Remember the movie, “League of Their Own,” about the all girls’ professional baseball clubs created during World War II? It stars Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, as Manager Jimmy Dugan. One of the most famous lines in the movie is when Hanks is confronted by one of his players who begins crying. Hanks responds, “Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball.” Just ask the Texas Rangers. If there was any team that should be crying, it’s the Rangers. For a team that has been decimated by injuries, watching the Rangers’ team play on a nightly basis, you wouldn’t know it. This happy-go-lucky bunch, always smiling, jabbing at each other with their words, are currently 20 games out of first place and last in the American League West Division. You wouldn’t know it by watching them play that they have had 23 players on the disabled list. You wouldn’t know that they have used a record 81 players this year, or that there have been 11 different first basemen, all because of injuries. Heck, if you could play first base, you might get a start tonight. The Rangers should build a hospital next to Globe Life Park. Sure, to a man they all want to win, but I think they have it all figured out. They’re having fun. They’re having fun playing the game they love. Fun is good; send in the clowns. Everybody loves humor, and that includes the players.
For many years, owners and general managers have placed their money and emphasis on putting a winning product on the field and creating a positive and fun-filled night for the fans. The dizzy bat race, bobble heads and jersey give-aways keep fans coming back. Playgrounds, swimming pools, and birthday clubs are a treat for the kids.
Baseball likes colorful players. Along the way there have been many funny characters and cut-ups that have become part of the fabric of this great game. Casey Stengel, “The Old Perfessor,” preferred to make reporters laugh instead of making sense. Casey once told a reporter, “See that fellow over there? He’s 20 years old, and in ten years he has a chance to be a star. Now, see that other fellow over there; he’s 20, too. In ten years, he has a chance to be thirty.” The great “Dizzy” Dean not only slaughtered the English language but once said, “The good Lord was good to me; he gave me a strong body, a good right arm and a weak mind.” Yankee pitcher “Lefty” Gomez confessed, “Sure I talked to the ball a lot of times in my career. I yelled, ‘Go Foul, Go Foul.’” Lefty also tells a story about facing the Red Sox, with the bases loaded, and Jimmy Foxx waiting at the plate. Yankee catcher Bill Dickey called for a fastball, and Lefty shook him off. So, Dickey calls for a curveball, and Lefty shakes him off again. Dickey calls time and heads out to the mound. Bill says, “What do you want to throw this guy?” “Nothing” said Gomez. “Let’s wait a while; maybe he’ll get a phone call.” The legendary Satchel Paige loved having fun. He even spent some time pitching for a Negro League team named the Indianapolis Clowns. Paige often took his warm-up throws sitting down, with his catcher waiting behind the plate in a rocking chair. Satchel also gave all of his pitches names. “I got bloopers, loopers and droopers. I got a jump ball, a “be” ball, a screw ball, a wobbly ball, a “whipsy-dipsy-do,” a hurry-up ball, a nothin’ ball and a bat dodger. My “be” ball is a “be” ball because it “be” right where I want it, high and inside.” And who could forget his Bowtie pitch?
Ted Giannoulas, who stand 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds, started wearing a chicken suit 40 years ago. He began handing out candy to children at the San Diego Zoo for $2.00 an hour. Ted became known in baseball circles as “The San Diego Chicken.” Yes, he’s been to Corpus Christi, several times. He now calls himself “The Famous Chicken.” Ted has worked 6,500 baseball games not counting birthdays, weddings, parades, you name it, and he’s been there.
Max Patkin, “The Crown Prince of Baseball” has also been to Corpus Christi. Max passed away several years ago and baseball still looks to replace the funny man. I once spoke to Max and he told me his biggest fear was somebody saying, “He used to be funny.” I assured him there was no way that would happen. He was funny. People go home knowing the score, but they also take home the experience.
It’s true that the fans are the lifeblood of the team, but what about the players. No one likes to lose yet they trot out to their positions, game in and game out, during the “Dog Days of Summer.” That’s where I think the manager makes the difference. How do you get the players to treat every game like it’s opening day?
As the Manager of the Texas Rangers, one of Ron Washington’s jobs is to make out the line-up card. I’m sure Ron has to walk through the clubhouse and take role call just to see who’s available to play. His other job is to remind his players to have fun. He has to set the tone in the clubhouse and the dugout. He has to remind his players to give their best, win or lose, and remember to have a good time. Owners sometimes make the mistake of not hiring genuine, passionate managers. The manager should be able to make the players feel comfortable. Sure, they make a ton of money, but they’re still little boys at heart. No player wants to strike out or to be the last out of a ballgame, but the fact is, a lot of us are the last out and a lot of us do lose. The fun part comes from the effort, and then certain success that follows at the plate. Washington understands that he is still dealing every day with 25 kids, out on a sandlot, doing exactly what they loved when they were six or seven years old. The fans may own the game, but the fun starts with the ballplayers. Humor does not have an age attached. Nope, there is no crying in baseball; just asks Ron Washington.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.