The Guidrys were married in 1972, when Bonnie was 18. Two years earlier, a friend had suggested that Guidry ask Bonnie to a sports banquet, but when Ron called, he didn't really get to talk to her. He didn't get much farther than "Hi. this is Ronnie Guidry," when she said, "What?" There was a communication problem; Guidry's Cajun pronunciation of certain words made it difficult for Bonnie to understand him over the telephone. After the friend took the phone to act as a translator, the date was made, and the courtship continued, interrupted by two minor league baseball seasons, until they were married. They now have a 2-year-old daughter, Jamie.
"After Ron and Bonnie got home in October, it took a while for Ron to simmer down," says a family friend. "Bonnie was unfazed by any of it, but Ron needed time. After a week or two, you could see him begin to relax. You could almost hear him sighing in relief each day: 'I'm finally home.' "
Guidry's immediate family includes his parents and parents-in-law. as well as Ron's grandmothers and his paternal grandfather Gus, a salty, spirited, sometimes French-speaking Cajun who often hunts with his famous grandson. Gumbo dinners with the family and old friends are common. Sometimes Bonnie cooks fresh duck gumbo, and the delicacy is excuse enough for a family gathering. Another recent get-together was Jamie's second birthday party, which was held the evening of the underwater football game. The rain continued into the night, and the storm knocked the electricity out for a couple of hours. The party continued, with Jamie thinking the power failure had been for her benefit and with Ron stumbling around in the jungle at his back door, wielding a flashlight and umbrella as he gathered wood for the big fireplace. Inside, the candlelight and familial warmth made the big cedar house with its twin cathedral ceilings glow.
Ron's family is not particularly large, although Guidry is a very common name in Lafayette, a town of 80,000; there are about 500 Guidrys in the phone book. Ron frequently receives fan mail from other Guidrys in the area who think they may be related to him. He replies politely, using a response that has become all but a form letter: "Dear so-and-so: I don't believe we are related, but we Cajuns are close knit, and who knows...." Ron's father was one of five siblings, his paternal grandfather one of 11. Even Bonnie's grandfather was a Guidry, so. indeed, who knows?
But Ron's father, a conductor on the Lafayette-Houston Amtrak line who speaks with the soft and lyrical Cajun accent, says. "Of all those Guidrys in the phone book, only two are relatives. They say three brothers from France settled in Lafayette 200 years ago and they had a lot of kids. Mama gets calls every day from Guidrys who think they're cousins. There's this one old guy who called early in the season and told her he was a fourth cousin. After Ron won 13 straight, he called and told her he was a third cousin. After Ron struck out 18 against the Angels, he called and told her he was a second cousin. After the Yankees won the World Series, he's a first cousin now."
Guidry jokes about the many people who now claim to be related to him, and he accepts this sort of thing good-naturedly, as befits his Cajun good manners. But, inside, he has a measure of disdain for the people he hardly knew last year who now approach him as long-lost buddies. He's wary of people he doesn't know well, and he can become uptight when there are too many of them around. He is as quick and as sharp with his eyes as he is with his left arm, and like the grounders and line drives that come his way on the mound, little occurs around him that he doesn't catch, although he doesn't comment on most of it. He tolerates the attention, but he isn't fooled by it.
Guidry is uncompromisingly protective of his unlisted phone number, so scores of invitations to go duck hunting, mostly from Louisiana folk, prominent and otherwise, pile up in Schneider's office. There are messages from Lafayette bankers, who could help him financially someday. There are invitations from petroleum companies—Lafayette is an oil town—which offer to pay Guidry to hunt with their executives. There are calls from politicians, each of whom would love nothing more than to be pictured in Louisiana newspapers with his hunting jacket on and with an arm around Guidry's shoulder. He has turned them all down. "It's not that he dislikes being with all those bankers and stuff." says Schneider. "It's just that he doesn't feel comfortable with them." It's a nice distinction.
When Guidry goes duck hunting, which he does as often as three times a week during the duck seasons, he usually goes with boyhood friends, former Little League teammates, people who liked him before he was a star. He also has friends who own a duck-hunting camp near the Gulf of Mexico, about a two-hour drive from Lafayette, and he sometimes goes with them, leaving Lafayette in his motor home late in the afternoon, sleeping in a room with as many as 10 men at the camp, rising at four in the morning to hunt and usually getting back home early the next day. Not all of the men know each other, but there is a remarkable rapport among them, especially considering that they range in age from their teens to their 50s.
After dinner at the camp, which always includes stuffed roasted wild duck prepared in the spicy Cajun style, Guidry likes to play a little cards—he just smiles when he is asked if he knows how to play bourre, a Cajun game—and drink a little beer. He listens to the other men's stories, giving his most rapt attention to the colorful and often hilarious alligator-hunting yarns, and tells his own tales about baseball in the big time, such as the one about spitting the tobacco juice on Martin's socks. To sit around a fireplace and swap stories with Guidry is what all those bankers and oil executives and politicians are dying to do, but they probably don't have many tales Guidry would care to hear, and he prefers to save his stories for people with whom he feels comfortable.
After the 1977 World Series, in which Guidry won the fourth game with a four-hitter, there was the usual noisy locker-room celebration. Even Martin, Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson were embracing each other. But possibly the most telling scene in the locker room was a tiny, easily overlooked one. There was Guidry, perched on top of a locker, his long legs dangling down, making him look like a little kid in a big chair, quietly watching the crazy emotional scene beneath him. He had a calm, canaille smile on his face.