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Tag: Harvey Araton

Driving Mr. Yogi

Bronx Banter Book Excerpt

From Harvey Araton’s entertaining new book,”Driving Mr. Yogi” (which can be purchased at Amazon) here’s an excerpt to make you smile:

 By Harvey Araton

The first harbinger of spring — or spring training — at the home of Ron and Bonnie Guidry was a telephone call from Yogi Berra.

“You get the frog legs yet?” Berra would ask.

“Yog,” Ron Guidry would say, “it’s freaking January.”

Too late, Berra was already in serious countdown mode for the next Guidry frog fry extravaganza. It seemed like only yesterday that Berra had looked askance at Guidry’s beloved delicacy, like it was tofu wrapped in seaweed. It had actually been years since Mel Stottlemyre had bragged one spring training day about hunting frogs in the Northwest and cooking them himself. Guidry, with all due respect, was obliged to inform him that he hadn’t really experienced frog legs until he’d had them Cajun-style, or straight from the Guidry family cookbook.

Guidry returned to his apartment that evening, fried up a fresh batch, and the next day passed them around the coaches’ room. He offered one to Berra, who immediately made a face.

“Come on,” Guidry said. “You’ll like ’em.”

Stottlemyre, munching nearby, couldn’t disagree. But still Berra demurred.

“Yogi, I’ll tell you what, if you don’t try one, we’re not going to supper tonight,” Guidry said.

Was he serious? Probably not, but if Berra knew one thing about Guidry, it was that he was proud of his Cajun culture and cuisine.

Yogi wondered if he was in some way hurting his friend’s feelings. So he finally gave in, picked one off the plate, and gave it a nibble. Lo and behold, it was delicious. He wanted another, and as the years rolled by, he would continue to fi nd a place in his diet for something no conscientious doctor would have ordered for a man in his eighties.

Following treatment in the seventies for an arrhythmia, Berra assiduously watched what he ate. He avoided cholesterol-heavy breakfasts, pushed away most desserts with a dismissive “too fattening,” and made sure that the Progresso soup prepared for him at his museum almost daily and specifically at noon by the museum’s faithful business manager Bettylou O’Dell was low in sodium.

He had even long ago disassociated himself from the Yoo-hoo soft drink that he had made famous in the fifties and sixties (by chiming in a commercial, “Me-he for Yoo-hoo!”) because he objected to the preservatives that had changed the drink’s texture and flavor. If he relaxed his calorie counting, it was usually at dinner, especially at big family dinners, where everyone down to the youngest of the Berras was taught that the heels of the long Italian bread were reserved for Grandpa. Berra’s favorite dish was tripe — the stomach tissue of cows and a peasant staple in the old country — but he enjoyed a fairly wide range of gastronomic fare that occasionally didn’t agree with him.

For instance, he liked to munch on hot peppers right out of the jar. It was another habit that Carmen wanted him to break — except it turned out that Guidry, who used peppers to spice up his Cajun cooking, was Berra’s main supplier.

“I’d have them with me in spring training, and then when he’d go back to New Jersey, he’d tell me to send him a batch when I got back to Louisiana,” Guidry said. When Guidry would comply, he would get a call from Carmen asking that he stop sending the peppers. When he didn’t send them the next time Yogi asked, he’d get a call wanting to know where the peppers were. “Either way, I had one of them fussin’ about the damn peppers,” he said with mock resignation.

After so many years of sitting across the table from him at one Tampa establishment or another, Guidry could probably expound on Berra’s culinary preferences better than anyone but Carmen. At the very least, he could discuss them like a comedian working his monologue.

“When we go to the Rusty Pelican, that’s a seafood place and they have swordfish, which he loves, so he gets that all the time there,” Guidry said. “When we go to the Bahama Breeze, he likes the black bean soup, and with that he’ll have the seafood paella or the barbecued ribs. Four times out of five, he’ll have the seafood, but let’s say we have been to the Pelican the night before, well, that means he’s already had seafood, so he’ll get the ribs.

“Now Fleming’s is the steakhouse, so that’s what he gets there, and then at the Bonefish he has to have the sea bass. Then after he moved into the Residence Inn, he went one night to eat with Carmen at Lee Roy Selmon’s, which is right next door. So he tells me the next day, ‘Hey, it’s not bad.’ The guy recognized him, sat him at a nice table, everything was fine. OK, so now we got to go to Selmon’s, and there he gets the meatloaf. But since he’s been at the Residence Inn, where they put out a spread in the evening, he also keeps a list on the door of his refrigerator that tells him what they’ll be serving. If he likes something he’s had before, he’ll say, ‘On Tuesday, I’m going to eat in the hotel.’ ‘OK, that’s good, Yog.’ ”

No Tampa meal, however, was as anticipated and as fussed over as Guidry and Berra’s “Frog Legs Night,” which by the end of Berra’s first decade back with the Yankees had taken on the ritualistic weight of Old-Timers’ Day.

Before leaving for Tampa every spring, and after being badgered by Berra, Guidry would pack about two hundred legs into the truck, having purchased them inexpensively (about $200 for a hundred pounds) in Lafayette, where they are plentiful and sold year-round.

From the same vendor, he would buy a mixture of fl our and cornmeal seasoning in a gallon jar.

“They’re so simple to fix,” Guidry said. “You got the egg batter, the fry mix, dip ’em in the batter, throw ’em in the frying pan.” From the frying pan, the frog legs would be transferred to paper towels, to soak up some of the grease. It took about ten minutes to cook up a batch of forty legs.

