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?


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


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."

Howard Fear

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

Mike Elliot

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

Kathy A.

One of Yogi's books is titled "The Yogi book : I really didn't say everything I said!".


yeah... i think it's more like "i never said most of the things they say i said".-maybe.

James A Smith

"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.

Eric M. Jones.

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.

Eric M. Jones.

Typo...I meant "Champing"...


How about "dead to rights"?


I've often seen "the future ain't what it used to be" attributed to Yogi, but couldn't find any info about the context in which it was supposedly said. Any info on this?

Dan Croy

When someone suggested a restaurant Yogi said, "It's too crowded. Nobody goes there."
Or something like this. What have you heard?

Yasuko Marks

Love these quotes as I have my self a website with quotes about life. Thought it would be wise to share my favorite quote: "It's the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what's right." - Peter Parker

Jim W.

Is " The great Yogi Berra explains Jazz :" a real Yogi quote???