Yogi Berra still talks a good game
Legendary baseball figure and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, almost as famous for his quotes as his baseball skills, will serve as the first Classic Ambassador at the 51st Bob Hope Classic, held Jan. 18-24 at La Quinta. He was interviewed as part of a conference call today, and proves he still knows how to turn a phrase. Some highlights from the interview:
Q. I've been told that Mickey Mantle was a tremendously powerful golfer.
YOGI BERRA: Good golfer. He could hit the heck out of the ball.
Q. Any of those other guys that you recall were good golfers?
YOGI BERRA: Whitey Ford was a good golfer. There were a few guys. Allie Reynolds was a good golfer. Pitchers usually make good golfers. They're very good golfers.
Q. Wondering if you have a favorite memory from the last 15 years at the Hope?
YOGI BERRA: All of them were good memories.
Q. Any one in particular?
YOGI BERRA: One year, I forget the year it was, but I played with Tom Kite. Almost won it. I think we came in second. We came close. Didn't help too much. You got to have a hot pro, I think (laughter). That helps.
Q. Yogi, all those crazy quotes attributed to you over the years, how many of those did you actually say and how many of those were made up?
YOGI BERRA: Quite a few of 'em. A lot of 'em. The funny part about it, I don't even know I say 'em. That's the funny part about it.
There's a few I could tell you. It ain't over till it's over. Come to the fork in the road, take it. Many of them. It ain't over till it's over. I got a lot of 'em.
My kids tell me when I go to my museum here in Jersey, they say, 'Dad, you said another one.' I don't even know what I said. Funny, too. I go to an airport. A lot of people look at me, they say, Boy, you look just like Yogi Berra. I say, 'Yeah, a lot of people tell me that (laughter).'
But I really don't know I say them, I really don't.
Q. Some of those are made up by sportswriters?
YOGI BERRA: I don't know. I don't know too much. They're mostly mine, they really are true, all of them.
Q. Mostly on purpose or messing around?
YOGI BERRA: No, it just comes out. I don't try to be a comedian or anything. That's the way it is. That's how I do it.
Q. Did you ever make a hole in one?
YOGI BERRA: Only at my tournament, and it didn't count (laughter). I've come close. I've had an eagle, but no hole in one. The only hole in one, as I said, was at my golf tournament I do for the museum.
Q. Yogi, I want to switch gears just a little bit. During last year's U.S. Open at Bethpage, I had the opportunity to go to the new Yankee Stadium. I'd like to know what you think about the new stadium.
YOGI BERRA: Great. Beautiful park. The stadium is wonderful. I get to sit in George's box. That's what makes it wonderful, too.
It is beautiful. It is a beautiful ballpark. It's a good hitting park, too.
Q. What about when you look at the old stadium?
YOGI BERRA: That was the only stadium I played in. That was the old one. That was a pretty good stadium, too. Had some long ones. You had to hit them down the line. Joe DiMaggio would kick his leg when he hit some balls out there, 407.
Q. What reaction do you have to the situation with Tiger Woods? What impact do you think his absence will have on the game?
YOGI BERRA: I don't know about that. I met Tiger Woods a long time ago when he was still a baby. He was pretty good then. I couldn't say anything about it. I really don't know.
Q. What's the best piece of golf advice you've ever been given?
YOGI BERRA: Keep your head down. My wife imitates me a lot of times. When she comes out at the Bob Hope, comes around, watches me play golf, she'll imitate me. You raise your head all the time, she says.
Q. Tomorrow the Hall of Fame is announced. Who do you hope gets in tomorrow? Who are you rooting for?
YOGI BERRA: Well, I can't say that now. They got a tough squad. I think the writers got it tough to make their answers. I never played against any of them guys, see. That's a new bunch coming in there. The writers are going to have a tough time. I think they got some pretty good guys in there.
Q. What was your first famous quote and what inspired you to say it?
YOGI BERRA: Well, I guess when I managed the Mets, I said, It ain't over till it's over. We won it (the National League pennant) in '73.
Q. Who discovered you were special when it came to creative quotations?
YOGI BERRA: Oh, I don't know who discovered it. Like I said before, I don't even know I say 'em. That's the funny part about it. I don't even know I say it. They just come out, that's all.
Q. You don't remember how you became known as that individual that people would quote throughout time?
YOGI BERRA: Well, do you remember Bobby Hoffman that played second base for the Giants? He played with the Giants. We played on the same American League team. That's how I got my name Yogi. We didn't have any dugouts. I had my legs crossed and my arms folded. He says, 'You look like a Yogi.' That's how I got my name.
-- Houston Mitchell
Photo: Yogi Berra in 1954. Credit: AP.