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Driving Mr. Yogi

More than baseball, 'Driving Mr. Yogi' is a book about friendship.

(Page 2 of 2)

Guidry purchased a baseball cap engraved with the words “Driving Mr. Yogi.” Insisting that Berra is not a father figure (Guidry’s father being very much alive), the laid-back Louisiana Cajun former pitcher developed an unusual friendship with the former catcher. Berra, the driven suburban New Jersey-ite transplanted from the Italian-American section of St. Louis, likewise insisted he did not view Guidry as a substitute son – Yogi and Carmen reared three sons of their own, including one skilled enough to play Major League Baseball.

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Around Major League Baseball, the Berra-Guidry relationship became well recognized. But it was mostly off the radar until a year ago, when New York Times sports reporter Harvey Araton published a 1,500-word newspaper feature about the two men.

“I knew I had stumbled onto something quite rare and guessed – correctly as it turned out – that there was much more to the story,” Araton said in the Acknowledgments section of the book.

Although Berra is an icon and although it seems everybody feels affection for him, he actually comes across in the book as high maintenance. Some of that maintenance is related to his age and his failing health. But his lifelong obsession with punctuality, his extreme need for daily routine (eating at the same few restaurants, for example), and his relentlessly competitive nature (on the golf course, for instance) seem like at least minor character flaws, even if Araton does not intend that result.

Guidry, on the other hand, comes across as not only kind, but also extraordinarily well adjusted in his personal and professional roles.

One of the outstanding qualities they clearly share is a common touch with common people. A former Major League pitcher named Goose Gossage is quoted by Araton like this: “The one thing Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry have most in common and is obvious to everyone is that they are so unaffected by fame that you have to wonder if they even know that they were great players.”

Major League Baseball players are often portrayed, more or less accurately, as boors or boring human beings. Berra and Guidry have, blessedly, escaped that stereotype.

Steve Weinberg is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the author of eight nonfiction books.


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