When You Come to a Fork in The Road, Take It


We all have our favorite “Yogi-isms.” I like them all, but my favorite is one of the least famous of lot. That is, if reciting it to others who say they had never heard it before is any gauge on fame or notoriety. This one concerns a seemingly innocent returned compliment from Yogi to the wife of Mayor John Lindsey after she greeted him so cordially to a fundraising luncheon that her husband had staged in New York City one fine spring work week day many years ago.

When Yogi arrived, he was dressed as the very first breath of spring, wearing a lime-colored striped seersucker suit, a bright flowery green tie, white leather shoes, and a floral boutonniere in his left coat lapel.

Mrs. Lindsey greeted Yogi with as much welcoming spirit as all true New Yorkers hold out for the coming of sunshine that actually remains long enough to melt away the winter snow. It is that time of year when in-touch society dresses cool as a personification of the change in seasons.

Grasping both of Yogi’s gnarled and nubby catcher’s hands, Mrs. Lindsey could hardly contain her great approval of the Yankee star’s spot-on fitting attire for the benefit day-timer event.

“Oh, Yogi,” she gushed, “the mayor and I cannot thank you enough for coming today. “I also cannot tell you sufficiently how much I adore your outfit today. You look so cool!”

“Well, thank you, Mrs. Lindsey,” Yogi reciprocated, before adding, “You know, you don’t look so hot yourself!”


Once you finish laughing, which I reasonably know is going to happen, if you have never heard this story before, let’s look briefly at why Yogi’s one-liners work so well.

First of all, Yogi Berra is a lovable guy, who just happens to have been one of the great Hall of Fame catchers, a New York Yankee, a longtime symbol of World Series victory, the guy who celebrated Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game by leaping into his arms after Dale Mitchell took a dubious called strike three final out, the guy who in an earlier Series went ballistic when Jackie Robinson stole home because the umpire called him safe under Yogi’s hard tag, the guy from “The Hill” in St. Louis, Joe Garagiola’s childhood friend, one of the guys who landed on Omaha Beach with the army on D-Day in 1944, a guy who smiled and patiently shook hands with people he never met and would soon forget – guys like me and the hundreds of other Houstonians who greeted Yogi when he came to town for the Hall of Fame’s road trip exhibit at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 2004, and a guy who spoke the truth in ways that we all thought were funny, ironic, or sometimes filled with innocent sarcasm or hard-to-figure wisdom.

The Fork in The Road Quote

What better example do we have of “hard-to-figure-wisdom?” All of us grew up in this western culture with the wisdom that our lives are shaped differently by both the roads we take – and fail to take – at the various crossroads (or forks in the road) that came up along the way. Where you went to school. Who you chose to marry. If you chose to marry at all. What you chose to do for a living, Where you chose to live. They are big forks in life, but they are only a small number of those that fill out the big picture for all of us. – How many of us, once we reach a certain age, have not spent a single moment reconsidering, at least, a single choice we might have made differently, now that we’ve had the time to harvest the results of the choices we did make in life?

So how does Yogi’s advice fit as hard-to-figure wisdom? Everybody knows we can’t have it both ways when we come to a fork in the road and get the same result by going either way? Oh yeah? Well, it makes sense if you are both Yogi Berra, and you know what he was really talking about in the first place.

According to an Internet site, The Quote Investigator, “This precise quotation was printed in the salient 1998 work “The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!”, and its author Yogi Berra provided some context for his statement: ‘I was giving Joe Garagiola directions from New York to our house in Montclair when I said this.’ ”

Nearing Yogi’s New Jersey home, apparently there basically was a “fork in the road” that ultimately would reveal itself after a short drive in either direction from the “fork” as being a loop that actually passes by the Berra home from either the left or right entry points.

So, Yogi was telling the truth. And why not? When he said something, that’s what Yogi did in life. He simply left out the loop part details as he was giving his good friend, Joe Garagiola, something factual. The bottom line: Yogi was trying to tell Joe: “Listen, Joe, when you get to that fork in the road, hey, go left or right. It’s a loop. Either way will get you to my house.”

Only that’s not what he said. What Yogi said was: “When You Come to a Fork in The Road, Take It!

Once the word got around, without the explanation behind what Yogi actually meant, it was left to our minds to pick it up and run with it as something that sounded funny, impossible, and, yes, downright mystical.

Sleep in peace, Mr. Berra. ~ We still love you. ~ And we hope that you and Mr. Garagiola enjoyed your first pepper game together in the Great Beyond on this Easter Sunday of 2016. Wish you could tell us something. – Is Heaven like “The Hill” neighborhood in St. Louis – or is that expectation too literal and too big for the Easter basket wish list?


eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas



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5 Responses to “When You Come to a Fork in The Road, Take It”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    In 1986, I interviewed Yogi every Saturday. That year, we started with Jose Cruz and Terry Puhl on the DL, while Eric Bullock played left and Tony Walker played center. We were 2-2 when I asked my first question: Welcome to the Yogi Berra show. We’ll be talking before every Saturday game all season long. I know it’s probably not a fair question after only spring training and four games but what’s your impression of this Astros ball club Yogi?”

    “Well, Larry, I’m very impressed with the team, especially the injuries,” he said.

    There is almost always a kernel of wisdom in a Yogi quote. But you usually have to dig for it.

  2. Dennis Corcoran Says:

    I write a monthly column for the “Pine Island Post” in Davie, Florida called “I Left My Heart in Cooperstown”where my wife and I have a condo to be near our grand kids when we aren’t at our home in Pleasantville, New York. Anyway, I wrote a column right after Yogi died with several of his Yogi isms. Your right about “When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Thank you for telling us this was his directions for Joe Garagiola, which I didn’t know.
    The one about the New York City Mayor was John Lindsay and not Robert Wagner. It was a very hot day and his wife Mary said to Yogi, “You certainly look cool.” Yogi responded, “You don’t look so hot yourself.”

  3. Mark W Says:

    One of my favorite quotes is by Casey Stengel about Yogi’s seemingly constant good luck: “He’d fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch … ”

    One thing about the Mitchel 3rd strike in the perfect game, which seems to be pervasively missed by so many, including no less a luminary than George Will: it was a swinging strike, not a called strike. Mitchell tried to hold up, but his bat was well out past the plate when Pinelli rang him up. Freeze this footage at the 2:59 mark, and you will see clearly that this is a swinging strike 3.


    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Mark – Many thanks for the reminder that Mitchell swung at the last strike. The only thing dubious here turns out to be the fact that George Will is not alone in this sea of “those who saw and did not see.” I didn’t see the bat swing for years, but then I forgot it again when I did this column.

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