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Scene4 Magazine: Life Among The Heffalumps
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

may 2009

Happy Birthday, Yogi!

Sure...there's the recession, partisan politics--not to mention those pesky wars.  No one follows us on Twitter and our plays close after one night.  Our love-life?  Let's not even go there.

But, we needn't take to our beds and hide beneath the covers.  Because, as baseball and cultural icon Yogi Berra says, "If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

Berra, a member of the baseball Hall of Fame and master of malapropisms, turns 84 this month.  Many will remember his spectacular baseball career.  He played with the Yankees for 19 years, playing in a record-setting 14 World Series.  Berra, one of baseball's great catchers, played in 15 All Star games and was voted American League Most Valuable Player three times.  Later, he managed the Yankees and then the Mets , becoming one of only six people to bring both an American and National League team to the World Series.  Berra gave his fans a thrill when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch when the new Yankee stadium opened last month. 

Though I understand little about batting averages and at age 8 asked my grandfather if "you went to jail if you stole a base," I love baseball.  As someone who's visually impaired, I get batting, striking out and scoring runs, even when I can't see it well on TV or in a stadium.  All I need is a radio (tuned into a ball team's broadcaster's voice) and a beer, and I'm there cheering my team on.  Plus, the ballpark is the only place where everyone dresses like me (in jeans or shorts and T-shirts), and where you're expected to throw your peanut shells on the ground.

Yet, I have to confess.  When I was growing up, I confused Yogi Berra with the cartoon character Yogi Bear.  As a child, I marveled that Yogi (BooBoo's buddy) could leave Jellystone Park to play with the Yanks.

News reports say that Berra didn't appreciate his animated altar ego (the cartoon's creators denied any connection between their Bear and Yogi).  Still, I like to think that Berra would have appreciated or been amused by my youthful confusion.  Because Berra has delighted us for years with so many yogi-isms., unintentionally funny or self-contradictory phrases and malapropisms.

Emily Dickinson said to "tell the truth/but tell it slant."  Few have done this as well as Yogi.  Of course, common sense, logic and clarity have their place.  But, if you're like me, you'll find Berra's malapropisms more diverting, perhaps even more meaningful in their twisted fashion, than mere orderly groupings of words, dutifully forming straight-forward sentences (figuratively putting one foot ahead of the other).  Don't think you're so smart, surrealists and post-modernists: surrealistic pillows and fragmented time sequences have nothing on yogi-isms.

Some of Berra's greatest (verbal) hits include:

On death: "Always go to other people's funeral's; otherwise, they won't come to yours."
On his sport: "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."
On encountering something familiar: "It's like deja vu all over again."
On making decisions: "When you come to the fork in the road, take it."
On whether he really coined all these yogi-isms, "I never said most of the things I said."

Yogi, you're smarter than the average bear!  Long live your inimitable style!      


©2009 Kathi Wolfe
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine: Kathi Wolfe
Kathi Wolfe is a writer, poet and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Her reviews and commentary have also appeared in an array of publications.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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