Saturday, March 17, 2012

Driving Mr. Yogi

The title Driving Mr. Yogi comes from the the fact that Ron Guidry, former Yankees ace of the 70s and 80s, fell into the routine of picking up Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra from the airport at the start of Spring Training in 1999 when Berra returned to the Yankees family after ending a bitter feud with owner George Steinbrenner. That routine has lasted to this day. Not only does Guidry drive Mr. Berra around, but he takes care of the elderly Yankees legend, dining with him, making sure he gets to the ballpark on time, etc. This closeness over the years has developed into a sort of father/son relationship of love and trust. And neither one of them would want it any other way.

Driving Mr. Yogi is reminiscent of Teammates by David Halberstam which chronicled the road trip Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio took to see their old friend Ted Williams for possibly the last time at his home in Florida. Like that book, Driving Mr. Yogi is about friendship. Not only the friendship that has developed between the different-generation Yankees, Guidry and Berra, but the friendships that they forged with their teammates over the years, the special bonds that world champion athletes share. With Driving Mr. Yogi, we get a taste of that, and get to share some of their old stories and inside jokes.

Author Harvey Araton originally wrote an article about this subject for the New York Times, and has now expanded it into a book. We get to know more about the private life of Ron Guidry, his Louisiana roots, and his flair for cooking frog legs. We get to know a little more about the legendary Yogi Berra too, but mostly we are reminded of how important he is to the world of baseball (and not just the Yankees). He is a living bridge to old-time baseball. This is a man who played alongside DiMaggio, Mantle, Ford, and Elston Howard. He played against Ted Williams, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson. He had his photo taken with Babe Ruth! We are reminded that he is, indeed, a treasure.

You don’t have to be a Yankees fan to enjoy and appreciate Driving Mr. Yogi. If you love baseball, the nostalgia of it, and the respect players have for each other, then you’ll enjoy this book.

4 stars

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