Tag Archives: Yogi Berra

In Theory There Is No Difference Between Theory and Practice, While In Practice There Is

Yogi Berra? Albert Einstein? Richard Feynman? Benjamin Brewster? Charles F. Kettering? Walter J. Savitch? Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut? Dave Jeske? Chuck Reid?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following popular adage balances unsteadily between brilliance and absurdity:

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

This notion has been attributed to many people including famous baseball player Yogi Berra, scientific genius Albert Einstein, and prominent physicist Richard P. Feynman. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive reason to credit Berra, Einstein, or Feynman. The expression was coined before Einstein had reached his third birthday and before the other two were born.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in “The Yale Literary Magazine” of February 1882 which was written and edited by students. Benjamin Brewster who was a member of the class of 1882 wrote about an argument he had engaged in with a philosophical friend about theory versus practice. His companion accused him of committing a vulgar error. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

I heard no more, for I was lost in self-reproach that I had been the victim of “vulgar error.” But afterwards, a kind of haunting doubt came over me. What does his lucid explanation amount to but this, that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, while in practice there is?

Brewster was humorously summarizing the position of his friendly opponent, and QI believes that the saying should be credited to Brewster.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1882 February, The Yale Literary Magazine, Conducted by the Students of Yale College, Volume 47, Number 5, Portfolio: Theory and Practice by Benjamin Brewster, Quote Page 202, New Haven, Connecticut. (Google Books Full View) link

I Thank All of You for Making This Night Necessary

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

yogisport09Dear 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:

  1. I thank all of you for making this night necessary.
  2. Thanks to all you fans who made this day necessary.
  3. 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.

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  1. 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)
  2. 1947 June 12, New York Times, Short Shots in Sundry Directions by Arthur Daley, Quote Page 34, Column 7, New York. (ProQuest)

Always Go To Other People’s Funerals — Otherwise, They Won’t Come To Yours

Yogi Berra? J. F. Shaw Kennedy? Charles Lee? Punch Magazine? Clarence Day? Anonymous?

weath07Dear Quote Investigator: A comical remark about funeral attendance has been attributed to the baseball great Yogi Berra:

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

A simple interpretation seems to require ghosts to attend a future funeral. Would you please trace this joke? Is it a genuine Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: In 1987 William Safire who was the language columnist of “The New York Times” asked Yogi Berra about this statement, and Berra denied that he ever made it. 1 Indeed, the jest was circulating before Berra was born.

The earliest evidence known to QI was printed in a novel titled “The Youth of the Period” by J. F. Shaw Kennedy in 1876. The publisher was based in London. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Old John Nobbs was one of those present. Going to funerals was quite a mania of his, and he attended every funeral he could for twelve miles round Ledbury.

“Confound it!” John would say, “if I don’t attend other people’s funerals they won’t come to mine.”

Thanks to magnificent researcher Stephen Goranson who located the above citation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1987 February 15, New York Times, Mr. Bonaprop by William Safire, Start Page SM8, Quote Page SM10, Column 2, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1876, The Youth of the Period by J. F. Shaw Kennedy (James Frederick Shaw Kennedy), Chapter 19: True Love, Quote Page 232, Published by Samuel Tinsley, London. (Google Books Full View) link

If George Washington Were Alive Today He’d Turn Over in His Grave

Who made the remark? Samuel Goldwyn? Yogi Berra? William Cuffe? George Arliss? Corey Ford? Gerald Ford?

verne02Who was turning? Richard Cobden? Aunt Harriet? Jules Verne? Franklin D. Roosevelt? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky? John Foster Dulles? Casey Stengel?

Dear Quote Investigator: Samuel Goldwyn and Yogi Berra were both famous for constructing humorous phrases. Their solecisms and malapropisms often exhibited entertaining absurdist logic. The following comments have been credited to Goldwyn and Berra respectively:

1) If Franklin D. Roosevelt were alive now, he’d turn in his grave.
2) If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave.

Remarks of the type above were probably constructed via the inadvertent blending of common expressions like these:

1) If she knew about it she would turn in her grave.
2) If she were alive today she would disapprove.

Would you please explore the origin of this family of jests?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this comical expression found by QI was printed in an 1879 novel titled “The Honourable Ella: A Tale of Foxshire” by William Ulick O’Connor Cuffe, 4th Earl of Desart. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“My dear Harry, you don’t understand the rudiments of political economy. If Cobden were alive to hear all the twaddle of the free-traders now he would turn in his grave—at least, I mean he’d be confoundedly disgusted.

The author Cuffe highlighted the witticism by allowing his character to recognize that the figurative language was incongruous.

