It is Friday night. I am getting to this post a bit late. I have an excuse, or a few.
My son Sid and I have been spending a lot of time with the World Series. It is baseball. The best of baseball. It calls for my attention. Even now, as I type, Game 7 is pulling my attention from this craft. That is my story of the moment. Baseball is full of many more.
One of the big ones this year is Ron Washington’s story. Ron Washington, former Twin, former 3rd base coach for the Oakland A’s, and current manager of the Texas Rangers. He has led them to their second consecutive World Series. Interesting man.
He is getting a lot of attention for his animation in the dugout. They call his stirring “The Wash,” a dance of excitement that shows his emotion more than what we see in most Major League managers. He stops his feet as his players round the based and waves his arms.
This dance is not just about his personality. “Wash” is a Major League manager by merit, but a 3rd base coach at heart. The 3rd base coach, as his players round the bases on their way home, has to guide them home, using hand signals and moving his feet as quickly as a player to get in position to relay the signals to a fast-moving base runner. It is one of the most exciting dances in baseball. Windmill arms, the body English guiding a runner to home.
Being a 3rd base coach also requires a quick mind that can communicate complicated instructions to base runners and batters using an even more complicated system of clandestine hand and body signs. The job requires a fast-paced understanding of baseball situations, individual players and strategy. In short, a good 3rd base coach is smart.
We don’t hear much about Ron Washington’s intellect. It is hard for Black men to get that piece of respect. On top of having the visible animation and the smarts to run a team, he also has the quality of being able to understand and respond to the emotional disposition of his players. This was never more evident in how he spoke with Game 4 of the World Series, meeting this young pitcher at his emotional apex.
Sid and I, along with his friend Otto, went to see the movie “MONEYBALL” a couple of weeks ago. It is the story of how Billy Beane built a winning team for the Oakland A’s, a team that had far fewer resources than large market teams like the New York Yankees. It is more than just a good underdog story.
Sid loved it. So did I. Still, our favorite line is when Billy Beane and Ron Washington are visiting are talking to Scott Hatteberg about playing first base after spending his whole career as a catcher and having nothing left in his arm–and Billy says, to Hatteberg that first base isn’t all that difficult and turns to Ron Washington and says, “Right, Wash?” and without missing a beat, right on the tail of Beane, he says, “It’s ineradicable difficult.” It was one of many laughs tow baseball fans
I am writing this as the last game of the 2011 World Series plays next to me. I am writing this to describe why baseball is a love of mine, and my son, and some other people who find the stories of human character and beauty. And the complications of social realities, shortcomings of that human character and what we do to make our way past the imperfect.
I will finish watching the game, this time without Sid sitting next to me on the sofa as is the usual (apart from those moments when he jumps up in excitement as one of the many nuances and not-so-subtle events that make fans cheer or groan). We’ll see how this story turns out.