The Slatest

Yogi Berra Probably Did Not Say “Hello, Pope” to Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII and a young Yogi Berra.

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo courtesy Patriarchate of Venezia via Wikimedia commons

Famously quotable baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra passed away Tuesday at the age of 90. Tuesday was also the first day of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Coincidentally, there is a funny story about Yogi Berra’s description of meeting a different pope, John XXIII, in 1959. As told by Sports Illustrated’s Roy Blount in 1984:

Reporter: “I understand you had an audience with the Pope.”

Yogi: “No, but I saw him.”

Reporter: “Did you get to talk to him?”


Yogi: “I sure did. We had a nice little chat.”

Reporter: “What did he say?”

Yogi: “You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, ‘Hello, Yogi.’ “

Reporter: “And what did you say?”

Yogi: “I said, ‘Hello, Pope.’ “

This 2011 Yankees book by a history professor with a Ph.D from Rutgers, though, says Berra told reporters at the time that he had not actually met the pope on his trip to Italy, while a 1959 Chicago Tribune article about Berra’s time in Rome doesn’t mention any meeting either. Nor are there any references to the exchange with the reporter in the Nexis news database that cite a specific time and place when it allegedly occurred. Especially given the number of other sayings and coinages attributed to Berra that he wasn’t actually responsible for, it unfortunately seems like this particularly news-relevant tale might be a tall one.