Remembering Yogi Berra (and Earl Warren)

On April 5, 1979, the New York Times ran on its Op-Ed page a piece by Yale Law Professor Robert Cover titled “Your Law-Baseball Quiz.” Each of the six questions began with the name of a Supreme Court Justice, followed by a list of four Major League Baseball players. The object of the quiz was to “identify the baseball player who bears the same relationship to baseball as the justice bears to law.” The justice for the first question was Chief Justice Earl Warren; the correct ballplayer answer was longtime Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. (Berra died yesterday at age 90.)

Here is Cover’s perfect explanation:

Both Warren and Berra were enormously effective performers on teams with many stars. Despite the presence of players such as Mantle, Maris, Frankfurter, Douglas and Black in the same lineup—all of whom appeared to have a more elegant swing or style—Berra and Warren were the truly most valuable players. Both would frequently swing at bad pitches, but both were capable of hitting them for extra bases, especially in the clutch. Both saw through excessive thought to the true essence of their game:

“Theorists beset us with other definitions of law . . . . But the idea of justice survives all such myopic views, for as Cicero said, ‘We are born to it,’” said Warren. Or as Yogi said more succinctly, “How can you think and hit at the same time?”

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