I suspect that Driving Mr. Yogi will almost exclusively be read by baseball fans, particularly fans of the love-them-or-hate-them New York Yankees. And that's a shame, because the book is actually a rather beautiful portrayal of love, respect, loyalty, and the powerful impact of mentoring by one generation of another. Yes, as its subtitle makes clear, this is a book about two of the greatest Yankees ever to play the game: catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher Ron Guidry, two men with little in common other than their outstanding ability to play the game of baseball. But playing baseball is the smallest part of this story.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was not known for his social skills, and Yogi Berra was a man with a long memory and the ability to hold a grudge indefinitely (neither of which make it easy to work for someone like Steinbrenner). Baseball managers are "hired to be fired," of course, and Yogi never objected to the fact that Steinbrenner fired him. But he took offense to how Steinbrenner handled the firing - and refused to return to Yankee Stadium, or speak to Steinbrenner, for fourteen long years. It was the vain Steinbrenner who cracked first, and decided to visit Yogi in New Jersey to work things out.
|Ron Guidry, Yogi Berra|
So when Berra arrived in Florida for his first Yankee Spring Training in fourteen years, Ron Guidry, a Berra protégé and sometime Yankee pitching coach, was eager to meet him at the airport to help his old coach get settled in. Little did Guidry know at the time, that this would be the beginning of perhaps the most beautiful friendship he would ever experience. What began as a courtesy on Guidry's part, one stemming from his immense respect for Berra, would evolve into a deep friendship that made the lives of both men better. If the truth were known, it probably made them both better men. But over time, as Berra aged and became feeble, the relationship evolved into one in which Guidry was his friend’s protector, always there to ensure that Yogi did not suffer a crippling fall or otherwise endanger himself. Theirs was almost a father-son relationship.
Driving Mr. Yogi might be specifically aimed at baseball fans, but it is also perfect for anyone interested in the aging process or in dealing with an aging parent of their own. The book is filled with insights beautifully presented via the many little personal moments that Ron and Yogi shared with author Harvey Araton. We can all learn something from their story.