By Isabella Echevarría
On Friday, June 16, IPH held a special screening of It Ain’t Over, a documentary by Sean Mullin about baseball legend Lawrence “Yogi” Berra. The Hall of Fame catcher had a storied career from the 1940s through the ’80s playing for the New York Yankees and as a manager and coach, but his talent was often overshadowed by his outsized persona — and particularly by his famous “Yogi-isms.”
Yogi-isms were phrases he spouted throughout his career that at first appear to make no sense, but then make perfect sense: “It ain’t over, ‘til it’s over.” “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.” As baseball historian John Thorn explains in It Ain’t Over, a Yogi-ism “is contradictory within itself and gorgeous.”
The screening was followed by a talkback with reporter and moderator Tim Funk, retired Charlotte Observer writer Lawrence Toppman, retired sportswriter Stan Olson and Mark West, former chair of the English department at UNC Charlotte.
The evening was filled with lively discussion and playful banter. Funk started it off with the age-old question: “Jackie Robinson, safe or out?” In Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson famously beat the tag from Berra, the Yankees’ catcher, and stole home base. Or did he? “I think he was safe,” Olson said. “I hate to say it — Yogi is turning over in his grave — but I think he was safe. You just kept seeing that foot kind of get in there, and it’s close!”
“There is a mystery to it,” West said. “There are some things I don’t want to have resolved, and I don’t want that resolved.”
West pondered why Yogi-isms have lived on in pop culture: “One of my favorite ones is ‘I really didn’t say everything I said.’ The thing about those Yogi-isms is that they capture, for me, one of the great beauties of the English language, which is that you can put words together that don’t make sense that make complete sense!”
“I really think he was a poet in a way,” he added. “There’s a kind of truth to these kinds of peculiar phrases and sentences that resonate deeper than the words themselves. He had a natural gift for coming up with them.”
All three panelists reflected on Yogi’s kindhearted nature and welcoming spirit. “People just went up and chatted, and they took him to be a citizen on the same plane as themselves,” Toppman said. “Nobody felt daunted by Yogi.” Maybe that’s the key to his enduring fame: Whether you saw Yogi on the field, in a diner or on the big screen, he always felt like a familiar face.
Catch It Ain’t Over while it is still playing at IPH!
Link to tickets: https://independentpicturehouse.org/movies/it-aint-over/