The book: “Gator: My Life In Pinstripes”
The author: Ron Guidry, with Andrew Beaton
How to find it: Crown Archetype, 240 pages, $24, released March 20.
The links: At Amazon.com, at the publisher’s website.
A review in 90-feet or less: There are a few reasons in this media era that might compel a former ex-big leaguer to come out with a memoir.
We are flatly confused by the motives by the former Yankees pitcher who, not to steal his thunder, but we though was better known as “Louisiana Lightning.”
*Possibility A: Maybe he seeks Hall of Fame attention. Guidry’s stat line: 14 years, all with the Yankees from age 24 to age 37, covering 1975 through 1988. A record of 170-91, with a ridiculous 1978 season of 25-3, 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts and a club-record 248 strikeouts, including a team-mark 18 against the Angels on June 17. That got him a Cy Young, second in MVP, and he led all of pitchers in WAR at 9.6.
He also was 22-6 in ’85 and 21-9 in ’83 when he had 21 complete games. Four All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, two World Series titles, 5-2 in the postseason with a 3.02 ERA. Despite his reputation, he never led the league in strike outs, surprisingly.
In nine Hall of Fame voting cycles, he got 5.3 percent when he was first eligible in ‘94, and topped out at 8.8 percent in 2000, but didn’t have any sabermetrics crusader keep him from sliding to 4.9 percent in his last year.
Even if someone can make a case that he compares well in his eight best seasons to Dodgers’ Hall of Famers such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale or Don Sutton, the Hall of Fame monitor at BaseballReference.com has him as just a very, very good pitcher, bordering on Hall consideration perhaps by a veterans committee down the road.
Jay Jaffe’s “Cooperstown Casebook” doesn’t have Guidry among the top 88 starting pitchers listed in the game’s history for Hall consideration. Another former Yankees lefty, Andy Pettitte, has a much better case.
*Possibility B: Here’s a chance to cash in on his fame.
His last season was the same year the Dodgers last won a World Series. We don’t have to tell you how long ago that was. He may have a place among the Yankees monuments, and his number retired, and a former Yankees captain, but who hasn’t had that honor?
(Quiz: What was his number again? Answer below)
*Possibility C: Perhaps he’s got some hellish stories to tell, and now is finally ready to spill.
If so, we’re still looking for them here.
If boredom has set in with the now-67 year old, who never made $1 million in any of his seasons but probably amassed $8 million total, he has passed it on to the reader. Not even a writer like Beaton, a Wall Street Journal sports scribe, could upgrade Gator’s journal entries.
Guidry wasn’t the straw that stirred these Yankees of George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Bucky Dent, Chris Chambliss, Yogi Berra, Mickey Rivers … Paul Blair?
It’s almost as if Guidry wants to tell us some things about those teams, but that just ain’t his nature.
So, what else can we possibly glean about the guy who faced the Dodgers in the World Series of 1977 (a 4-2 complete-game win over Doug Rau in Game 4 that gave his team a 3-1 series lead), ’78 (a 5-1 complete-game series-turning win over Don Sutton in Game 3 despite seven walks) and ’81 (a 5-3 win over Jerry Reuss in Game 1 and a tough 2-1 loss to Reuss in a pivotal Game 5 at Dodger Stadium)?
*From the ’77 Series: “Lou Pinella made a once-in-a-lifetime catch in left, robbing Ron Cey of a long ball and saving my ass. In the bright sun of Dodger Stadium, Lou casually got to the wall during the fourth inning, leapt, and came down with it like it was an easy schoolyard catch. … Two innings later, Reggie Jackson hit his first World Series homer as a Yankee to give us an insurance run.”
*OK, so on to the ’78 Series, after he was worn out facing the Royals in the ALCS: “We were the defending world champions. We hadn’t played for shit for the first two games. But that was in Los Angeles. Now we had three games in our park … Our cages needed to be rattled. Thurman rattled them … (Craig Nettles) saved my ass. … I kept throwing sliders in; they weren’t as sharp as they had been most of that season, but Graig and the other fielders kept gobbling them up … They just hitting the ball to Graig, and he kept picking them off.”
*And … then the ’81 Series: “Whenever I see Tommy Lasorda .. he says to me, ‘Aw, we should’ve beaten your ass three times.’ I always tell him they won the one they deserved. … What still eats me up is I pitched so damn well in Game 5 but still lost it. That day in Dodger Stadium I had everything working … Lou gave us a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the third, and it was one of those days when I felt it might be all I needed. Through six innings, I had allowed only two hits. To start the seventh, I struck out Dusty Baker on three straight pitches. Then I got ahead of Pedro Guerrero and thwack. Solo shot to left center. Next batter, I had Steve Yeager on a 1-2 count and thwack. Solo shot to left center … It was the worst time to make the worst pitch, twice in a row … It was frustrating.”
We know the feeling.
One other sobering thought before we close the book on Guidry: He became Joe Torre’s pitching coach with the Yankees after Mel Stottlemyre left after 2005. He did it for two seasons, and then Torre was let go, ending up as the Dodgers’ manager.
“I’m not sure he would’ve asked me to join him as his pitching coach, though he might have. That never happened. I think I made it clear in previous conversations with him why. I stated it pretty simply: I could never wear Dodger blue. We had too many big games against them when I was a player, and I had worn only Yankee pinstripes my entire life. It wouldn’t have been right.”
Didn’t seem to be a big issue with Don Mattingly. So when does Donnie Baseball’s book finally come out? We can only wait to be regaled again.
How it goes down in the scorebook: They couldn’t have dig up a better photo for the cover than a black-and-white shot of Guidry that he apparently autographed down at the bottom? Would the photo at the top of this review been so difficult to obtain?
Also: He wore No. 49, retired in 2003.
And another thing: A couple of other pitcher-related bios out on the market right now that we have a passing interest, but not enough to fully review:
* “Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer,” by Skip Lockwood, released March 6
* “Dick Bosman on Pitching: Lessons from the Life of a Major League Ballplayer and Pitching Coach,” by Ted Leavengood and Dick Bosman, released March 16