Guidry is rarely so outspoken: though these words came out calmly, they reflected more resentment than he allowed himself to show during the season. He apparently felt that having spent the summer putting his arm where his mouth is, it was now time to get something off his chest that has been weighing heavily there for more than two years.
During the Yankees' two stormy championship seasons, Guidry was remarkably adept at avoiding—though hardly indifferent to—the personality conflicts that racked the team. To pull this off while being the center of attention at least every fourth or fifth day was no simple accomplishment, and it's an indication of Guidry's personality. He didn't stay clean by being diplomatic or politic, but by being quiet—and canaille.
"As long as you keep your mouth shut, nobody can say anything about you, because they don't know what you think." he says. "I'm not saying that's the way to handle it, but it is the way to stay out of it. I'm out there to pitch, and that's all I want to do."
During the worst of the Yankee battles, Guidry found a more creative way to express himself than by bickering. "You know what I used to do?" he asks, with a mischievous expression. "When Martin was still manager and I was in the dugout during a game, sometimes he'd get up to holler at an umpire or talk to somebody. He'd stand in front of the dugout, so that his feet were just about eye level. I'd spit tobacco juice on his socks—right on the back of his ankles, where he couldn't see. Everybody in the dugout would be laughing, and Martin's white socks would have a big wet brown stripe down the back.
After enough shots, they'd get soggy and begin to droop, and he'd reach down to pull them up and get tobacco juice on his fingers."
There are 15 pitchers on the Yankee roster; seven of them are paid more than Guidry, some a lot more. Tommy John, for example, who had a 17-10 record with the Dodgers last season, signed with the Yankees in November and will be paid $1,375 million, over three years. Technically, Guidry's salary in 1978 was $38,000. In December of 1977, Guidry's lawyer and boyhood friend, John Schneider, negotiated a three-year contract—1979 through '81—for Guidry. The deal is worth $562,000, of which $90,000 was advanced in 1978. Thus, in essence, Guidry has a four-season $600,000 contract.
If Guidry pitches anywhere near as well as he did last year, he will probably remain the biggest bargain in baseball for the next three years. Schneider would like to renegotiate Guidry's contract, but legally—and ethically—he hasn't got much of an argument. Schneider has approached the Yankees regarding a better contract for Guidry but Steinbrenner is a tough businessman. So far, Schneider's entreaties have been in vain.
Faced with such circumstances, another player might attempt to make up the difference by hustling endorsements as hard and as fast as he can. Schneider and an assistant operate the newly formed Ron Guidry Enterprises, which was set up to take advantage of Guidry's new earning power. However, because of Guidry's reluctance to jump in with both feet, their efforts so far haven't gone much beyond distributing T shirts, sending out autographed posters and baseballs, and answering fan mail. Certainly a player in Guidry's position could earn big bucks from off-field endeavors, but he seems above the shill game. Schneider claims—the integrity of it all making him somewhat incredulous—that in the first month after the World Series Guidry turned down more than $100,000 in endorsements: a soft drink, because Guidry only drinks another brand of pop and a lot of strong Louisiana coffee; chewing tobacco, because although Guidry chews—there is a small brass spittoon discreetly tucked next to his living-room sofa—he doesn't believe he should encourage kids to do so. Two deals have been worked on. One. the endorsement of a line of guns and ammunition, which Guidry uses and likes—he pretty much restricts his hunting to ducks and rabbits—is still being negotiated. The other, a proposal to market a Cajun hot sauce that might be named Louisiana Lightning, which is what Guidry's fast-ball is often called, could also pan out. "He could be a natural for that, the way he eats," Bonnie said the other day. "The last time we went out to dinner he had a bowl of crawfish bisque, a fried catfish dinner, a fried crawfish dinner and crawfish étouffée," which is a thick stew-like dish highly seasoned with cayenne pepper.
Guidry is no more awed by his newfound wealth than he is by his newfound fame or the newfound pressure of pitching a World Series game in Yankee Stadium when his team is down two games to none. He used his 1978 advance to build a new house, which he designed himself, having taken architecture courses at Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, his hometown, for two years before the Yankees drafted him. The cedar house is situated at the end of a dead-end street at the edge of what looks like a jungle, in a neighborhood a few miles outside Lafayette. He hasn't forgotten that just five years ago he and Bonnie were sleeping on the floor and dressing in dark corners of an apartment without drapes or furniture. At the time, it was all they could afford two-thirds of. The other third of the rent was paid by a minor league teammate, whom they needed as a roommate to help foot the bills.
"Ron has a great amount of inner strength," says a family friend, "and it comes from Bonnie. The two of them operate as a whole. She's an extrovert and he's an introvert, and they complement each other."