August 29th, 2009
I met Ron Guidry once. It was back in the early eighties when the Yankees were still doing their spring training at Ft Lauderdale. My wife and I and our two children were visiting my in-laws in nearby Boynton Beach and we got tickets to New York’s last home exhibition game of that season. My son Matt had not been feeling well at the time so during the game, I was carrying him down the ramp from the stands on my shoulders, to get him out of the hot sun for a while and get him something to drink. That was when we saw “the Gator.” The ramp was right alongside the Yankee clubhouse exit, separated by a chain link fence. Since this was their last game in Florida, the Yankees were all packed for the plane ride north and there was a huge pile of luggage sitting behind the fence. Ron Guidry, was rummaging around inside one of the suitcases. I shouted out a greeting and he looked up, smiled and gave a friendly wave. Then he saw Matt on my shoulders and asked me how old he was. I think he was three at the time. Guidry came over to the fence and stuck his finger through one of the links and touched Matt’s hand with it. I told him how my son had not been feeling well and Guidry remarked that he looked sort of flushed and it was a good thing I was getting him into the shade. The very best pitcher in baseball at the time then told my young son that he hoped Matt felt better real soon.
Then last year I saw a report on some television show about how Guidry would serve as Yogi Berra’s personal companion at the Yankees’ annual spring training. Gator would pick the aging Hall of Famer up at the airport when he arrived in Tampa, get him checked into his hotel, take him to and from Legends Field every day and have dinner with him most every night. A few days after the report aired, Berra took a tumble in the Legends Field clubhouse and it was Guidry who went with him to the hospital.
Guidry was born on August 28,1950 in Lafayette, LA. If you had the privilege of seeing him pitch you remember how dominating he could be on the mound. He won twice as many games as he lost during his career, 170 in all and he always got the ball whenever the Yankees were facing a must-win. He was a great Yankee. And if you didn’t know it already, now you know that Ron Guidry is a super nice human being as well. Happy 61st birthday Gator.
Guidry shares his August 28th birthday with; the pitcher he beat in that famous 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox; the Yankee right fielder in that same game who made a great play to save Gator’s victory that day; the starting second baseman on the Yankees’ first World championship team and this former Yankee reliever.