Ron Corcoran2

Did any of you pass the recent sports trivia test?

Are you asking yourself, “Test? What test?”

Well, let me tell you:  In a recent edition of your former favorite weekly newspaper, The Sports Paper Weekly (SPW), a famous historical quote from the yester-years of Major League Baseball was provided to you for your perusal and evaluation.

The quote was cleverly inserted onto page 15 of the May 9th edition of SPW and, in case you missed it, it was located underneath a photo of the legendary New York Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra.  It read as follows: “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

For those of you who remember Yogi Berra (or at least knew of him), let me remind you that Yogi was never very good with arithmetic and was even worse with the English language. Over the 88 years of Yogi’s life, he has made lots of statements that defied logic, common sense, and sometimes the laws of gravity, and routinely ran afoul of good sentence-structure and passable diction.

Sometimes Yogi even suffered from lapses into paradoxical contradiction. For example, Yogi once said, “I really didn’t say everything I said. Then again, I might have said ‘em, but you never know.”

Literary appearances to the contrary, Yogi was no bonehead baseball player when on the field of play. Yogi played the game (mostly for the Yankees) over a span of 20 years, was a three-time MVP of the American League, a 13-time World Series champion, an 18-time member of the American League All-Star team, and was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 1972.

As careers in baseball go, Yogi’s is up there with the best.

In case you are wondering, the purpose of the trivia test inserted into the SP was to assess just how carefully you (our readership) are reading and digesting the sports-related material the SP provides you on current sports, on local sports, and on sports events, personalities, and legends from days-gone-by.

As you may already know, we at SPW spare absolutely no expense to provide you – for your viewing pleasure – sports tales and perspectives hoping that they are generally informative, sometimes enlightening, and hopefully always entertaining.

In doing so, our SP staff is able to take full credit for providing the general public with an educational service as well as, on occasion, creating a unique mind-expanding challenge for the residents of the communities of Puget Sound West.

But what is the test?

Again, the quote read: “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

The test for you, the reader, was to determine if this arithmetically challenged statement as written is actually what Yogi once said. Or is it the result of some over-zealous scribe who inadvertently (or vertently) added too much of his/her own spin and color to make the statement much more blatant – and funnier.

No one really knows for sure.

To me, the answer is in Yogi’s biography which attests that Yogi did, during one of his winging-itepisodes, utter the much-more-close-to-reality statement of “90 percent of the game is half mental.”

In-so-stating, Yogi was apparently trying to repeat something Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark had so eloquently stated a few years prior, i.e. that “Half this game is 90 percent mental…”

Danny Ozark’s statement resonates truth and a sound awareness of the game.


Because it allows for the proper proportioning of the reasonable elements of the game, such as the physical ability of the athlete, the athlete’s time spent honing his skills, and the onset and influence of luck (sometimes good and sometimes bad).

Yes, when squinting, these three statements might seem to be very similar; but, on closer examination, they simply aren’t.

Yogi Berra, who never minded taking the King’s English “where no man has gone before,” is very well-known for his using words in a way that no one else would ever think of doing. His unique linguistic style during his lifetime was (and still is) referred to as Yogism.

Here are a few more, some of which you have undoubtedly heard before because they have become staples of today’s lexicon:

* Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.

* The future ain’t what it used to be.

* I knew that record would stand until it was broken.

* If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?

* If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.

* It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

* It gets late early out there.

(In the above, Yogi was trying to explain the adverse sun conditions in left field at Yankee Stadium as the sun begins to sets.)

* It’s déjà vu all over again.

* It’s so crowded nobody goes there.

* Pair up in threes.

* We made too many wrong mistakes. (Yogi was explaining why the Yankees lost the 1960 series to the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

* When you come to a fork in the road, take it. (Yogi was giving driving directions to a dinner guest to get to his house in Montclair, New Jersey. Once in his neighborhood, there is a fork in the road. Yogi was trying to say that either fork taken will result in arriving at his house.

* You can observe a lot by watching.

* You mean now? (Yogi was on a passenger airliner and was asked by another passenger: What time is it?”  Yogi’s answer was caused by his uncertainty of what time zone they were then in.)

* “You better cut my pizza into four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

* “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hittin’.”

* “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”

* “Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself.” (Yogi’s response to the wife of the Governor of the State of New York, after she had commented, “You certainly look cool.”)

Yogi certainly wasn’t the only baseball player known for his unusual declarations when extemporaneously answering questions. In fact, it happens in all sports.  But I will leave covering that much broader topic for another time.

However, from what my research has turned up so far, my favorite All-Sport quote is something attributed to former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips, perhaps the funniest football coach in history.

While being interviewed by Bob Costas, Bum was asked, “Why do you take your wife on all the Oilers’ road-trips?”

Bum’s response was, “Because she’s just too ugly to kiss good-bye.”

No, I haven’t yet been able to confirm whether (or not) Bum actually said this or something close to it, but I know what kind of reaction I would have received from my wife if I’d said that or something close to it to the media.

And that is why Bum’s response is so funny to me.