OFF THE CUFF

During these days of unprecedented challenges and uncertainly, it’s nice to be able to escape and have our brains stimulated by something whimsical and philosophical.

And I can’t think of a better way is there to do that than consider some of what was said by the late, great Yogi Berra.

Lawrence Peter Berra was born in 1925 and grew up in the primarily Italian section of St. Louis known as “The Hill.” He was better known as “Yogi” Berra, a nickname he picked when a childhood friend said he resembled a Hindu yogi.

He played Major League Baseball for 19 years, almost exclusively for the New York Yankees, and appeared in 14 World Series and on 10 championship teams – both records. Following his playing days, Berra served stints as manager of both New York teams. His jersey number (8) has been retired by the Yankees, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

But while his career in baseball made Berra (who died in 2015) one of the game’s most memorable players and his personality made him one its most memorable characters, something else set him apart and made him known to many people not the least bit familiar with professional baseball.

It was the stuff he often said.

So extraordinary were some of his statements, that they’re now a part of everyday vernacular and even have their own title: Yogi-isms. Berra’s unique way with words always allowed him to put things in a different perspective – whether intentionally or otherwise.

•“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

That is literally impossible to argue with.

Obviously, nothing is done till it’s done, although people sometimes act as if that’s not the case. Whether it’s regarding political races, sports or any other type of competition, people often want to jump to conclusions, and those conclusions are frequently incorrect.

We’ve all seen Harry S Truman holding the Nov. 3, 1948 issue of the Chicago Tribune bearing a giant headline on its front page proclaiming “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” We all know the incumbent Truman actually defeated his challenger, New York Governor Thomas Dewey.

It wasn’t over when that paper went to press.

Same with the 1973 baseball season, when Berra – who was then manager of the New York Mets – was asked by press at midseason if the season was over for his last-place team. After Yogi provided his now famous answer, “it’s not over till it’s over,” the Mets rallied and won the National League Eastern Division.

•“It’s like deja-vu all over again.”

This statement reminds me of one of those optical illusion pictures of people walking up a square staircase that never ends, being passed by people going down facing the same problem.

No matter how you slice it and dice it, you can’t analyze this phrase and get anywhere but where you just were.

•“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”

As opposed to the other half that are true? Wait; true lies – that’s an oxymoron. I think we’re about to get onto that square staircase again.

•“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

I’ve given this one a lot of thought, and I’m trying not to end up on the square staircase again.

But as hard as I try, I can’t figure out what to make of it.

A perfect world would be a perfect world, but then again a perfect world would be imperfect, because by definition the world is imperfect.

So maybe Yogi was onto something here.

•“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I love this one. I’m a stickler for giving and receiving directions that make sense and are easy to follow (just ask my wife), so this would have immediately caused me to ask a fundamental question.

Uh, would that be to the left or to the right?

•“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

Wow. In practice, I guess there would have to be a difference between theory and practice, but to theorize that there could be a difference between theory and practice would seem to be sound theory. Wait, if there’s a difference in practice, then the theory couldn’t hold water. But then, it’s only a theory…oh, no – back on the square staircase.

•“I never said most of the things I said.”

I do believe many there are many politicians in prominent positions who have borrowed this line, and even live by it as policy.

•“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

How true.

We used to look to the future as a land of milk and honey that held nothing but promise of prosperity and well-being. Now it appears as more of a scary landscape littered with obstacles we’re not even sure we can navigate.

The future was once certain to be a rose garden, now that certainty is fading and weeds may be taking over the garden. But whatever the future is, it’s safe to say it ain’t what is used to be.

Interesting stuff – some funny, some provocative, but all worth pondering. And presented in a way only Yogi Berra could.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.

Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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