When Yogi Berra And William Shakespeare Met On A Train

by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

“I know why nobody takes the train anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi spotted a three-seater with a strangely dressed man sitting near the window. Before taking the aisle seat, Yogi wondered, What team is that guy on?

The man bent lower to the notebook on his lap and did not look up. I desire this sir does not starteth a conv’rsation. I pref’r to be with mine own thoughts.

“Hello,” Yogi said. He pointed to the window. “Sunny days sure are sunny.”

The man said, “Aye, thou art correct.”

Yogi squinted at the sunlight. “What can you compare to a summer day?”

The man shook his head, tore a sheet of paper from his notebook, and crumbled it. “I would I had bethought of that. This sonnet is mine plague.”

Yogi reached out. “Berra. Yogi Berra. What’s your name?”

“Mine father calleth me William. I am son of a glove maker, Shakespeare.”

“Son of a glove maker. That’s funny. That’s one nobody didn’t hear yet. Ya know, that name ain’t half-bad in my field. I should use that sometime. I been called son of a few things, too.” Yogi laughed. “I bet you’re a tourist not from around here. Where ya from?”

“Stratford-Upon-Avon, England.”

“Where ya goin’?”

“To visit the sister hamlet of the same name in Connecticut.”

Yogi took off his jacket. “I got a sister. She lives in St. Louis.”

Shakespeare looked out the window straining to see any sign that might confirm he was headed north. “I desire I that I have boarded the correct train.”

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” Yogi pointed to a cluster of apartment buildings. “You passed 125th. And that’s the Bronx. You’re good.

“Hey, I’m goin’ to Connecticut, too, to meet up with the team bus. I had to stay behind for a charity thing,” Yogi said. “I know where Stratford is. Tried to drive me and a few of the guys there once, but I made too many wrong mistakes and got lost. Never heard of a town called Avon near there. Bridgeport used to be near there, though.”

“Hath the village of Bridgeport moved?”

“Nah, it’s still there. Bridgeport is still the same, but it’s different now. You got a job?”

“Aye.”

“You in the navy?”

“No. I writeth for the stage. I writeth poetry, as well.”

“Hey, you ain’t American, but you almost speak English,” Yogi said.

“Thee almost speaketh English, too.” Shakespeare placed his leather pouch filled with papers on the empty middle seat. “Art thee American?”

“American as a cannoli.”

Cannoli? Shakespeare squinted. I feeleth it be best I do not asketh. “Has’t thou an occupation?”

“Baseball. I play for a living.”

Shakespeare shrugged. “I ne’er hath heard of baseball. Does not sound to me as if’t be taxing work.”

“Oh, I pay lots of taxes. We get paid good, but we need every cent. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore. But Baseball’s a great game.”

“Thy work is a game? To earn a shilling thee playeth? Telleth me what is this baseball?”

“It’s tough. Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical. A lot of strategy. That’s where I come in. I’m a catcher. The catcher does all the thinking.”

That does sound worrisome. Shakespeare reached for his quill and paper and made a note. Strategy and thinking. Mine Hamlet, perhaps that gent should be a catcher and not a prince. “What do thee catcheth?”

“Balls and strikes.”

Shakespeare shifted in his seat. “Aye, I knoweth what a ball is, but I has’t cometh to believeth that we art not thinking alike. Mine valorous sir, what is a strike?”

“A strike is when a batter gets a bad pitch, swings, and misses. Or gets a good pitch, swings, and misses or don’t swing at all.”

“Does not strike mean to hitteth? To deal a blow? Wast I to strike mine enemy, I would be hitting that gent.”

“Ain’t no gents in baseball. In baseball, a strike is a miss, not a hit.”

Tugging at the earring in his left ear, Shakespeare said, “Tis the opposite.”

“Opposite of what?”

“Payeth’t no mind.” William shook his head. “Who hitteth the ball?”

“I ain’t fallin’ for that Who’s-on First skit.” Yogi laughed.

“What skit could thee mean? I asketh again, who hitteth the ball?”

“Batters. Naturally. But 90% of the time only a third of the guys get a hit and that’s only sometimes.”

Shakespeare attempted to calculate those odds but surrendered. “Whither is the ball that those gents may hitteth it?”

“Pitchers throw them.”

With eyebrows raised, Shakespeare asked, “A pitcher is a gent who doth toss the ball directly at the gent who is trying to hitteth it?”

“They ain’t gents. Theyt’re pitchers.”

“Therein sitteth the drama of the game, I presume. The intrigue lies in whether the toss is to be or not to be a hitteth?”

“Yeah. That’s it.”

“Whither do these hitters hitteth the ball?”

“Yep, whether the hitter hits the ball is what it’s all about.”

Shakespeare shook his head. “That is not mine question. Whither do these hitters hitteth the ball?”

“Whither?” Yogi thought a minute. “You mean where? To the outfield or down the line. Unless the batter hits a pop-up, but that’s not a hit.”

“If ‘t be true the batter hitteth the ball, wherefore is’t not a hitteth?”

“Because it gets caught before touching the ground.”

Shaking his head, Shakespeare said, “But still twas hitteth.”

“But it ain’t a hit.”

“So is’t that ball not hitteth art hath caught?”

Yogi put his palm to his forehead. “I can’t even believe I know what you just said. But, yeah?”

“Though the ball wast hitteth, yet tis not a hitteth?”

“Exactly.”

Shakespeare rubbed his temples as if to clear his head.

“See,” Yogi turned toward William Shakespeare, “when it’s a single, a double, or a triple, those are hits. Sometimes, it’s a base hit.”

“What does base hitteth mean?”

Man, this guy don’t know nothing. “It’s when the batter hits a fair ball and can get to a base and nobody didn’t make an error in the field.”