In 1898 “The Leisure Hour” magazine published an article about Irish humor with the following material: 2

It was an Irish moralist who rebuked a widow in the words, “If your husband were alive, your conduct would make him turn in his grave”; a speech which recalls the Irishman’s encomium of Kean—”He acts the dead man to the very life” . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1879, The Honourable Ella: A Tale of Foxshire by The Earl of Desart (William Ulick O’Connor Cuffe, 4th Earl of Desart), Volume 1 of 3, Quote Page 173, Hurst and Blackett, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1897-8, The Leisure Hour, Irish Wit and Humor As Shown in Proverbs and Bulls by Elsa D’Esterre-Keeling, Quote Page 709, Column 2, Paternoster Row, London. (HathiTrust) link link

If People Don’t Want to Come, Nothing Will Stop Them

Yogi Berra? Sol Hurok? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

theater07Dear Quote Investigator: Baseball luminary Yogi Berra is famous for comical pronouncements that contain a kernel of wisdom. One of my favorites is about fan attendance at baseball games:

If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.

Recently, I heard that renowned impresario Sol Hurok made a similar remark that is widely known in the domain of show business:

When people don’t want to come, nothing will stop them.

Would you please examine this family of phrases and determine who spoke first?

Quote Investigator: In 1952 a film biography of Sol Hurok called “Tonight We Sing” was being prepared by the Hollywood studio Twentieth Century-Fox. The gossip columnist Leonard Lyons reported on a cautionary remark from Hurok about the pending film. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1 2

Hurok, incidentally, warned the producers: “I’m enough of a showman to have learned at least this: If people don’t want to come, nothing will stop them.”

In 1959 “LIFE” magazine published a profile of Hurok titled “Impresario Who Booked the Bolshoi” which included a comment by the producer lamenting the precarious nature of the entertainment industry: 3

“In a business I would be a millionaire 10 times over,” Hurok says, “but this is not a business, it is a disease.”

The “LIFE” magazine article also reprised another version the quotation about the impossibility of coercing an audience to see a show:

Says Hurok today, “When people don’t want to come, nothing will stop them.”

In 1962 raconteur Joe Garagiola spoke at a “Banquet of Champions” for young baseball players. Garagiola was an athlete who transitioned into the world of radio and television broadcasting. Many colorful anecdotes about Yogi were popularized by Garagiola, and his banquet speech reported the now well-known quotation from his friend: 4

He told stories of Yogi Berra, his buddy since their boyhood days on the hill in St. Louis. Like Yogi’s quip about the sagging attendance in Kansas City—“If they don’t want to come out, nobody’s gonna stop ’em.”

The citation immediately above was the earliest linkage of the saying to Berra known to QI. Hence, based on current evidence Hurok delivered the humorous remark before Berra.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1952 August 16, The Post-Standard, Doings in Rome by Leonard Lyons, Section Two, Quote Page 9, Column 1, Syracuse, New York. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1952 August 16, Oregonian, In and Out of the Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 6, Column 7, Portland, Oregon. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1959 June 1, LIFE, Impresario Who Booked the Bolshoi by Joseph Roddy, Start Page 59, Quote Page 60, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View)
  4. 1962 September 13, Times-Picayune, NORD-MB Champs Honored by Nate Cohen, Section Two, Quote Page 8, Column 2, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)

Nobody Goes There Anymore, It’s Too Crowded

Yogi Berra? Rags Ragland? Suzanne Ridgeway? John McNulty? Ukie Sherin? Anonymous?

party07Dear Quote Investigator: An amusing anecdote states that baseball great Yogi Berra was once asked whether he wished to have dinner at a highly-regarded restaurant, and he replied with a remark combining wisdom with contradiction:

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Is this an authentic Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: Berra has stated on multiple occasions that he did make this remark, and detailed citations for this claim are given further below.

Yet, this joke has a long history, and it was already circulating before Berra was born. A thematic precursor about parties was published in 1882 in a London periodical called “The Nonconformist and Independent”. The comedy hinged on the impossibility of all the guests delaying attendance until all the other guests had already arrived: 1

“I’m afraid you’ll be late at the party,” said an old lady to her stylish granddaughter, who replied, ” Oh, you dear grandma, don’t you know that in our fashionable set nobody ever goes to a party till everybody gets there?”

The earliest strong match known to QI was published in December 1907 in a New York newspaper humor column called “Sparklets”. The creator of the joke was unidentified, and the person delivering the punchline was also not named. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Ambiguous, Yet Clear—Oh, don’t go there on Saturday; it’s so frightfully crowded! Nobody goes there then!”

