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Tag: ron guidry

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]

Picture This

Today’s gem from Summer Anne.

The Empire Struck Out

Reggie Jackson turned 65 yesterday. He was my baseball hero as a kid. He was also Jon DeRosa’s idol. To mark the occasion of Reggie becoming a senior citizen,  figured this is as  good a time as any to share Jon’s Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory (which appeared in the book but not on-line until now).


“The Return”

By Jon DeRosa

On January 22, 1982 Reggie Jackson signed with the California Angels. It was the latest in a series of difficult lessons for me—a six-year-old who otherwise had it pretty good. In rapid succession, Darth Vader revealed he was Luke Skywalker’s father, the Yankees crashed out of the only two baseball seasons I had ever followed, and my Grandmother passed days after my little brother was born on my 6th birthday. I was looking for a fight and George Steinbrenner and his Yankees were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I assigned Steinbrenner and Vader to the same category of evil: each had reached into my life and changed things forever. I actively rooted for the Yankees’ decline the way I rooted for the fall of the Empire. I removed my Yankee baseball cards from the binder, secured them with merciless rubber bands and tossed them in with obscure Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians and other total strangers. From that point on, I rooted for the Angels.

In 1982, for a kid in New York, that was difficult. You had to write a letter to the team, addressed to the stadium itself, requesting them to mail you an order form so that you might have the opportunity to buy something with a halo on it. My mother wrote such a letter and, by the grace of Gene Autry, was allowed to purchase a cap, a helmet, a jersey, and for some reason, Angels wristbands. I wore the whole ensemble to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday April 27th, 1982 for Reggie’s first game back in New York. My father and older brother were with me but I was scared stiff. What if he struck out? What if they booed? What if the Yankees were right?

We watched batting practice from right field in a light rain as a buzzing crowd filed in around us. Our seats were in the upper deck between first base and right field, where we munched on hot dogs. I felt grown-up whenever I was allowed to get two, but that night, my nervous stomach wasn’t accommodating. The rain made the bun on the second hot dog a little soggy.

When Reggie came to bat in the second inning, Bob Sheppard announced his name with such elegance that I imagined it was a personal statement, “I should be announcing this name every night.” This was the moment I dreaded. Would they boo? The crowd stood and chanted: REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE. Buoyed by the warmth of the welcome, I got to my feet, but my jaw was frozen shut and I couldn’t move my lips. My dad put his arm around me as Ron Guidry poured in a heater. Reggie took his massive cut, but he got jammed and popped out. I was back in my seat the instant I saw Reggie’s reaction.

The game rolled along at a pace more akin to a 100-meter dash than a modern American League baseball game—they got through seven innings in 1 hour and 51 minutes before the game was called due to rain. When Reggie batted in the fifth, the crowd rose for him again. REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE. He yanked a single to right field and was rewarded with brief applause. I was silent throughout this at bat, too, but the base hit calmed my nerves temporarily. The crowd asked; Reggie delivered. Contract complete, customers satisfied, right? Even a child should have known better. Yankee fans didn’t ask—they demanded. And they didn’t want a single; they wanted a home run.

When they greeted Reggie with his chant for the third time in the seventh, my stomach knotted, and I wished they would stop chanting. It wasn’t fanatical devotion; it was the begging of spoiled children. REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE might as well be MORE, MORE, MORE. I knew it was not fair to ask for so much. In this world I was learning about, teams lose, people die; things just don’t usually work out…

I saw Reggie’s black bat whip through the hitting zone; the ball accelerated at an improbable speed and angle at impact and assumed a trajectory that could have sent it across the street if not for the upper deck façade. As the ball sped past my face it erased all my doubts and fears and I felt a lightness rise from my gut to my head. Pure relief. I couldn’t hear anything because my mind had not yet validated this moment as reality. Then the noise just materialized in my ears: REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE, louder than the other three times combined. My brother and father jostled me from side to side as they chanted along.

I stayed quiet. How did this happen? Did I use the Force to will that ball out of the park? I couldn’t even comprehend that I just got exactly what I wanted. What were the ramifications of getting what you pray for? I should have been screaming my head off, but I just stared out at Reggie rounding the bases, making sure he touched every one and hoping he was as happy as I was.

The chanting didn’t end when Reggie reached the dugout. When he came out for his curtain call, as if they had rehearsed it prior to the game, the crowd turned toward Steinbrenner’s box and let him have it. Steinbrenner SUCKS, Steinbrenner SUCKS, Steinbrenner SUCKS! All of the emotion that had built up in my little body flowed through the crowd into the damp Stadium air. My brother and father were gleefully singing the song, rousing me to participate. But I felt bad for George and I kept silent.

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