St. Louisan Yogi Berra a great American orator

By Bill Milligan

By Bill Milligan

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was born on May 12, 1925, and grew up on the “Hill.”

While the St. Louisan may be one of the best to ever play baseball, he became a national treasure for his “gift of gab.” Berra is credited for sayings like:

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”

“It gets late early out there.”

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

But did you know Yogi was an ex-pert on American jazz music? Here is an interview he did once with New Yorker magazine.

Interviewer: “Can you explain jazz?”

Yogi: “I can’t, but I will. Ninety percent of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, it’s right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.”

Interviewer: “I don’t understand.”

Yogi: “Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s what’s so simple about it.”

Interviewer: “Do you understand it?”

Yogi: “No. That’s why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn’t know anything about it.”

Interviewer: “Are there any great jazz players alive today?”

Yogi: “No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.”

Interviewer: “What is syncopation?”

Yogi: “That’s when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don’t hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they’re the same as something different from those other kinds.”

Interviewer: “Now I really don’t understand.”

Yogi: “I haven’t taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.”

Yogi was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.