CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015 – The world of sports has lost one of its most beloved “characters.” Former New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra died at the age of 90 at his home in New Jersey. Berra was born on May 12, 1925.
Berra was one of those people you thought would live forever because he was so famous for his malapropisms, which can only be described as “Yogi-isms”:
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“Nobody goes there anymore,” he said of a popular restaurant. “It’s too crowded.”
And, of course, the classic, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Wednesdays are usually reserved for Trivia, but on this day, we pay tribute to Yogi with a commencement speech he supposedly delivered in 2007 at St. Louis University. The speech probably is not real, but it doesn’t matter because it is filled with the sort of expressions that were the essence of the man we simply knew as Yogi:
“Thank you all for being here tonight. I know this is a busy time of year, and if you weren’t here, you could probably be somewhere else.
“I especially want to thank the administration at St. Louis University for making this day necessary. It is an honor to receive this honorary degree. It is wonderful to be here in St. Louis and to visit the old neighborhood. I haven’t been back since the last time I was here.
“Everything looks the same, only different. Of course, things in the past are never as they used to be.
“Before I speak, I have something I’d like to say. To be honest, I’m not much of a public speaker, so I will try to keep this short as long as I can.
“As I look out upon all of the young people here tonight, there are a number of words of wisdom I might depart. But I think the most irrelevant piece of advice I can pass along is this: ‘The most important things in life are the things that are least important.’
“I could have gone a number of directions in my life. Growing up on the Hill, I could have opened a restaurant or a bakery. But the more time I spent in places like that, the less time I wanted to spend there.
“I knew that if I wanted to play baseball, I was going to have to play baseball. My childhood friend, Joe Garagiola, also became a big-league ballplayer, as did my son, Dale. I think you’ll find the similarities in our careers are quite different.
“You’re probably wondering, how does a kid from the Hill become a New York Yankee and get in the Hall of Fame? Well, let me tell you something, if it was easy nobody would do it. Nothing is impossible until you make it possible.
“Of course, times were different. To be honest, I was born at an early age. Things are much more confiscated now. It seems like a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore. But let me tell you, if the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
“You’ll make some wrong mistakes along the way, but only the wrong survive. Never put off until tomorrow what you can’t do today.
“Strive for success and remember you won’t get what you want unless you want what you get. Some will choose a different path. If they don’t want to come along, you can’t stop them.
“Treat others before you treat yourself.
“Hold on to your integrity, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the one thing you really need to have; if you don’t have it, that’s why you need it. Work hard to reach your goals. There may come a day when you get hurt and have to miss work. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt to miss work.
“We all have limitations, but we also know limitation is the greatest form of flattery.
“Half the lies you hear won’t be true, and half the things you say, you won’t ever say.
“As parents you’ll want to give your children all the things you didn’t have. But don’t buy them an encyclopedia, make them walk to school like you did. Teach them to have respect for others, especially the police. They are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve it.
“Throughout my career, I found good things always came in pairs of three. There will be times when you are an overwhelming underdog. Give 100 percent to everything you do, and when that’s not enough, give everything you have left.
“Finally, graduates and friends, cherish this moment; it is a memory you will never forget. You have your entire future ahead of you.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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