The (Accidental?) Wisdom of Yogi Berra

Photo: Rubenstein

I’m back to inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent researches.
Jordan asked:

“Okay, but did he say the quotation in question?” [i.e., did Yogi Berra actually say, "I never said most of the things I said." From three weeks ago.]

According to the ever-helpful Yale Book of Quotations, Sports Illustrated, March 17, 1986, quoted Berra as saying “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

MW asked:

“On the assumption that Yogi Berra really did say at least a lot of what he said, was he something of a dunce who made tautological or paradoxical statements without noticing, or was he quite smart and making these statements playfully and deliberately? (Math nerds are quite fond of such statements, for example ‘This car fits 4 people, for small values of 4.’)”

I don’t know for sure, but I assume there is a mixture of several phenomena at work here:  (1) Yogi probably has a natural inclination toward tautological or paradoxical statements; (2) At some point, Yogi found himself being celebrated for making such statements, and started consciously feeding Yogisms to the media; (3) The media enjoyed “pinning” such statements on Yogi, regardless of their true source, much as an earlier generation of journalists enjoyed pinning similar statements on Samuel Goldwyn.  It is also worth noting that Yogi was a disciple of Yankees manager Casey Stengel, and Casey, who was known for his colorful and sometimes incomprehensible statements, seems to have influenced Berra’s discourse as well as Berra’s baseball knowledge.

Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?

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  1. Teacherswithasp says:

    “I’m not buying my kids encyclopedias. Let them walk to school like I did.” Did he say that?

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  2. Clancy says:

    Apparently when asked to make up a Yogi-ism, he refused repeatedly saying they weren’t things he consciously made up. When peressed again he said “Lady, if I could make ‘em up on the spot I’d be famous.”

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  3. Howard Fear says:

    You missed step #3 – Yogi was childhood friends with Joe Garagiola who was both glib and loved telling stories about his lifelong friend Yogi.

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  4. Mike Elliot says:

    My personal fav, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

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  5. Kathy A. says:

    One of Yogi’s books is titled “The Yogi book : I really didn’t say everything I said!”.

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  6. ted says:

    yeah… i think it’s more like “i never said most of the things they say i said”.-maybe.

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  7. James A Smith says:

    “Absence of proof is not proof of absence.” Attributed to William Cowper, as a retort to one who claimed God does not exist because we can’t prove his existence.

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  8. Eric M. Jones. says:

    All you wordsmiths…When did “Walking on eggs” turn into “Walking on eggshells”?

    Is “Camping at the bit” going to be displaced by “Chomping on the bit”? It’s a horserace.

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