Spokane Journal of Business

Guest Commentary: Current climate would benefit from wisdom of Yogi Berra


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With today’s tension and rancor, we need a dose of Yogi Berra’s wit and wisdom to put things into perspective.  Let’s start with, “You can observe a lot by just watching” because seeing what is happening now is very disconcerting.

We need less sarcasm and to alleviate the vilification of one another that we constantly witness in the news and on social media. To quote Yogi, “It was impossible to get a conversation going: everybody was talking too much.”

Yogi’s humorous way of sizing up a situation would ease tensions. There will always be opposing views and heated debate, which is healthy as long as people don’t personalize differences and value one another.  According to Yogi, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Yogi Berra was a baseball player and is one of our nation’s most quoted philosophers.  He was the son of immigrants, raised in a St. Louis neighborhood, and worked as a waiter during the off-season.

Yogi, who only stood 5’7” and weighed 185 lbs., was a baseball giant.  He was the New York Yankees’ catcher from 1946 to 1962, playing in 14 World Series and is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972—but you would never know it listening to him.

Berra was considerate and self-effacing.  He didn’t have a gaggle of handlers working overtime to find ways to get him publicity. Yogi never sought the spotlight; it always found him. 

He maintained a sense of humor even in the most difficult times.  During the D-Day Invasion in 1944, Navy Seaman Second Class Berra was on a small rocket boat shelling Nazi positions on Normandy.  He learned to handle twin .50-caliber machine guns in heavy seas. “You ever try shooting a machine gun on a 36-footer? You could shoot yourself.”

He was not a wealthy man even though his net worth was $5 million when he died.  The Yankees signed Berra for $500 ($7,489 in current dollars), and when he retired, his salary was $45,000. He wasn’t in baseball for the money.

Yogi loved the game, his teammates, and baseball fans.  In turn, they loved him.  At his retirement ceremony, a gracious Yogi Berra said, “I’m a lucky guy and I’m happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”

He treated his opponents with dignity. When asked about Los Angeles Dodgers pitching legend Sandy Koufax, Yogi added, “I can see how he (Sandy Koufax) won 25 games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.” Koufax also is in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

While Berra played and managed over a half-century ago, his attributes are ones which still make organizations and leaders successful.  Today, too many people have a callous zest for fame and merciless zeal for fortune.  That isn’t healthy for our nation or world. 

He would caution: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

It is not about winning at any cost. How we play the game is important. Courtesy, respect, and understanding build bridges. We need to know what it is like to walk in another’s shoes. 

As Yogi would conclude: “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and former president and CEO of the Association of Washington Business.
He can be reached at TheBrunells@msn.com.

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