Harvey Araton on Driving Mr. Yogi
There have been many books written about and by Yogi Berra. What makes this one different?
The previous books about Berra, or those authored by him, have focused almost solely on his storied career, or on the quirkiness of his personality, his famous "Yogi-isms." This book captures him as never before and in doing so characterizes him as far more multidimensional. In this flung-open window into Berra's octogenarian life, and his incredibly heartwarming relationship with Ron Guidry, he occasionally is stubborn, cranky, vulnerable and ultimately endearing--in the manner of most aging folks we know. This is as real as Yogi Berra gets.
How did the book come about?
First, our beloved 14-year-old black Labrador died. Then our friends, the Kaplans, took us out for dinner. Dave Kaplan is the longtime director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. I mentioned that I was going down to spring training the following week and wondered if and when Yogi would be there. Knowing that he had recently had some health issues, I asked if Yogi's wife Carmen always stays with him in Tampa. Dave said, "Actually, Carmen usually only goes down for a few days. Believe it or not, Ron Guidry looks after Yogi. He’s been doing it for years." Later that night, a light went on in my head. Might be a story there, I thought. It wound up on page one of the New York Times and the response to it was overwhelming. Fifteen hundred words hardly did it justice. Hence, we now have 70,000.
How did you arrive at the title Driving Mr. Yogi?
Just to be playful, Joni Bronander, who works for the Berras at their museum, made a cap for Guidry with the inscription "Driving Mr. Yogi," playing off the Driving Miss Daisy film. She also had one made for Yogi that says: "Driven by Gator." The title seemed like a natural fit from the beginning, although as I worked through the story I began to realize that "Driving Mr. Yogi" was something of a double entendre. It developed a far deeper meaning than I originally realized.
As much as this is about generational loyalty and commitment, about honoring everything that has come before, it is also an examination of a man who refuses to surrender to human frailty. And while Yogi Berra may be a household name of historic proportion, he is also really an Everyman, much like our grandfathers and grandmothers and parents, who clings to his identity however he can because it makes him feel not only happy, but vital and alive. Like Guidry, we all have such people in our lives--be it by blood relation or otherwise--who deserve our love and assistance in their struggle to not be pushed into a geriatric corner and left there.
Why is Yogi Berra so beloved?
I think there are obvious reasons--great team ballplayer, ten-time World Series champion, humble yet confident, not physically imposing, approachable, and a grown man nicknamed Yogi. At the same time, Berra has been a celebrity for many decades now, used to having people wait on him--or wanting something from him--and in that regard he can occasionally be demanding, though not in the sense that he wants material things given to him. But he does expect to be driven to the ballpark on a certain day, at a very specific time, and so on. As I came to understand it, those who cater to Berra see him as the most unpretentious famous person in the history of celebrity. They revel in being inside his circle because they plainly see that status has nothing to do with it. It’s not about how important you are; it’s about how real a friend you are.
Photographs from Driving Mr. Yogi
Click on thumbnails for larger images
| || || || || |
|Yogi and Carmen Berra, the picture of fifties American suburban bliss. ||Ron and Bonnie Guidry, hometown sweethearts from Cajun country in Louisiana. ||Yogi shares a laugh with George Steinbrenner on the night the Boss begged his forgiveness at the Berra museum in New Jersey. ||Berra had a cap of his own, inscribed: "Driven by Gator." ||Joe Torre begged Berra to hand out 1996 championship rings and fussed over him when he finally returned to the Yankees in 2000. |
"Harkens back to an era when ball players were teammates because of the uniform they wore, not the games they played. Driving Mr. Yogi is as sweet as the unlikely friendship between Berra and his designated chauffeur Ron "Gator" Guidry who, along with author Harvey Araton, handles this precious baseball cargo with requisite TLC."—Jane Leavy, bestselling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax "Hop in, sit back and enjoy the ride with Yogi and Gator. With grace and humor, Harvey Araton makes certain it will put a smile on your face."—Tom Verducci, bestselling author (with Joe Torre) of The Yankee Years "In Driving Mr. Yogi, one of America's finest sportswriters writes about the magical relationship. Any baseball fan would love to be at spring training, sun shining, smell of mowed grass in the air, and just listen to the stories of those two wonderful men. Harvey Araton lets us do just that."—Joe Posnanski, author of The Machine and The Soul of Baseball "How would you like to hang out with Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry during spring training? Funny and sweet, Driving Mr. Yogi transports you there."—Jim Bouton, former major league player and author of Ball Four "Among the most thoughtful journalists of his time, Harvey Araton delivers one of baseball's greatest stories never told in this poetic tribute to the relationship shared by Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. A must read for anyone who cares about baseball, loyalty, and love."—Ian O'Connor, New York Times bestselling author of The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter and Arnie & Jack "Spending time with Yogi Berra is a unique pleasure, as Ron Guidry, a special guy himself, can attest. Now thanks to Harvey Araton's delightful book you, too, can get to know one of the world's great treasures and revel in a remarkable relationship."—Tim McCarver, sportscaster, Fox Sports