Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: An entertaining tale states that baseball great Yogi Berra was once honored at a ceremony extolling his athletic skills. He knew of his obligation to give a speech after the receipt of the accolades and gifts, and his prepared remarks included a statement thanking everyone for making the event possible. But he became tongue-tied and said a line similar to one of these:
- I thank all of you for making this night necessary.
- Thanks to all you fans who made this day necessary.
- Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for making this day necessary.
Is this anecdote accurate? Do you know what Yogi actually said?
Quote Investigator: Substantive evidence supports the truth of this story. An article in the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” specified a date of June 6, 1947 for “Yogi Berra Night” honoring the Yankee baseball player in St. Louis. 1 Less than a week later on June 12, 1947 “The New York Times” printed a piece by the sports columnist Arthur Daley that included an instance of the quotation. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2
The Yankee players still are discussing delightedly the speech of thanks the sheepish Yogi made in St. Louis, his home town, when the fans held a “Yogi Berra Night” for him. The embarrassed Yogi grabbed the microphone, shuffled uneasily for a moment and blurted, “I wanna thank everyone for making this night necessary.”
The ceremony occurred in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Later citations disagreed about the name of the event; some called it “Yogi Berra Night” and others called it “Yogi Berra Day”; however, as noted previously, contemporary newspapers in St. Louis revealed that the correct name was “Yogi Berra Night”.
The precise phrasing employed by Yogi has been difficult to ascertain because the statements in subsequent citations have varied. Nevertheless, based on the event name one may conclude that the correct quotation contained the phrase “night necessary” instead of “day necessary”.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
On August 14, 1947 a newspaper column called “Rollin’ Along” by Jerry Stone in “The Oregon Statesman” of Salem, Oregon printed the following: 3
There are some pretty literate guys in baseball but there also ain’t. At a recent Yogi Berra night, the Yankee catcher thanked “everybody for making this night necessary.”
On August 21, 1947 a newspaper in Logansport, Indiana printed the following version of Yogi’s remark: 4
. . . acknowledged a day for him in St. Louis with this memorable guttural: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for making this day necessary!”
In October 1947 “The Des Moines Register” printed a version of the tale in a column titled “Sittin’ In with the Athletes” by Sec Taylor who called the event “Yogi Berra night” and said it was held in St. Louis: 5
His teammates told him it would be necessary for him to appear before the microphone. He said he couldn’t do it, wouldn’t know what to say. One of them offered to write a brief “thank you” speech. In a few words it thanked the American Legion, the people of St. Louis and his friends for making the night possible.
Yogi studied it a few minutes, reported with a wide grin, “I got it,” and in due time went to the microphone. He gave the talk in fine style until he reached the finish, when he said, “and I thank all of you for making this night necessary.”
In April 1948 a newspaper in Oil City, Pennsylvania published a piece titled “Famous Fables” by E. E. Edgar with the following anecdote: 6
Once, at a Yogi Berra day given in his honor, he was presented with an array of expensive gifts which would have gladdened the heart of any ballplayer.
When the presentation was over, Berra stepped forward to express his appreciation. “I want to thank all you people,” he said with deep feeling, “for making this day necessary.”
In 1949 a newspaper in Mexico, Missouri acknowledged “Future Magazine” when it reprinted an article by Edgar Williams with this instance of the quotation: 7
One afternoon in St. Louis, his home city, he told the fans who had turned out to give him an automobile on Yogi Berra Day: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for making this day necessary.”
In May 1949 a Cedar Rapids, Iowa newspaper printed a column by Pat Harmon that included a version of the quotation with “made” instead of “making”: 8
Heard in the major leagues: Yogi Berra, Yankee catcher, responding after a day at the ball park in his honor: “Thanks to all you fans who made this day necessary.”
In June 1948 Harry Grayson who was a sports reporter for the NEA news service published the following tale using “night” instead of “day”: 9
His neighbors on The Hill in St. Louis chipped in nickels, dimes and quarters, and bought Lawrence Peter Berra a car. The automobile was presented to him on Yogi Berra Night at Sportsman’s Park.
Sentimental young Berra choked up, but finally blurted: “I want to thank all you folks who made this night necessary.”
In 1961 Yogi Berra published an autobiography titled “Yogi: The Autobiography of a Professional Baseball Player” with the help of the journalist Ed Fitzgerald. Yogi stated that he asked teammate Bobby Brown for help with the required speech: 10
He wrote it out for me and I memorized it: “I’m a lucky guy and I’m happy to be with the Yankees. I want to thank everyone for making this night possible.” Then, when I had to step up to the microphone and say it, I kicked it. I guess I will never live that one down. It generally shows up somewhere in every story that’s ever written about me. I ended it up by saying, “I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”
In 1962 the gaffe was recalled and juxtaposed with the remark of a stewardess: 11
Their Western Airlines jet had trouble and they had to switch to a four-engine plane … A stewardess on the plane, apologizing for the delay, said over the intercom: “Thank you for the inconvenience” . . . Sounded like Yogi Berra the time he was given a night … Yogi told the group: “I want to thank you for making this night necessary.”
