Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tools of Ignorance

When you come to a fork in the road...take it." Yogi Berra, catcher.

Noting the passing of Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

Mr. Berra may be the only baseball player whose "-isms" book is not laced with epithets and profanity. He was known for a lot of things beside extraordinary talent behind the plate, for a franchise that seems to field each generation's premier catcher. He was a Navy veteran who witnessed the Normandy invasion, and debarked assault troops, from his transport ship. He signed for what was the standard bonus - $500 - just after boyhood friend Joe Garagiola began his professional baseball career. He wore the "tools of ignorance," an expression meant to deride anyone silly enough to squat behind the plate while hundred mile-an-hour pitches are hurled their way.

His malapropisms are legend. Once asked the time, he replied "You mean now?" The profound "You can observe a lot by watching" is deeper than it seems. We were told - math skills being optional - that 90% of baseball is mental, and the other half physical.

The fork in the road. How many of us have encountered one and frozen in our tracks? Or, worse, we turned around to get our bearings, only to find that the fork had vanished as we wrestled with indecision? A life's journey is made up of roads that present reasonable alternatives and invite us to choose. A smart person knows which to take. A wise one knows how to make the best of a timely choice.

For French Revolutionary Georges Danton it was "et toujour de l'audace." For a man from St. Louis the words were simpler, but no less powerful. Make a decision, take the fork.

All of it seen from behind the tools of ignorance, on the biggest stage in America. Home plate, Yankee Stadium. You don't linger there for an era on your way to the Hall of Fame by forgetting to take the fork in the road.

UPDATE: Political writer George Will, baseball fan, writes of the inclusivity of sports - especially baseball - in his tribute to one Lawrence Peter Berra.

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