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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, May 11, 2000

Happy 75th to
baseball’s Bartlett

MY favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra, celebrates his 75th birthday tomorrow.

Probably nobody has contributed more quotations in recent times to Bartlett's than the great New York Yankees catcher. Definitely, no one in the world of sports.

Some of the more memorable Yogi Berra-isms:

Bullet "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Bullet "It's deja vu all over again."

Bullet "Ninety percent of this game (baseball) is half mental."

Bullet "You can observe a lot by watching."

And once, when told by the wife of New York mayor John Lindsay that he looked nice and cool, Berra replied, "You don't look so hot yourself."

Also, here's a quote by Berra that today's Punch-and-Judy hitters, offended at brush-back pitches, should heed:

"We don't throw at .200 hitters."

It has gotten to the point where any funny quote is credited to Berra. And he doesn't mind taking credit for it.

The one, for example, widely attributed to Berra when he was asked why he didn't go to a certain restaurant anymore:

"It's so crowded, nobody goes there anymore."

He said it to me when we played a round of golf together along with Bert Jones of the Baltimore Colts as our scramble partner in the American Airlines Classic at the Sheraton Makaha in the early 1980s.

Then Berra later admitted that maybe he might not have been the first to say it. But he added, "What the heck. People think I said it, so I must have said it."

The most indelible picture of Yogi Berra in the minds of most baseball fans is the one when he raced to the mound and leaped into the arms of Don Larsen after a called third strike for the final out in the Yankee pitcher's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

I had the good fortune of a deja vu image involving Berra, up close and personal.

Maybe it wasn't a Perfect Game or the World Series, but Berra was about as excited as he could ever be. And, oh so relieved.

Here's the situation.

No, he wasn't at bat with a 3 and 2 count and the bases loaded. That's not pressure and, if it were, Yogi could handle it.

Pressure is playing the scramble format with each of the three persons on the team having to account for six drives apiece. With no Mulligans.

Considering there are only 18 holes, it's the constitutional maximum.

Jones, our "A" player and captain, already had his quota of drives. Berra and I had five each going to the par-3 17th hole.

My tee shot there was short of the green but good enough for an up-and-down par. So Jones decided to use it despite some heavy lobbying by Berra, whose drive was farther away.

So it was all up to Berra at 18th tee on the narrow par-4 hole with a tight fairway. Jones and I could only provide encouragement.

Here's one of my baseball heroes, a three-time MVP and Hall of Famer, nervously fidgeting as he prepared to hit his tee shot.

Suddenly, he was at a loss for words. No quotable quotes came forth. Nothing like, "Ninety percent of golf is half mental."

Berra swung. His tee shot was dead, solid perfect, soaring over the trees at the left and the bunker some 200 yards away and landing safely in the middle of the fairway.

He didn't quite leap into Jones' arms. But Berra broke out in a smile and hugged both of us. He never looked more relieved in his life.

Golf can do that to you.

Anyway, happy 75th birthday, Yogi.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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