A tribute to Yogi Berra and ?Yogi-isms?

Any dictionary worth its salt would define Yogi Berra as one of baseball?s greatest catchers and characters.

Berra died last month at the ripe old age of 90.

For those of you under 30, Berra was probably the second-most recognizable name in sports behind Babe Ruth. He was an All-Star for 15 consecutive seasons.

Berra was a notorious bad-ball hitter, swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, but mashing them anyway. He was fearsome in the clutch and the most durable and consistently productive Yankee during the period of the team?s most relentless success.

From 1946-1985, as a player, coach and manager, Berra appeared in a remarkable 21 World Series. All told, his Yankee teams won the American League pennant 14 out of 17 years. He still holds the records for games played, plate appearances, hits and doubles.

Don?t discount his intellect even if he said things in a nonsensical way. Whether Berra actually uttered the many things attributed to him, or was the first to say them, or phrased them precisely the way they were reported, has long been a matter of speculation.

It is with the utmost respect that I share some of my favorite Yogi-isms, attributed to the late Yankee legend.

Observing a young player mimicking the batting stance of the great slugger Frank Robinson, Yogi advised, ?If you can?t imitate him, don?t copy him.?

Giving directions to his house, Yogi said, ?When you come to a fork in the road, take it.? Either path, it turned out, got you there.

Describing his strategy as a manager, he reportedly said, ?You can observe a lot just by watching.?

About a St. Louis restaurant, Yogi once said, ?No one goes there anymore. It?s too crowded.?

?You better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I?m not hungry enough to eat six.?

?Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.?

?Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps parents off the streets.?

On education, Yogi said, ?I?m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.?

On travel, he said, ?If you don?t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.?

?Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.?

On being thought of as a philosopher: ?I didn?t really say everything I said.?

On death: ?You should always go to other people?s funerals, otherwise, they won?t come to yours.?

About the effect of the sun in left field in the old Yankee Stadium during late-season games: ?It gets late early out there.?

One time, the Yankees had just lost a mid-summer series to the then-cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals. He was trying to note how the Yankees were able to beat teams with good records but didn?t fare well against others with poor records. ?The lousy teams are good this year,? Yogi said.

On fan mail: ?Never answer an anonymous letter.?

About Bill Dickey: ?He learned me all his experience.?

?If people don?t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them??

?We made too many wrong mistakes.?

?Pair ?em up in threes.?

The recording heard on the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center?s phone: ?This message won?t be over ?til it?s done.?

?He hits from both sides of the plate. He?s amphibious.?

?Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.?

?It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.?

?You wouldn?t have won if we?d beaten you.?

?It ain?t over ?til it?s over,? said Yogi.

Unfortunately, for those of us who enjoyed his one-of-a-kind style, it?s really over.

Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. He can be reached at Joe.Klein?sasser@wichita.edu.