star Team for thirteen consecutive years, 1948-1962. He hit 358 home runs and finished his career with a .285 lifetime average during his 18 years as a player at the major league level, and went on to coach both the New York Yankees and the Mets.
Berra has also been praised for his work with charitable causes, including his sponsorship of an annual golf tournament to raise money for special-needs Boy Scouts.
“In the brightest of publicity spotlights, for more than four decades, Yogi remained completely himself,” noted journalist Leonard Koppett, adding, “[this is] a rarer and more difficult accomplishment than making the Hall of Fame.”
His malapropisms have made him the most quoted person in baseball history, although it’s often difficult to separate what Berra said from what others said he said.
Some Yogi-isms include: “He was a big clog in their machine,” “It gets late early there,” “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded,” “Take it with a grain of salt,” or the immortal “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”
When Berra was given a benefit on his retirement, he graciously thanked “all those who made this day necessary.” Berra attempted to set the quote record straight in 1998 by penning “The Yogi Book: I Didn’t Really Say Everything That I Said,” and has since gone on to publish other popular books.
In 1972 Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Berra was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.