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“It Ain’t Over”

Yogi-isms are often treated as ungrammatical nonsense, examples of misspeaking, word-scramble, or basically just stating the obvious. But on closer examination, they all reveal truths. The meaning was never abstract, and the message was always clear. My personal favorite, which I have called upon from time to time, is, “It was déjà vu all over again.” It’s funny, yes, but you know exactly what he means. The most famous Yogi-ism is probably “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and “It Ain’t Over” is the title of a new documentary about Berra, directed by Sean Mullin.

The title could have multiple meanings, in the same way, Yogi-isms tend to unfold the longer you think about them. Yogi Berra played baseball and coached and managed teams. He did so for the majority of his career to great distinction. Yet he is remembered mostly for the Yogi-isms, for Yogi Bear, and the lovable, goofy image presented by the media. The tone was often condescending, focusing on his apparently un-baseball-like appearance, short, squat, and close to the ground. He was treated almost like a clown, or a team mascot, particularly with his penchant for product endorsement and silly commercials. Meanwhile, he was a force to be reckoned with at the plate and behind it as a catcher.

“It Ain’t Over” starts with an inciting event. At the 2015 All-Star Game, the fan-voted “four greatest living players” (Sandy KoufaxHank AaronJohnny Bench, and Willie Mays) walked out onto the field to a thunderous ovation. It was very touching, but I remember my cousin saying, “Where the hell is Yogi?” Indeed. Many people said the same thing, and “It Ain’t Over” repeatedly says it. It’s unfair that Yogi should be minimized by his “brand,” a lovable regular feature in the game, wisecracking, goofing off in commercials, and participating in his “brand,” a brand which overshadowed his career.