Yogi Berra had 2,221 regular-season and World Series hits in his 19-year Major League Baseball career between 1946 and 1965.
He also inspired some Billboard chart hits.
The baseball icon, who won a record 10 World Series titles with the New York Yankees and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, passed away yesterday at age 90. While he’s known for his legendary playing career, which also included three American League MVP awards, his affable demeanor and lovable witticisms helped lead to hit songs.
According to lore, cherished cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after Berra; the fuzzy, fun-loving bear, created by Hanna-Barbera, debuted in 1958. Two years later, the song “Yogi” by the Ivy Three hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The novelty song is about Yogi Bear, but, again, Berra was the inspiration for the character.
(Fun fact: the Ivy Three included eventual industry titan Charles Koppelman, who would go on to form SBK Records. The label would release Hot 100 No. 1s by Wilson Phillips and Vanilla Ice in the early ’90s.)
In addition to baseball, Berra (also a true war hero) was famous for his way with words. Among his most beloved quotes: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”; “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”; and, “It gets late early out here.”
Another, and perhaps the best-known, is “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” The truism doubled as the title of Lenny Kravitz’s 1991 single, which hit No. 2 on the Hot 100, becoming his highest-charting career hit.
More recently, Berra was name-checked in Chris Brown’s “New Flame” (featuring Usher and Rick Ross), which hit No. 6 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 27 on the Hot 100 in October 2014. The song’s lyrics include a shout-out to the catcher, further entrenching his legend with a new generation. Just as in Yankees history, Berra’s name (as rapped by Ross) takes its place in the track alongside the likes of fellow icons Babe Ruth, George Steinbrenner and Derek Jeter.