In the ensuing days, months, and years the jest was reprinted with minor alterations in other papers such as “The Philadelphia Inquirer” in Pennsylvania. 3 4 It was still circulating in 1914 when the same text was printed in the “Middletown Daily Times-Press” of Middletown, New York. 5 Thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who identified this primal version and located other valuable citations. 6

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1882 February 23, Nonconformist And Independent, Gleanings, Quote Page 178, Column 3, London, Middlesex, England. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1907 December 7, Daily People, Sparklets, Quote Page 2, Column 3, New York, New York. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1907 December 19, Philadelphia Inquirer, Here and There: Clear But Confusing, Quote Page 8, Column 4, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (GenealogyBank)
  4. 1908 March 9, Titusville Herald, Clear but Confusing (Filler item), Quote Page 5, Column 7, Titusville, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1914 March 4, Middletown Daily Times-Press, Clear, but Confusing (Filler item), Quote Page 7, Column 5, Middletown, New York. (NewspaperArchive)
  6. Website: The Big Apple, Article title: ‘”Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” (restaurant joke)’, Date on website: July 22, 2004, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik on August 26, 2014)

Do You Want Six or Eight Slices of Pizza?

Yogi Berra? Ken Thompson? Bobby Bragan? Muriel Vernick? Danny Osinski? Andy Wimpfheimer? George Carlin? Anonymous?

pizza08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a comical tale about whether a pizza should be cut into six or eight slices. The punchline is typically attributed to an athlete such as Yogi Berra. Are you familiar with this joke? Would you please explore its history?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this anecdote located by QI was published on June 17, 1965 in a Nebraska newspaper which acknowledged a Wisconsin newspaper: 1

Ken Thompson stopped in at Dick McDaniels’ Pizza Palace the other night and ordered a pizza. When it was ready, Dick asked Ken if he wanted it cut in six or eight pieces.

Ken thought a while, and then said, “Better make it six pieces. I could never eat eight.”—Weyauwega (Wis.) Chronicle.

A variety of citations appeared in 1965 with several different ascriptions. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1965 June 17, Omaha World Herald, Quick Reading: A Smile or Two, Quote Page 24, Column 2, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)

I Had to Get Up to Answer the Phone Anyway

Yogi Berra? Desi Arnaz? Carl Brandt? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following anecdote is told about baseball great Yogi Berra. He received a telephone call very early in the morning, and the caller apologetically said, “I hope I didn’t wake you.” Yogi replied:

Nah, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.

Is this an authentic Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that Yogi did deliver this quip. He included a version in his 1998 collection “The Yogi Book”, and the story was attached to his name in newspapers by 1958.

Yet, the joke can be traced further back in time, and the earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a syndicated Hollywood gossip column in September 1942. The humorous line was reportedly spoken by the musician and actor Desi Arnaz who was one of the stars of the popular television comedy program “I Love Lucy”. The use of “ayem” instead of “A.M.” in the following was a stylistic quirk of the columnist: 1

Pat O’Brien is chuckling about an early ayem phone call to Desi Arnaz. Noticing Desi’s voice sounded dull, Pat asked: “Did I get you out of bed?” “Not at all,” mumbled Arnaz, in a voice drugged by sleep, “I had to get up to answer the telephone anyway.”

In October 1942 the joke was printed in “The Calgary Herald” of Alberta, Canada. The caller and callee were unidentified, and the time period was shifted from early in the morning to late at night: 2

Then there is the story about the man who was awakened at 4 a.m. by the ringing of his telephone.
“Sorry to trouble you at this time of night, old man …” began the voice at the other end of the wire.
“‘sall right.” interrupted the other. “I had to get up to answer the telephone, anyway.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1942 September 4, State-Times (State Times Advocate), Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, Quote Page 8-B, Column 3, (GNB Page 20), Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1942 October 14, The Calgary Herald, Prairie Wool by Wilf Bennett, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Google News Archive)

It’s Difficult to Make Predictions, Especially About the Future

Niels Bohr? Samuel Goldwyn? K. K. Steincke? Robert Storm Petersen? Yogi Berra? Mark Twain? Nostradamus? Anonymous?

predict01Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of popular humorous sayings about the formidable task of successful prognostication. Here are five examples:

  1. It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.
  2. Predictions are hazardous, especially about the future.
  3. It is hard to prophecy, particularly about the future.
  4. It’s dangerous to prophesy, particularly about the future.
  5. Never make forecasts, especially about the future.

Of course, a prediction is inherently about the future, and the modifiers “especially” and “particularly” emphasize the comical redundancy of the statement. These expressions have been attributed to a diverse collection of individuals, including Niels Bohr, Sam Goldwyn, Robert Storm Petersen, and Yogi Berra. Would you please tell me who I should credit?

Quote Investigator: The Danish politician Karl Kristian Steincke authored a multi-volume autobiography, and the earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the fourth volume titled “Farvel Og Tak” which was released in 1948. The title in English would be “Goodbye and Thanks”. The pertinent section of the book was called:

Og saa til Slut et Par parlamentariske Sprogblomster

And finally a couple of parliamentary howlers (English translation)

A remark made during the parliamentary year 1937-1938 was presented although no attribution was given. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Det er vanskeligt at spaa, især naar det gælder Fremtiden.

