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Yogi Berra, Icon Of Baseball And Catchphrases, Dies At 90


And now let's take a few minutes to remember Yogi Berra, who has died at the age of 90. He was a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees. Yogi Berra was famous, among other things, for the way that he spoke. He shared some of his own favorite statements with NPR News back in 1998.


YOGI BERRA: Well, there's a few of them in there, you know - it ain't over till it's over, gets late out early out here...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

BERRA: And when you come to the fork in the road, take it.

INSKEEP: And indeed he did. Now, there is some question about whether he actually said all those things. In fact, he once published a book entitled "The Yogi Book: I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said." We're going to talk about this with David Kaplan, who collaborated with Yogi Berra on books and is the founding director of the Yogi Berra Museum. Welcome to the program, sir.

DAVID KAPLAN: Thank you. Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: And I am sorry for your loss.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: But I have to ask, did he actually say all those things that he didn't really say that he said?

KAPLAN: (Laughter) No, and a lot of that was sort of made up, but he did have a very unique knack of saying things that made sense in a way. They just kind of came out funny.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking of a famous thing that he supposedly said about a restaurant - nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.

KAPLAN: There's a lot of subtle truth to that. What he really meant was that the people that he used to hang out with weren't going to that restaurant anymore.

INSKEEP: So it actually made sense.

KAPLAN: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: How long did you know Yogi Berra?

KAPLAN: Well, since my involvement with the museum in '98, and even before that, we've lived in the same town here in Montclair. Yogi's lived here over a half-century, and he's just been a big part of this community.

INSKEEP: What was it like to have Yogi Berra as your neighbor?

KAPLAN: (Laughter) Well, that's the most amazing thing. He's one of the most unassuming famous people you've ever met. I always said Yogi valued friendship over his fame. And he was just a very down-to-earth, grounded person, really a great, wonderful man.

INSKEEP: Obviously a guy who knew baseball, but we should mention had a very frustrating and relatively short tenure as manager of the New York Yankees. Maybe you could recall that for people. He was considered almost the personification of the Yankees, the soul of the Yankees, and then what happened to him?

KAPLAN: Well, the first time he managed the Yankees was 1964 right after his playing career, and it was really remarkable. He took a very old, injury-riddled team to the seventh game of the World Series and he was rewarded with a pink slip. And then, obviously, he managed the Mets back in 1973 to one of the most improbable pennants of all-time - the birth of it ain't over till it's over. Then also, when he managed the Yankees back in the mid-'80s, he was fired very early under George Steinbrenner - 16 games into the 1985 season. And Yogi didn't take it very well because he wasn't told that he was being let go in a very respectful way.

INSKEEP: David Kaplan, could you take us out with the famous thing that Yogi Berra supposedly said about funerals?

KAPLAN: (Laughter) Oh, so I guess Carmen, at one time, said to him - his wife for many years - said, you know, Yogi, when you die, where should we bury you? And Yogi said, I don't know, Carmen, surprise me.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Well, David Kaplan, thanks very much.

KAPLAN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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