“Doth hitters not wend to a base with a single, double, or triple?”

“Sure they do.”

“Then, is’t not that all hitteth art base hitteth? Or ist that some hits fair better than others?”

“Yeah. If your team hits, it’s far better!”

The details of this game art many. “So, thither art three bases in this baseball game.”

“Four. You go home, too.”

“Is’t that the hitter must returneth to his dwelling at some time during this game?”

Rubbing his hand across his face, Yogi thought, this guy don’t even understand things other people who don’t understand understand. “You mean his house? No. Home is a base. It’s where a batter starts. The point is to hit the ball, run to all three bases, and run home again without the other team tagging you.”

Shakespeare shifted in his seat. “So, the point of the game is to wend back to whither one beganeth?”

“Yeah, see?” Yogi nodded.

Shakespeare adjusted his doublet. “Sounds to be an inane effort.”

“What?”

“Payeth’t no mind. How long does this baseball game wend on? Perhaps a fortnight?”

“We don’t always play at night. Sometimes we play in the day. Once in a while, we play four nights in a row, though. Some games, I’m happy to see the bottom of the ninth.”

“Bottom? Is’t the baseball field upright?”

“Nah, it’s flat.”

Shakespeare cleared his throat. “How is’t that it hath a bottom?”

Yogi waved his hand. “Bottom means end.”

Nodding, Shakespeare asked,“Then the beginning would be calleth top?”

“You got it!” Yogi clapped his hands.

Shakespeare smiled. “Alas, the start of the game is hath called the top and the end of the game is hath called bottom.”

“Not the game, the inning.”

Shakespeare mumbled, “I do fear I must prepare mine self for an explanation that defies common sense.” He cleared his throat. “What, pray telleth, is an inning? Is’t that some of the game is playeth outdoors and some is playeth within a structure?”

“You can’t play baseball inside nowhere. An inning is just a part of the game.”

“Like an act in a staged play?”

“Yeah, close enough.”

“How doth an inning end?”

How am I gonna explain this one, Yogi wondered. “Well, it’s like this. When a team gets three outs, the inning’s over.” He held up his hand. “I know you’re gonna ask what an out is.”

“Aye.”

“An out is,” Yogi hesitated. This guy’s exhausting. “A mistake.”

“Quite unforgiving, this baseball.”

“Hey, you should come to the field sometime. You can observe a lot just by watching.”

“I travel oft. Should mine schedule permit, I should like to gaze upon this baseball game. At which hour doth thee playeth this game?”

“All hours, from April to October. Depends what city we’re in. When we play east coast games, it gets late early out there.”

Shakespeare stared. “If ‘t be true thee don’t mind, I feeleth I must close mine eyes and catch but a wink for a short time.”

Yogi rolled his jacked under his neck to serve as a pillow. “Nah, go ahead. I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four anyway.” They rode in quiet until well into Connecticut.

When he awoke, Shakespeare saw Yogi was already wide-eyed. William removed a wrinkled map from his leather bag. “I believeth we art approaching mine station. I must changeth trains, I wast toldeth. Once I disembark, which way doth I proceed to Stratford?”

“Just get off this train and don’t go anywhere and you’ll get there. The Stratford train’ll be right behind us. Get on that. To get into town from train station, grab a cab, and tell the driver when you see a fork in the road, take it.”

“I do desire the driver wilt be more clear on the direction than thee.”

The train screeched, slowed, and stopped. “Hither we art. And I must leaveth thee now. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but not sorrowful at this moment.”

Shakespeare tucked his papers in his leather pouch and fastened the strings. Yogi got up so Shakespeare could squeeze out of the seat. “See ya.”

Shakespeare nodded at Yogi. “Adieu.”

“What?”

“Do thee not und’rstand English?”

“Sure, ain’t we been talkin’ English the whole ride?”

“Almost, mine own valorous sir, almost.” Shakespeare nodded. “Again, adieu.”

Yogi watched Shakespeare exit the train car and settled into his seat. And the guys think I talk crazy. Hard guy to have a conversation with. Didn’t understand nothing.

At the next stop, a woman heavily made up, dressed in lace and frills, carrying a large, tapestry satchel boarded Yogi’s train car. Flustered and floundering, she made her way down the aisle, her dress catching on each seat’s arm as she went. She gave a sigh at each unappealing seat she passed, tossing her head to indicate much bother. When Yogi noticed her approaching, he stood. “Take the window. Plenty of room.” He stuffed her bag onto the overhead rack. “Where you headed?”

“Give me a moment. I’m all distended,” she said. “I can’t think.”

Yogi’s brows jumped. “If you don’t know where you’re goin’, you might wind up someplace else.”

She adjusted her hat. “Frankly, I don’t care where I go, as long as I get away. I just need to elapse.” She put her hand to her forehead.

“You OK?” Yogi asked.

“No. I’m quite untaut.”

Yogi said, “If ya need an ear, I got two of ‘em. Sounds like things ain’t goin’ too good.”

“Things are quite insolvent.” She pulled a hankie from beneath her cuff and dabbed a runaway tear. “I’m leaving my husband. He had an affair. When I discovered it, you could have knocked me over with a fender. I need a change of scenery so I can illiterate him from my memory.”

Yogi nodded. “I’d feel the same way. Guess you wanna start a new future. It ain’t gonna be easy, though. The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“I should say it’s worth a try to move on and reinvert myself.” The lady smoothed her skirt.

“I like the way you think,” Yogi said. “Ya gotta move forward ‘cause a rolling stone gathers no moths.”

“Precisely.” She nodded.

Yogi leaned back against the headrest. At least I talk with this lady, Yogi thought. He turned toward her. “I’m Yogi. Yogi Berra. What’s your name?”

“Mrs. Malaprop.”

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