I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

yogibatsign02Dear Quote Investigator: Thanks for working to help clear up so many incorrect quotations and attributions. I have a question about a quote that might be suitable as the motto of your website. Yogi Berra supposedly said one the following Yogi-isms:

1. I really didn’t say everything I said.
2. I didn’t say everything I said.
3. I never said half the things I said.
4. Half the things I said, I never said them.
5. I never said most of the things I said.

Did Yogi say one of these statements?

Quote Investigator: In February 1986 there is good evidence that Yogi Berra did say the first statement above as recorded in a Long Island, New York newspaper: 1

Berra was unveiled to the Southwest in the Astros’ winter caravan. “Here he was a Hall of Famer coming down to the backwoods of Texas,” publicist Rob Matwick said. “He was the most single sought-out person. He led the team in stares.”

Fans hung on Berra’s every word, hoping for a Berra-ism, many of which have been said by others but attributed to Yogi. “I really didn’t say everything I said,” Berra said, creating another original.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

For many years the topic of the provenance of the sayings credited to Yogi Berra has been controversial. Yogi’s teammate and friend Joe Garagiola enjoyed telling colorful yarns that mixed fact and fiction. Some of the phrases credited to Yogi may have originated in tall-tales recounted by Garagiola. One newspaper commentator in 1975 made this assertion: 2

Myths I could do without.
That Yogi Berra is a funny man.
Not by design. He never said most of those “funnies”
— Joe Garagiola made them up for him.

QI believes that Yogi did pronounce many of the sayings credited to him. On the other hand several of the remarks were pre-existing jokes that were in circulation for decades, and it is unclear if Yogi repeated them.

In February 1986 when Yogi was part of the Houston Astros organization he did say a version of the remark under investigation as mentioned at the beginning of this article: 3

Fans hung on Berra’s every word, hoping for a Berra-ism, many of which have been said by others but attributed to Yogi. “I really didn’t say everything I said,” Berra said, creating another original.

In March 1986 Los Angeles Times reported on the humorous remark by Yogi: 4

Yogi Berra, new coach of the Houston Astros, told Houston writers that he isn’t responsible for all the comments attributed to him.
Or, as only Yogi could put it: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Also in March a newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas printed the comical statement: 5

What’s the opening of spring training without a Yogi Berra malaprop? Here’s the latest. Asked in the Houston camp — he’s now an Astros coach — if he’d made all the comments attributed to him, Berra replied: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

In 1989 a slightly different version of the statement was printed in the book “Baseball Anecdotes”. The word “really” was omitted. This instance corresponds to expression number two on the list given by the questioner. 6

“I didn’t say everything I said,” Yogi once insisted.

In 1995 another variant of the saying was printed in a book by the particle physicist Victor J. Stenger where it was credited to Yogi. This instance is similar to expression number three on the list given previously. But the word “he” I used instead of “I”: 7

He can always claim, like another Yogi named Berra, that he never said half the things he said.

In 1996 the New York Times published a short profile of Yogi and included a version of the saying that matched number four on the list above: 8

He was more comfortable depending on “Yogiisms,” many of which, such as “It ain’t over till it’s over,” have entered the language as folk aphorisms. A few, like “It’s déjà vu all over again,” are often falsely attributed to him. As he himself pointed out, “Half the things I said, I never said them.”

In 2000 the notable scientist and science writer Steven Pinker included an instance of the saying in a book about language. This version matched number five on the list above: 9

As Yogi Berra, another oft-quoted ballplayer, may or may not have remarked, “I never said most of the things I said.”

In conclusion, there are multiple variants of this saying. Evidence indicates that Yogi did say version number one on the list above in 1986. The support for other versions is weak.

(In Memoriam: For my brother Stephen)

Notes:

  1. 1986 February 24, “Color Yogi a Happy Guy; Now wearing Astros’ rainbow uniform, Berra’s relaxed, popular” by Steve Marcus, Section Sports, Start Page 92, Newsday [Nassau and Suffolk Edition], Long Island, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1975 December 2, Daily News, A Sportswriter’s Lament: Clearing The Mist From Myths by Murray Olderman, Page 15 [GNA Page 41], Bowling Green, Kentucky. (Google News Archive)
  3. 1986 February 24, “Color Yogi a Happy Guy; Now wearing Astros’ rainbow uniform, Berra’s relaxed, popular” by Steve Marcus, Section Sports, Start Page 92, Newsday [Nassau and Suffolk Edition], Long Island, New York. (ProQuest)
  4. 1986 March 1, Los Angeles Times, Section: Sports, O’Grady Has Thought It All Out, Quote Page 2, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)
  5. 1986 March 9, Lawrence Journal World, Notes and Quotes by Chuck Woodling, Page 5B, Column 2, Lawrence, Kansas. (NewspaperArchive) (In the original article “attributed” is misspelled as “attritubed”)
  6. 1989, Baseball Anecdotes by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf, Section: Yogi, Quote Page 207, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford. (Verified on paper)
  7. 1995, The Unconscious Quantum by Victor J. Stenger, Quote Page 25, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York. (Verified on paper)
  8. 1996 May 19, New York Times, Commencement Ain’t Over Till It’s Started by Joe Sharkey, Quote Page NJ1, New York. (ProQuest)
  9. 2000, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language by Steven Pinker, Footnote 41, Quote Page 300, HarperCollins, New York.