Even with the Toronto Blue Jays battling the New York Yankees in the AL East, even the most partisan fan, certainly someone who recalls a simpler time in the game, will be mourning the loss of legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday at the age of 90.
It won’t be bad form if there’s a bit of a smile that goes along with the memory of one of the most beloved characters of the game, somebody who will be remembered for what he accomplished in the game, but also somebody who will be cherished for his unique observations.
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
“It’s deja vu all over again.”
“Baseball is 90 per cent mental. The other half is physical.”
And the legendary …
“It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
It ain’t over. Yogi’s still got people still smiling in his absence today. Yogi-isms are lines for the ages to be savoured at the ball park or on the golf course.
That’s right, the golf course too.
“Eighty percent of the balls that don’t reach the hole, don’t go in,” he is reported to have said.
Looking back from a more cynical era, I’m imagining today how great it would have been to have Yogi along for the ride during a round.
In his heyday, baseball seemed to be more about escape and fun and I imagine golf would have been the same with Berra riding shotgun on a golf cart.
However, the closest I got to Yogi the golfer was a conversation I had with him five years ago when he was an ambassador for what was the Bob Hope Classic.
“I’ve been going there for 15 years and I love it. It gets you out of the cold weather, you meet a lot of nice people. Bob was a tremendous man. He did a lot for charity. That’s what I like,” he said at the time.
Golf isn’t a game he grew up with, but one he learned in his early days with the Bronx Bombers.
“We never were allowed to play golf during the season. We got a chance when we got an off day, maybe, sometimes to go out and play golf. I did most of my golf when the season was over,” he added.
“I played with Joe Medwick. I played with Stan Musial. They used to belong to a club called Sunset. I never was a member. I was just starting to learn how to play, did a lot of golfing. I kind of enjoyed it,” said Berra, who quickly learned to become a switch-hitter.
“I used to play left-handed, but I switched to right-handed because I sliced the ball left-handed too much. Right-handed, I hit it pretty straight — not far, but pretty straight,” said Berra.
“I was behind a tree at my golf course and I couldn’t hit it left-handed, so I borrowed a club from the guy I was playing with and hit it right-handed and I hit it good. I said: ‘I’m going to start playing right-handed,’ ” said Berra, who remained a left-handed putter.
Sounds like the perfect partner for me and I’d love the lines that would come from him watching my own questionable skills.
“I really didn’t say everything I said,” he once insisted in true Yogi style.
Even if you didn’t say everything you said Yogi, we’re glad you said the things you didn’t say (and that line will confound the editor, but that’s the fun part of a Yogi yarn).
It may be over as you exit this realm, but it ain’t over if you’re keeping people smiling … in baseball, golf or anywhere else that they appreciate a character.