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. (English translation)

This citation was mentioned in the prominent reference “The Yale Book of Quotations”. 2 More information about Danish citations for this saying is presented in the addendum at the end of this article.

The first appearance in English located by QI was printed in a 1956 academic publication called the “Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A”. This early citation 3 and several others remarked on the Danish language origin of the aphoristic joke: 4

Alas, it is always dangerous to prophesy, particularly, as the Danish proverb says, about the future.

In May 1961 “The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science” printed an instance of the saying using the word “hazardous” instead of “dangerous”. Indeed, the phrasing changed over time and was highly variable: 5

“Prediction,” goes an old Danish proverb, “is hazardous, especially about the future.” For the Canadian economy the hazard is especially great.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1948, Farvel Og Tak: Minder Og Meninger by K. K. Steincke, (Farvel Og tak: Ogsaa en Tilvaerelse IV (1935-1939)), Quote Page 227, Forlaget Fremad, København. (Publisher Fremad, Copenhagen, Denmark) (Verified with scans; thanks to a kind librarian at Åbo Akademis bibliotek)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Niels Bohr, Quote Page 92, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Page 206, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  4. 1956, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (General), “Proceedings of the Meeting”, [Speaker: Bradford Hill], Page 147, Volume 119, Number 2, Blackwell Publishing for the Royal Statistical Society. (JSTOR) link
  5. 1961 May, The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science / Revue Canadienne d’Economique et de Science politique, Volume 27, Number 2, “Canada’s Economic Prospects: A Survey of Ten Industries” by Jesse W. Markham, Page 264, Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Canadian Economics Association. (JSTOR) link

Never Answer an Anonymous Letter

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

yogianon04Dear Quote Investigator: Would you please explore another Yogiism? The following comical remark is attributed to the celebrated baseball player:

Never answer an anonymous letter.

If the letter contains no information about the sender then, of course, it is impossible to reply. That is the humorous interpretation. But Yogi Berra once noted that a letter may have a return address without providing a name.

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of a version of this quip located by QI was printed in 1876. The ascription to Yogi of the modern saying is uncertain. Detailed citations are given further below.

It is possible to reply to an anonymous letter sometimes. For example, an anonymous letter can be sent to a magazine, and the periodical can publish the letter together with a response. In 1770 an exchange of letters was published in “The Monthly Review” of London. One anonymous letter writer accused another writer of being overly personal. The journal published a response: 1

When, says he, I answer an anonymous letter, and make not the most distant allusion to any thing but what appears upon the face of it, where can be the personality?

In 1838 “Mechanics’ Magazine: Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette” published an anonymous critical letter signed with a nom de plume. The journal also printed a response from the person who was criticized: 2

It has been a rule with me never to answer an anonymous letter, but the classic pen of the reverend gentleman who signs himself “An Amateur Mechanic,” is as well known to me as if he had appeared in his proper person.

In 1873 a book titled “Analysis of Letter-Writing: With a Large Number of Examples of Model Business Letters” was released. The volume included the following two guidelines for proper business correspondence. No humor was intended: 3

All business letters should be carefully kept, until, at least, the matters to which they relate are completely closed, and there can be no further use for them.

You should never condescend to answer an anonymous letter, even if you are nearly certain who wrote it. Never write one.

By 1876 the comical potential of the line was recognized. A newspaper in Orange City, Iowa printed a collection of funny remarks under the article title “Nubbins of Humor” including these three items: 4

Intoxicating music—”Ale to the chief.”

It is a wise thing never to answer an anonymous letter until you have found out who wrote it.

“How long will my chop be, waiter?” asked a hungry man in a restaurant, “About five inches, sir.” was the prompt reply.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1770 December, The Monthly Review; Or Literary Journal, Volume 43, Article 32: An Answer to a Second Letter to Dr. Priestley, Quote Page 492, Printed for R. Griffiths, London. (Google Books full view) link
  2. 1838 August 18, Mechanics’ Magazine: Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, Number 784, (Letter from L. Hebert, Camden Town, Date: August 11, 1838), Quote Page 328, Printed and Published for the Proprietor by W. A. Robertson at the Mechanics’, Magazine Office, London. (Google Books full view) link
  3. 1873, Analysis of Letter-writing: With a Large Number of Examples of Model Business Letters by Calvin Townsend, Quote Page 139, Published by Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, & Co., New York. (Google Books full view) link
  4. 1876 November 9, Sioux County Herald, Nubbins of Humor, Quote Page 1, Column 7, Orange City, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)