I’ve just finished Yogi Berra’s autobiographical account of his ten World Series Championships with the New York Yankees. It wasn’t exactly a page-turner, but three things impressed me about the famous Yankee catcher.
1. His ability to shrug off insults. When he began his career, other players made cruel jokes about his odd appearance, speech patterns, and penchant for comic books. They said he looked like a Neanderthal man. Sports writers painted him as stupid. He was called Ugly. At five-feet-eight-inches, 190 pounds, knock-kneed and barrel-shaped, he was dubbed “the Ape.” “Some of the veterans didn’t know what to make of me,” he said. “I guess it was because of my stumpy build, and my speech and grammar weren’t always the best, and because I sometimes read comic books by my locker.” Yogi’s response: “I’d just brush that stuff off and tell anyone it didn’t matter if you’re ugly in this racket, because all you’ve got to do is hit the ball and I never saw anybody hit one with his face” (p. 26).
2. His Morale. He learned to keep his spirits up, no matter what. It was a lesson taught him by Joe DiMaggio. “Once I was unhappy after I popped up and sort of moped out to right field after the inning. Joe trotted over to me and said, ‘Always run out to your position, kid. It doesn’t look good when you walk. The other team may have gotten you down, but don’t let ’em know it'” (p. 31). It was a moment Yogi never forgot.
3. His perseverance. If there is one recurring theme to the book, it’s keep pressing on and plugging away, win or lose: “One thing I learned in baseball is you don’t panic, just do what you’re supposed to do” (p. 149). “If ever I learned anything in baseball, it’s don’t give up and don’t let up” (p. 167). “When you go slack in something, I don’t care if it’s baseball or business or badminton, it’s hard to get that crispness back” (p. 170).
My favorite Yogi-Quote in the book is on page 207. “Sometimes in baseball, you don’t know nothing.”
The book is titled Ten Rings: My Championship Seasons by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan.