A lot of baseball books (and gosh, it seems like I've read a lot of them lately) put a lot of attention on the game itself: balls and strikes, who won, and the mindset that helps a champion (individual or team) deliver a lasting result. The better books are about the people behind the game: the hardships they endure to reach the major leagues (such as Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game), or the conversations that happen on the field (such as Just Play Ball by Joe Garagiola). Araton's "Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball's Greatest Gift" falls into this category.
Driving Mr Yogi isn't exactly a biography, but in many ways it reads like one. The framework for the Harvey Araton's reporting is a long-standing tradition wherein longtime Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry picks up Yogi Berra at the airport before spring training, and essentially is his companion during those weeks in Florida. In the process of sharing the story about how _that_ friendship came to be, Araton gives us vignettes into the lives of many well-known baseball personalities and does some sincerely entertaining tale-swapping. (One of them: Berra talking about a game against the White Sox in which the first four batters reached base on four pitches -- single, hit by pitch, double, and home run. "On his way to the mound, manager Casey Stengel met Berra halfway and asked how [the pitcher's] stuff looked. 'How the hell would I know?' Berra said. 'I haven't caught one yet.'") I'm not sure we can feel we are sitting in the locker room listening to Yogi, but at least we can pretend we are.
Yogi Berra is a sterling choice as emblem of baseball because he has, after all, been through so much of it. (As a rookie, he crossed paths with Babe Ruth. He played against Jackie Robinson.) You probably expect the book to be peppered with Yogi-isms, both old ("In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they're not") and new... and indeed there are a _few_ of these. (My favorite: Yogi's at a Yankees Old-Timer's day, saddened by the loss of old teammates. Turning to Whitey Ford, "while the list of that year's deceased scrolled down the scoreboard, Berra had confided, 'Boy, I hope I never see my name up there.'")
Mainly, though, it's about Yogi's life, as measured by the lives he has touched. The book talks about the time that Yogi spent with Jorge Posada, "to take on the job of making Posada *want* to catch, of making him believe he could contribute behind the plate as much as he could while standing alongside it with a bat in his hands," such as calling fewer fastballs. We find out about the 14-year period during which Yogi refused to go to Yankee stadium (which I missed, as it was before the time I cared about baseball). We get quite a bit of insight into Guidrey, too, and snippets of others' background. Just about everybody comes across as a Nice Guy.
But primarily this is how Yogi _is_, and what he means to the Yankees and to baseball. It's sweet and entertaining... though a little goes a long way. I read this book in spurts (actually I have a chapter or two left) because, however WayCool Berra is, at times the admiration is just a little too deep. It feels as though I'm reading a very long eulogy, and I refuse to acknowledge that Yogi Berra can leave us.
If the book seems a little heavy-handed towards the Yankees... Well, who can blame it? But as a fervent Diamondbacks fan, I can tell you it's just as enjoyable a book if you wear Sedona Red rather than pinstripes. I liked the book, and I think you will, too.
I don't care if you are a baseball fan, a Yankee fan or neither....if you like books about human beings, that's all you need to love this book. Great storytelling - funny, warm, touching, insightful. Two great Yankee icons sharing time together and you're right there. Two human beings from different generations sharing time together - and you're right there. Classy.
"Driving Mr. Yogi", by Harvey Araton, tells of the friendship that developed between former Yankees greats Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry. Guidry first met Berra while Guidry was a player for the Yankees and Berra was a coach. While Berra helped Guidry as a player at that time, it wasn't until much later, after they had both retired, that the friendship began. Both former players were coming to Florida as Spring Training instructors when Guidry volunteered to pick Berra up at the airport. Little did he realize that taking care of Berra during the spring would become an annual labor of love.
The relationship between Guidry and Berra is written primarily through Guidry's eyes. Although there are also anecdotes in both men's lives that don't involve the other, such as when George Steinbrenner apologized to Berra for the way he fired him, ending 15 years of estrangement between the two, the meat of the book revolves around Guidry and the aging Berra. Yogi comes off as a gentle curmudgeon, fixed in his ways and somewhat demanding of his friends, although a good man with a gentle heart. In my opinion, Guidry is actually the "star" of the book, looking out for Berra and asking nothing in return but Yogi's friendship.
The book is well written, and a quick, easy read. While baseball is the common denominator between the two and the backdrop of the story, the rapport between the two men is the real heart of the book. Five stars.
Driving Mr. Yogi is one of the most delightful, fun books I have had the pleasure of reading, EVER. This is an extremely well-written and knowledgeable account of the beloved Yankees' Hall of Fame iconic catcher and his friendship with also legendary Yankees' pitcher, Ron Guidry. The two became friends when Guidry became a Yankee and over the years have maintained a close friendship and kinship. Filled with anecdotes and thought-provoking accounts of the 'rituals of Spring-training' as Guidry annually picks up Yogi from the airport at the onset of training camp for pitchers and catchers, this book is utterly charming. Even if you are not a die-hard, long-time Yankee fan (like this reviewer is), if you appreciate baseball and its lore and legends, you will certainly enjoy this story. Filled with behind-the-scenes glimpses of some of the most revered names in Yankee history, both past and present, this book brings a marvelous start to the baseball season and is a book to treasure for all seasons. The author, Harvey Araton, has done a simply masterful job of keenly assessing and presenting the long-time close friendship of Berra and Guidry, and his extraordinary baseball knowledge and love of the sport lends itself beautifully to the telling of this quite special tale. It is an intimate, revealing portrait not only of Berra and Guidry, but of the fabric of the game itself, filled with glimpses of the sport rarely seen by those outside.
Driving Mr. Yogi is a keenly perceptive slice of baseball Americana, honoring one of the most beloved figures in sports history, and his close friendship with a Cajun southpaw pitcher that had a pretty darned great career, himself. In baseball parlance, author Harvey Araton has clearly belted one out of the park with this one.
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.
on February 26, 2012
Yes there are Yogi-isms, yes there are stories of Yankee folklore; but this book is about a unique friendship of two men, bound by their shared New York baseball values. The author details the father-son, coach-player, brother-brother, southerner to northerner (Yankees alike), family friend to friend, and many other ways Ron Guidry and Yogi Berra are bound together. The insight author Harvey Araton recounts is akin to the stories you would expect to hear listening to two war veterans reminiscing.
Everybody loves Yogi, always have. And it pains me to say this as a devote Chicago White Sox fan, but now I can love Ron Guidry too. It is not that he ever did anything hateful, except be such a fierce competitor that I could not watch my home team inevitably lose to this great pitcher time after time, but in "Driving Mr. Yogi" we get insight into what a great man Mr. Guidry really is. His humanity and love for baseball, and more directly for Yogi Berra dwarfs his accomplishments on the field. The author details the close relationship Berra and Guidry developed over the years, always focusing on a love for the Yankees. Guidry's unselfish friendship and reverence for Berra is remarkable and admirable.
After reading this book, I wonder how many years Guidry prolonged Mr. Berra's life - the way he looked after him when Steinbrenner brought Yogi back into the Yankee fold, and the joy Guidry brought to Berra's life. In an era of high priced players, banned drug infractions, and cynical fans, this book is a reminder of what is right with baseball.
Driving Mr. Yogi is a quick, inspiring read.
This is a really entertaining story of two baseball legends and their friendship. It also might just provide a clue as to why the Yankees are so perennially on top.
Araton is a New York Time sports reporter who has written this charming little book on the annual tradition of Ron Guidry and Yogi Berra at Spring Training. Since the 2000 season, Guidry, who is roughly the same age as one of Berra's sons, has picked Yogi up at the airport upon his arrival at Spring Training and served as his driver and a kind of general "minder". Guidry, nicknamed "Gator" because he's from the bayou country of Louisiana, makes sure Yogi gets to the ballpark on time, chauffeurs him to dinner and even cooks frog-legs for the legendary catcher. The book is replete with Yogi stories, both old and new.
