You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time

Yogi Berra? Bucky Harris? Eddie Froelich? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The New York Times magazine recently highlighted a quotation from a Hall of Fame baseball player: 1

“How can you think and hit at the same time?” Yogi Berra once said, which like many of the quotes attributed to the former Yankees catcher, even the malapropisms, contains an essential truth. You can’t think and hit because there’s not time for both.

Did Yogi really say this, or do people simply believe that he should have said it?

Quote Investigator: The evidence is not completely clear because Yogi himself has made confusing pronouncements about this saying. The earliest citation known to QI appeared in an article by “The New York Times” sports writer Arthur Daley published in June 1947. Bucky Harris who was Yogi Berra’s manager selected him to perform as a pinch-hitter, and Harris attempted to give Yogi some mental advice. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

“You, Yogi,” snapped Bucky. “Go in there and hit. I realize that you’re in a slump, but you aren’t thinking enough at the plate. Think before you pick out a ball. Make sure it’s good before you swing. Think!”

The Yankee manager gave his hero a brisk pat on the back and sent him into the fray. Yogi struck out most inelegantly and stamped angrily back to the bench, muttering away to himself in a corner of the dug-out. After a while the curious Bucky wandered down and listened to him.

Yogi was repeating over and over, “How can a guy hit and think at the same time?”

Interestingly, this initial version of the quotation used the phrase “hit and think” instead of “think and hit”. Yogi expressed skepticism about the story in his 1961 autobiography, and he revisited the topic in 1998. These excerpts from Yogi are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time

Notes:

  1. 2011 June 26, New York Times, For Derek Jeter, on His 37th Birthday by Michael Sokolove, Page MM28, Section: Sunday Magazine, New York. (Published online 2011 June 23; Accessed online at New York Times website nytimes.com on 2011 June 27)
  2. 1947 June 12, New York Times, Short Shots in Sundry Directions by Arthur Daley, Quote Page 34, Column 7, New York. (ProQuest)