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Yogi Berra: Baseball’s Master of Malapropisms

Yogi Berra, c. 1955

Baseball Hall of Famer Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who passed away Sept. 22 at age 90 in West Caldwell, N.J., had one of the most fantastic careers anybody could imagine. From 1946 to 1965, he was a 15-time All-Star, three-time American League MVP and member of 10 World Series champion teams as a New York Yankee.

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But the public loved Berra perhaps even more for his inadvertent misuse of the English language, which was as charming as it was comic. (“You can observe a lot just by watching,” “It’s déjà vu all over again,” “The future ain’t what it used to be,” and “If you see a fork in the road, take it” are just a few examples.)

Here are some facts you might know about Berra.

  • Berra and Joe Garagiolia, who also played catcher for several major league teams before becoming a broadcaster and TV personality, grew up in the same St. Louis neighborhood and were friends from childhood.
  • Berra got his nickname Yogi after a friend detected a resemblance between Berra, who liked to sit cross-legged, and an Indian mystic in a movie.
  • His baseball career was interrupted by a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, which included serving as a gunner's mate during the D-Day invasion in 1944 and receiving a Purple Heart after being wounded in an assault on Marseilles.
  • The Hanna-Barbera animated character Yogi Bear, who first appeared in 1958, was named after Berra.
  • President George W. Bush, also known for occasionally mangling language, joked, “Some in the press corps think he might even be my speechwriter.”

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The video below, made in 2009 by the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame to honor Berra, includes footage of his first major league at-bat — in which he hit a home run.

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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