Yogi Berra and Why You Never, Ever Give Up

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October 3, 2013 /LinkedIn/ – On a fall afternoon – 62 years ago today – one of baseball’s most thrilling moments took place: The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

The 1951 season was almost over, and the New York Giants had beaten the odds, winning an astonishing 37 of their last 44 games to squeeze into a 3-game playoff against their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. But in the final, deciding game, the Giants found themselves on the brink of defeat: down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, they were just minutes away from the end of their season.

Then outfielder Bobby Thomson stepped up to the plate. On the third pitch, he swung hard, slamming a line-drive over the left-field fence and into the stands – a three-run shot to win the game, the pennant, and a chance to meet the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

Thomson later said of his sensational walk-off home run that, not only was it the best thing that ever happened to him, it was “the best thing that ever happened to anybody.”

A little-known irony of that cloudy Manhattan afternoon is that folksy philosopher Yogi Berra – the All-Star catcher for the NY Yankees that year – may have launched his career of malapropisms with Thomson’s blast. Berra had gone to the Polo Grounds to find out which team his Yankees would face in the World Series. But when the Dodgers went up by three runs in the 8th inning, Berra left the ballpark to beat the traffic home. He never saw Thomson’s home run.

Berra had decided it was over before it was – perhaps giving rise to one of his most famous observations: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That was a historic entry on the list of Yogi-isms that business leaders would do well to remember on this historic day:

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

“Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hittin’.”

So, while Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning homer was one of the best-ever things to happen to anyone, Yogi Berra may have been one of the best (and most amusing) things ever to happen to the philosophy of never giving up.

By Joel Peterson