The book also provides a brief overview of the two players' careers, and a pretty good account of Yogi's 14 year estrangement from the Yankees organization. The split, cause by Steinbrenner choosing to fire Berra via an underling instead of in person, lasted 14 years until Steinbrenner made his way to Yogi's museum and apologized.
One thing that struck me about the book was the description of the incredibly institutional continuity of the Yankee's organization. The book mentions how as a young rookie catcher, Yogi Berra was mentored by the great Yankee catcher Bill Dickey. Yogi describes it as when "Bill Dickey learned me his experience". The goes on to describe Yogi doing exactly the same thing for young Yankees players. The fact that Guidry (among other luminous retired Yankees) still attends camp every year indicates that there is a lot of this kind of experience transference going on in the organization. Maybe that is a factor in those 27 championships?
I can't say enough good things about this book. I enjoyed it immensely, my only complaint is that only 240 pages, I wish it were longer. I recommend it to anyone who loves baseball especially Yankees fans. One of the first things I did after I finished the book, was check the coverage of the Yanks 2012 Spring Training and make sure that Yogi and Gator were back down in Florida. I'm happy to report that they are....
Since 2000, former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry has been Yogi Berra's personal chauffeur and virtual caretaker during spring training. The two have a father and son relationship. In fact, Guidry is only a few months younger than Berra's oldest son. The two, who first met in 1976, bonded as Yankees, share similar personal values and were driven during these careers by proving other people wrong. Berra, 85, of course, is one of the last surviving members of the great Yankee teams from the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Guidry is attentive to Berra and enthusiastically took on responsibility for the Yankee legend. He seriously tries to make Berra comfortable and happy. He treats Berra with reverence and respect. Guidry calls Berra "the most loved man in America."
Berra's son, Larry, says "Yogi loves everyone as long as you are trustworthy and loyal." Long-time Yankee trainer Gene Monahan adds, "Yogi is the kindest and most human individual I've ever met."
Guidry is protective of Berra and truly looks out for him. It's sad when Berra, 85, announces he'll no longer wear his uniform during spring training or sit in the dugout. But he loves to be around the game and around Guidry.
Besides the relationship between Guidry and Berra, author Harvey Araton also covers their backgrounds. Araton trods a lot of familiar terrority, including Berra's 14-year spat with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Driving Mr. Yogi, however, is no Tuesdays with Morrie. Araton says a 1,500-word article he wrote the New York Times about the relationship between Guidry and Berra was the impetus for the book. I believe the topic made a better newspaper article than a 210-page book. Readers who can't get enough of the New York Yankees and their legends, however, will probably enjoy the book.
You don't have to be a Yankees fan to like this book. All you need to be is a baseball fan. As a Red Sox supporter, of course, I am required by federal law to hate the Yankees. I felt a little like a traitor for liking this book so much. Baseball story after baseball story will keep your interest, regardless of what team you like, regardless of whether you are a Yogi fan. Reading these recollections made the book quite interesting. I would highly recommend it.
For Yogi Berra fans? This was an enjoyable 200 or so page read. I read it in a day and enjoyed it from the first chapter to the very end. I've never been a huge Yankees fan (though I am a HUGE baseball fan) I have always paid homage to the great Yogi Berra who may be the best catcher to ever play the game. Sure, "Yogi-isms" in our culture are classics, but Berra was also a baseball guru and reading the book makes you realize just how important Yogi Berra has been to the game of baseball and to the Yankees.
I did not realize until I read this book that Berra and the late George Steinbrenner were on the outs for many years due to Berra feeling that Steinbrenner didn't respect him when he managed the team. In comes Ron Guidry (Louisiana Lightning) who has become close friends with Berra and the daily lives of Berra, Guidry and the Yankees comes to life with humor and kindness in this book.
Again, it is a quick read. For Yankee fans this is a must read and even for the casual baseball fan it is an enjoyable book. I recommend it highly if for nothing else just to remind yourself the greatness of Yogi Berra and how he has impacted baseball through the years.