The Bookshelf Podcast: Harvey Araton

April 1, 2012

Another book about Yogi Berra?

Yup, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Harvey Araton published Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift as an extension of a column he had written for The New York Times last year, about the annual ritual in which the former Yankee ace would pick up the Yankee Hall of Famer in Tampa and serve as his majordomo during Spring Training, driving him around, making dinner arrangements, and in general keeping an eye on his friend.

It’s a bittersweet story as we see Berra slowing down more and more as he grows older. Things that came relatively easily just a few years ago are no longer comfortable for Berra, who makes the somewhat painful decision to no longer don the famous pinstripes or sit in the dugout. But we also see what a national treasure he is, how much he is loved and admired, and what a mensch both he and Guidry are. “Gator” is a loyal friend to “everybody’s grandpa,” as one of the current Yankees describes Berra. Both had a common denominator in George Steinbrenner, who at one point in both of their careers, decided they weren’t Yankee material. Guidry got to stick around, but Berra was fired as manager in such a humiliating manner that he refused to return to Yankee Stadium for more than a decade. The chapter about his reconciliation with Steinbrenner alone is almost worth the price of the book.

Driving Mr. Yogi reminded me of David Halberstam’s 2003 title, The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, in which Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky of the Boston Red Sox teams of the 1940s-50s, made one last cross country trip to visit a dying Ted Williams. Not that Berra is in Williams’ condition, thankfully. But the touching relationship between he and Guidry, who is young enough to be his son, is similarly endearing.

This was Araton’s second book in the space of a few months. He published When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks last fall. I spoke with the author — a Montclair neighbor of mine (and Berra’s) — last week.

Araton, Berra, and Guidry will be at the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls, NJ, on Wednesday, April 4, from 6-7:30 p.m. Admission is $50, which includes a book autographed by the two former ballplayers, but I’m sure the author would also sign if asked. Reservations are required. Call 973-655-2378 to RSVP or for more information.

The official DMY page from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Follow Araton on Twitter.

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