SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. There's often a special bond between pitchers and catchers. They report for work first in spring training, and they share a secret language of hand signals to work their way through batters. But the bond between this pitcher and catcher duo, each Yankee legends of different generations, began after their playing days. When Yogi Berra, the three-time Most Valuable Player, and in his mid-80s now, arrives in Tampa for spring training, he's picked up at the airport by Ron Guidry, the four-time all-star and Cy Young Award winning pitcher - Louisiana Lightning. They watch ballgames, they share meals, and they talk about baseball and life. Harvey Araton, the New York Times sports columnist, has told the story of their friendship in his new book, "Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball's Greatest Gift." We're joined now from WUSF in Tampa by Ron Guidry and Yogi Berra. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.
YOGI BERRA: Thank you.
RON GUIDRY: You're quite welcome.
SIMON: So, did Ron Guidry drive you to the studios there today, Mr. Berra?
BERRA: Oh, yeah. He does all the driving.
SIMON: Is he on time?
BERRA: Sometimes he is, most of the time.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SIMON: How did that start? George Steinbrenner said I need someone to pick up Yogi, and it's you, Louisiana Lightning?
GUIDRY: No. No.
SIMON: So what happened?
GUIDRY: I just know that...
BERRA: I tell him to pick me up.
GUIDRY: He just said I'm flying in, I'm landing at such and such a time on Continental. Be there. So, I said, OK. I'll be there. So, you know, that's how it all starts. But you look forward to it. You know, I look forward coming every year to spring training. You know, we always get everything squared away a couple of months down the road and he want to know certain other things, you know, that are accumulated over the wintertime like his frog legs and stuff like that.
BERRA: He was good at it. He's good at it.
SIMON: How did it happen, Mr. Guidry, that you got Yogi Berra to eat frog legs?
GUIDRY: Well, the first time it was no. And this went on for a couple of years until finally I put them on the table and I said either you try one today or we're not going out to eat anymore while we're here. And he had about two weeks left. So, he tried one. And as soon as he tried one, ever since then that's the first thing he asked for every winter.
SIMON: Mr. Berra, there's a famous picture I've seen over the years. I think there's even a copy in President Obama's office. And that's the photo, 1955 World Series, Jackie Robinson's sliding into home.
BERRA: He's out.
GUIDRY: He's out.
BERRA: He's out.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SIMON: All right, let me just, you know, state for the record that the umpire called him safe. Well, how did you sign that photo for President Obama?
BERRA: He was out.
SIMON: Mr. Guidry, what are the kinds of things that people say to Yogi Berra when you're out together?
GUIDRY: Well, everybody has the same, hey, Yog', hey, Yog', hi, Yog', Mr. Berra, Mr. Berra.
BERRA: The one at the hotel, we're always getting taught not to (unintelligible) hotel.
GUIDRY: Yeah, yeah. That's a little bit different.
SIMON: What happens at the hotel?
GUIDRY: Oh, well, you know, people know where we stay so a lot of times when we're leaving or coming back, you know, you have people who are trying to get autographs that kind of wait for you in the parking lot. But, you know, we don't mind signing autographs at the ballpark, where it should be. But, you know, waiting for us in the parking lot to sign autographs is not exactly the best place for it. The other day, him and I talked about what we'd like to do one day is just, like, forget who we are and just go find a guy and just follow him all day and just bug him all day about sign this, sign - and let you see how it actually is. You know, everywhere you go just be hounded.
SIMON: What does being a Yankee mean to both of you?
BERRA: I was very lucky. I think I played 17 years. But I always said when I was 14 years old I'm going to play in the big leagues. I love baseball. It's fun. Baseball is fun. The one that gets me most mad now a lot is like a dad will come up to me and say: Boy, wait till you see my kid, you know, and all of that. I said: How old is he? He said: He's 9. I say: What do you know what he's going to do at 9 years old? You don't know what he's going to do. I knew when I was 14. I played American Legion ball. That's how I got my nickname, playing the American Legion team. I was sitting on the ground. I sit on the ground and I always had my arms crossed. And Bobby Huffman played with the Giants. He saw me, said, you look like a yogi, and it stuck. Yep.
SIMON: What have you two learned from each other?
GUIDRY: I've always said it's probably some of the best times I've spent in my life is just being around him. We're quite fond of each other. We might not say it. We might not show it. But we are quite fond of each other. He is my best friend.
BERRA: I feel the same way as he does. I give (unintelligible) with me. We talk during the winter. When the season's over, we talk together.
GUIDRY: It'll be funny. There will be some nights where he's in Montclair, New Jersey, I'm in Lafayette, Louisiana, and we're both watching the game and he'll call. And then he'll get on me for something that a pitcher did a thousand miles away.
SIMON: Ron Guidry and Yogi Berra. Harvey Araton tells the story of their friendship in the new book, "Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry and Baseball's Greatest Gift." Gentlemen, thanks so much. Have a great spring.
GUIDRY: You, too.
BERRA: All right, thank you.
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