In 1989 Yogi Berra published an autobiography titled “Yogi: It Ain’t Over” with the help of the writer Tom Horton. Yogi shared the following version of the incident: 12
I’ve had to give a lot of speeches, and almost every time I mess up part of it. Like the time in St. Louis when I was given a night by the fans. It was a great thing, and I thanked everyone “for making this night necessary.” I meant to say “possible,” but I didn’t and I paid for it.
In 1998 Yogi Berra published “The Yogi Book”, and, oddly, he altered the quotation by changing “night” to “day”: 13
“Thank you for making this day necessary.”
I think this was the saying that got it all started. Yogi Berra Day, 1947.
In 2001 Yogi Berra published “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!” together with David Kaplan, and the quotation presented differed slightly from the version in the 1961 autobiography and the version in the 1998 quote book. The phrase contained “made” instead of “making” and “night” instead of “day”: 14
I was so nervous, I asked Bobby Brown, my teammate, to write me a short speech. I had it typed on a card—”I want to thank everyone who made this night possible”—and must have gone over it a thousand times. But when the announcer called me to the microphone, I somehow said, “I want to thank everyone who made this night necessary.”
In conclusion, QI believes that Yogi Berra did deliver a speech containing a line with the incongruous word “necessary” in 1947. The exact phrasing remains uncertain because several different versions have been published. Even Yogi has presented more than one variant. Based on the event name the quotation should contain “night necessary” instead of “day necessary”. QI recommends the version in “The New York Times” on June 12, 1947 which matches the version given by Yogi in the 1961 autobiography.
Image Notes: Public domain portrait of Yogi Berra circa 1953 from a baseball card produced by Bowman Gum. Sportsman’s Park during the 1946 World Series from the Missouri State Archives. Both images accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Images have been retouched, cropped and resized.
(In Memoriam: For my brother Stephen who enjoyed real and fake Yogi quotes. Great thanks to Barry Popik who located the earliest citation containing the quotation on June 12, 1947. Popik also found additional strong evidence showing that the event was called “Yogi Berra night”.)
Update History: On November 13, 2016 the citations dated May 25, 1947 and June 12, 1947 were added to the article. The introduction and conclusion were rewritten.
- 1947 May 25, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Yogi” Berra Night To Be Held June 6, Quote Page 5E, Column 2, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1947 June 12, New York Times, Short Shots in Sundry Directions by Arthur Daley, Quote Page 34, Column 7, New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1947 August 14, The Oregon Statesman (Statesman Journal), Rollin’ Along by Jerry Stone, Quote Page 10, Column 1, Salem, Oregon. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1947 August 21, Logansport Pharos Tribune, Johnny “Red” Corriden Subject of News Article, Quote Page 15, Column 2, Logansport, Indiana. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1947 October 1, The Des Moines Register, Sittin’ In with the Athletes by Sec Taylor, Quote Page 13, Column 1, Des Moines, Iowa. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1948 April 2, The Oil City Derrick, Famous Fables by E. E. Edgar, Quote Page 8, Column 2, Oil City, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1949 April 28, Mexico Evening Ledger, Ever Steal an Occupied Base: Lament for Baseball’s Screwballs by Edgar Williams (The Philadelphia Inquirer; reprinted from Future Magazine), Quote Page 7, Column 4, Mexico, Missouri. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1949 May 31, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Red Peppers by Pat Harmon, Quote Page 11, Column 2, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1949 June 18, The Sandusky Register Star-News, Naive Yogi Berra Contributes Legends, Base Hits To Yankees by Harry Grayson (NEA Sports Editor), Quote Page 7, Column 6, Sandusky, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1961, Yogi: The Autobiography of a Professional Baseball Player by Yogi Berra and Ed Fitzgerald, Quote Page 109, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1962 October 13, The Tennessean, One Man’s Opinion: Stewardess Pulls a Berra by Ralmond Johnson, Start Page 11, Quote Page 14, Column 2, Nashville, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1989 Copyright, Yogi: It Ain’t Over by Yogi Berra with Tom Horton, Chapter 6: Normany, Quote Page 139, McGraw-Hill, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1998, The Yogi Book: I really didn’t say everything I said! by Yogi Berra, Quote Page 10, Workman Publishing, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 2001, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! by Yogi Berra with David Kaplan, Quote Page 29 and 30, Hyperion, New York. (Verified in paper) ↩