Guidry would ration his supply so that it would last throughout spring training. He would prepare some for the more adventurous players looking for a break from the standard clubhouse fare. Jorge Posada was a longtime fan. CC Sabathia joined the club when he came on board in 2009. Guidry would also invite two or three buddies over on one of his first nights in town and playfully have Goose Gossage dial New Jersey to let Berra know what was on the menu that night.

“Yogi, we’re over here at Gator’s, and we’re eating all the frog legs,” Gossage would say.

That was enough to set Berra off. “There’d better be some goddamn legs left when I get down there,” he’d growl.

Excerpted from DRIVING MR. YOGI: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift. Copyright © 2012 by Harvey Araton. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

[Photo Credit: Edward Linsmier for The New York Times, Saed Hindash/N.J.com]

Soul Survivor

Harvey Araton has a long profile on Brian Cashman today in the Times.

[Photo Credit: Catholic University]

It’s Only a Day Away

The Cliff Lee Drama promises to unfold shortly–tomorrow they say–and I for one am fed-up with all this waiting. I hope he signs with Texas, stay the bad guy (and I think he’s lock to go back). Look, if he comes to the Yanks, I’ll bellyache about the contract, because it’s insane, but I’ll be pleased that he improves the team in the short term. If he passes, I’ll be relieved and eager to see what the Yanks do next.

That said, this waiting game isn’t endearing Lee to anyone. Not that he does–or should–care.

It’s raining in New York this morning. The Jets play the Dolphins in the late afternoon game out in Jersey. I wonder if football players wake up bummed when they hear raindrops or if it just doesn’t matter at all to them as they gnaw on a slab of raw meat.

In the meantime, check out this loving appreciation of Vic Ziegel and Maury Allen by Harvey Ararton in today’s New York Times.

Araton gets props over here.

In the meantime, the Knicks are on early this afternoon. Yes, the Knicks. Amare has been so much better than I ever expected. What a nice surprise. It’s been awhile…

UPDATE: The first half of the Knicks-Nuggest game today at the Garden is enough to turn fair-weather Knicks fans like me back on. 66-65 Knicks at the half, a shoot-out. Lots of fun. Nene vs. Amare has been spirited, Amare came close to getting his second tech and tossed in the second quarter. Refs gave the Knicks a hometown call. Nene’s thrown down three dunks, the last one, emphatically! over Amare.

Can’t remember the last time I was actually excited about watching the second half of a Knicks game…

UPDATE: Knicks win a good one…that’s their 8th win in a row, something they haven’t done in 16 years.

Celts and then the Heat come to the Garden this week. Nice.

[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News and Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images]

Yankee Panky: Hodgepodge

An open letter to A-Rod’s handlers …

To whom it may concern:

In light of recent events where Alex Rodriguez has spoken to the media, in both controlled and extemporaneous settings, it is my belief that you should consider a gag order for your client/relative. (New York Times columnist Harvey Araton agrees.) Certainly, you’ve read the analysis of his press conference performance in this space and elsewhere, and are aware of the dent your client/relative’s credibility has taken. This past week, his comments about Jose Reyes would have been fine if he hadn’t added these 13 words: “I wish he was leading off on our team, playing on our team.” In fact, it spurred the Daily News to run a Top 10 list of dumbest A-Rod quotes last Wednesday.

Now, with the labrum tear in his hip — naturally, people will jump to conclusions that it’s steroid-related, despite reports to the contrary — there are greater questions to ponder. Why do the partial surgery as opposed to getting the whole thing done? Is this short-term solution best for the long term? What led to that decision? Is Alex in consistent pain? Does the hip hurt after extended periods of rest? Sleep? How about walking up and down stairs? While cortisone shots would help, would they have an adverse effect on the healing process? Inquiring fans want to know, provided he can tell us something without inadvertently offending someone and then issue an apology through a publicist. Maybe the Yankees don’t want him to speak and potentially say anything incriminating. Judging from the commentary of how the organization has handled his hip injury over the last 10 months, you have to wonder if Brian Cashman and the rest of the brass are not fully committed to nine more years of Alex Rodriguez in a Yankee uniform.

We know Alex is going to be a target. He’s the highest paid and arguably most talented player in professional baseball. In general, Yankee fans are concerned about his health, mainly because it’s impossible to replace the production he can provide in the lineup. He’s still the most important piece to their offense. We want to see Alex recover, get back on the field and help the Yankees win their first World Series since the turn of the century. What we don’t want to see is him speaking to the media, fumbling his words and giving us more reasons to liken him to Manny Ramirez with a different type of insanity. Some fans are already at that point.

Maybe Bernie Williams is right; time away from the team, and the game, will be good for him.

We hope so.

Will Weiss


• Harvey Araton espouses on the First Amendment, A-Rod, and Selena Roberts in a column published last Monday. For anyone entering Journalism School or interested in reporting and mass communication/media theory, this is a must-read. [Props to Diane Firstman for the recommendation.]

• With A-Rod out, the shift in Yankee coverage is shifting toward C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. This makes sense, since both will be under even more pressure to perform, now that the team will be without Rodriguez for an extended period of time.

• Though he’s not affiliated with the YES Network anymore on a full-time basis, Jim Kaat shared his thoughts on the PED issue with Kevin Kernan of the Post, and proved once again why he’s one of the classiest individuals you’ll ever meet.

• Maybe this is being nitpicky, but did anyone else notice that the flag patch on the right sleeve of the United States’ World Baseball Classic team’s uniforms had the stars on the wrong side? (It was in the upper right corner, instead of upper left.) Neither Dave O’Brien nor Rick Sutcliffe noticed it on the ESPN broadcast. And nothing I read as far as game coverage noticed the gaffe.

NEXT WEEK: What should the key stories be as we count down to Opening Day, and how would you like to see them covered? Send your submissions here.

Until then …

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver