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SHADOW GAMES: Justice Is Served

The streets are in a rage today. Everyone is going somewhere to buy something or sell something or steal something.

Traffic is snarled and parking tickets are being written in bunches: One car in a crosswalk, two up on a sidewalk and three in a bus stop.

“These people don’t care,” a parking cop says. “Double parked, tripled parked and some of them block the whole street. We try to keep emergency lanes open and people move the barriers to park.”

It almost makes you feel sorry for the parking cops.

“We need a way to show these people who is really in charge,” the parking cop says.

Yeah, almost.

Even though most New Yorkers can’t work up a holiday-shopping rage it is interesting to watch. It’s like seeing an enemy fan being hauled out of Yankee Stadium by a dozen cops. It may not be right, but you quickly come to terms with the fact that justice can take many forms.

The parking cop gets on the radio and calls a tow truck to Broadway and 56th Street.

Another car in a bus stop. A BMW with Massachusetts plates. Perfect.

Justice is served.

SHADOW GAMES: A Working Holiday

Helen’s holiday started early. She left her apartment at 3:32 a.m., got to the coffee shop at 4:26 a.m., began filling the salt-and-pepper shakers at 4:39 a.m. and was pouring coffee for customers at 5:02 a.m.

She shouted the first order to the cooks at 5:09 a.m.

“Two scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, home fries and whole-wheat toast.”

“Breakfast is my business on Thanksgiving,” Helen said. “Some people are roasting turkeys and baking pumpkin pies, but I’m here serving bacon and eggs and pancakes and cheese omelets.

“This is always a busy morning,” she continued. “I think some of the guys just like to fill up on their gossip before going home to a family dinner.”

At 6:02 a.m. the counter was elbow-to-elbow and the baseball talk was wall-to-wall.

“I was hoping for some new pitchers to go along with my turkey dinner,” someone said. “What’s taking so long with these free agents?”

“You’ve gotta be patient,” someone else said. “We need a good rotation on Opening Day not on Turkey Day.”

“We also need a bat,” someone said. “What about getting Teixeira?”

Helen interrupted at 6:07 a.m.

“Would you guys like some more coffee?” she asked.

“That sounds good,” they all said.

The conversation quickly restarted:

“Do you guys think Abreu is coming back?”

Helen rolled her eyes at 6:08 a.m.

She only has about nine hours to go.


Donnie Evans had a stroke four years ago when he was only 39. It left him with a dead arm, a pronounced limp and the ability to deal with a little bad timing.

“It looks like the boat from Staten Island just came in,” he said as the 1 train rolled into South Ferry. “I’ll give the crowd a few minutes to thin out. That makes it easier for everyone.”

Evans stood at the far end of the platform while the crush of people cleared. Then he headed for work with stiff, labored steps aided by a cane.

“I’m like a puppet with someone yanking my strings,” Evans said with a laugh. “I used to be embarrassed by how I walk, but that’s all behind me.”

Evans left a lot behind.

“I had to ditch the self-pity and take a hard look at myself,” Evans said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m a better person because of it.”

He’s also better because of a single meeting with baseball legend Buck O’Neil.

“I talked to him at a Minor League game several years before I had the stroke,” Evans explained. “He packed so much kindness and wisdom into the few minutes we shared that it all came back to me when I hit my lowest point.

“Buck went through so much and never felt sorry for himself,” Evans continued. “I know our situations are different, but I’ve tried to face the rest of my life the same way he faced his: With honor and decency.”

O’Neil liked to say that he came along right on time.

Evans smiled and said:

“He sure did for me.”

SHADOW GAMES: Never Count an Old Man Out

Alessandro Candelaria smells of pipe tobacco, aftershave and perfect bacon. He wears brown shoes and white socks and black pants and a tan overcoat. His sharp-brimmed fedora marks him from another time, but he’s always looking ahead.

He asks a stranger on the subway platform for the time. It’s 6:45 a.m., he’s told.

“Where is that train?” he asks shaking his head. “I hate being late.”

Candelaria rode the 2 train to work for 53 years and now he rides it because old habits are hard to break.

Sometimes he finds a seat, but mostly he stands. He always holds a newspaper, but never reads. He likes to look at faces and remember what it’s like to work and worry and be miserable and alive.

“I never knew how much I enjoyed it,” Candelaria says. “People used to tell me that the climb is half the fun, but it’s really all the fun. I retired and got stuck with a bunch of old people who want to talk about old times.

“I want to talk about new times and this is where they’re happening,” he continues. “I’ll spot a guy reading the paper and ask, ‘What do you think of that damn mayor?’ Or I’ll see a guy in a Yankees hat and ask, ‘How do you think the team is coming together?’

“I’m already excited about baseball season,” Candelaria goes on. “And I want to talk about the young guys: Joba and Cano and Hughes and this kid Mark Melancon that I’ve heard so much about. Sometimes people stare at me like, ‘You probably aren’t even going to make to Opening Day old man.’”

Candelaria winks and smiles and tips his fedora.

“I’ll make it for sure,” he says. “I’ve got a couple of World Series left in me. Never count an old man out, especially one who stays young like me.”

SHADOW GAMES: Baseball on the Other Side

Winter is comfortably settled into the Bronx. So Javier piled on layers before heading down five flights to Walton Avenue and then over to the Grand Concourse for breakfast.

“I can take the cold,” Javier said, “but nothing can beat the boredom.”

The only hint of Opening Day in the neighborhood is the buzz of construction at the new Stadium.

“Maybe baseball seems so far away because we’re moving,” Javier reasoned. “I still think about games at the old place. I’ll get used to the new Stadium, but it will take some time.”

Javier snapped up his collar and tugged down his hat to keep off the cold.

“There is a lot more winter and even more boredom ahead,” he said. “But I’ll get through because there’s baseball on the other side.”


The Boss – George M. Steinbrenner III – has sometimes been too tough and too demanding and even too mean. He has also been the perfect Yankees owner you couldn’t help but love around here.

“Sure he’s made some mistakes,” said a man smoking outside Ball Park Lanes across from the old Yankee Stadium. “But he gave us some damn good baseball teams and a whole bunch of championships, too. He got us Reggie and Donnie and Gator and Goose and A-Rod and Mariano and Jeter. And now he’s building the new Stadium.”

The man took a last drag on his cigarette and tossed it to the curb.

“I’ve heard people bitch because they say we’re paying for that Stadium,” the man said. “Who cares? We pay for everything anyway and at least we can watch baseball at this place. Yeah, The Boss could’ve done a little better, but I still love the son of a bitch.”

There have been a lot of newspaper columns about The Boss since it was announced that his son Hal officially took control of the Yankees last week. They have written him as a good guy and as a bad guy and sometimes everything at once. They are all probably spot on. That makes The Boss just like the rest of us.

Some of the papers even ran a list of his highlights and lowlights as the owner of the Yankees. It was filled with championships and fines and suspensions, but they left a few things out.

The Boss hired Bob Watson, who became the first black General Manager in Major League Baseball to win a World Series.

He hired the first female Assistant General Manager Kim Ng and he also hired the second, current Yankees Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman.

He hired the first female Major League Baseball radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman.

Before buying the Yankees he hired John McLendon, the first black coach in professional basketball, to lead the Cleveland Pipers.

The Boss always wants to be first. He demands it and won’t accept anything less. How could you not love the guy?


Marvin Blain used to get weekends off.

“That was back when times were good,” he explained. “The money flowed and some of it trickled down to me. Now there isn’t much left.”

Blain shines shoes so it has always come in singles anyway.

“I’ve got a regular spot downtown,” he said. “I get a lot of Wall Street types on the way to big meetings. They’re probably the same people who spent all the money and left the rest of us with the bills.”

Blain laughed and then continued:

“They used to be big tippers, but most of them have turned into tightwads. I had a guy try to give me a fifty dollar bill after a shine a few weeks ago. I told him I couldn’t change that and he said, ‘I’ll pay you tomorrow.’ I’m still waiting for it.”

So Blain rides the 2 train from the Bronx into Manhattan on Saturdays and sometimes even on Sundays looking for a little extra cash.

“I work the tourists checking out the Stock Exchange,” Blain said. “I shine for a buck, pop my rag and really give ‘em a show. I’m as smooth as Derek Jeter.”

Blain smiled and tugged on the bill of his Yankees cap.

“That’s a guy whose shoes I’d shine for free,” Blain said. “I’d have Derek’s spikes looking better than new. I’d come to the Stadium and clean ‘em up every day. Then they might let me stay and watch the game without a ticket. That would help until the big tippers come back.”


Eddie and I have been friends for about two years. He’s had several jobs in that time, but none have been enough to get him off the streets. So he moves around the neighborhood and sleeps, eats and works where he can.

Whenever I run into him we talk about baseball because he knows that’s what I like. And I buy pastrami sandwiches with extra mustard because I know that’s what he likes.

But last night Eddie wanted to tell me a story first. It was about a real estate deal he had just closed.

“I figured there would be an opportunity when I saw the scaffolding go up,” he explained. “This is perfect because it’s around a church. The super won’t run me off because he wants God to like him.”

Eddie ended up with a spot along the south side of the building. The break between a stairway and a garbage area gave him privacy and the scaffolding gave him some shelter.

“I’ve finally got a roof over my head,” he said. “That will be good for the winter.”

A thick cut of old carpet keeps him off the sidewalk and several blankets keep him warm.

“It’s downright cozy,” Eddie said. “What more could I ask for?”

“What about a pastrami sandwich with extra mustard?” I offered.

“That sounds great,” Eddie said. “So what do you think of the Yankees’ chances next year?”

“I like ‘em.”

We would never ask each other for anything because that’s just not our way. This relationship passes for a friendship about as well as Eddie’s new place passes for a home.

They’ll both have to do for now.

SHADOW GAMES: Fantasy Baseball

Everyone on the 2 train had heard it a million times.

“I’m very sorry to bother all of you good people this morning,” said a man standing in the middle of the car. “But I’m down on my luck and could use some help. If anyone can spare a little something – food, change, an extra pair of winter gloves – it would really be appreciated.”

People dug out several dollars and one woman gave him a banana.

“Thank you,” the man said. “I hope everyone has a nice day.”

The man hasn’t had a nice day in a long time.

“I’ve been out of work for almost a year,” the man explained. “I wasn’t worried at the beginning, but jobs have gotten tougher to find and I haven’t been able to land anything steady.”

So he asks for help on the 2 train.

“I know these people hate me,” the man said. “Even those who give probably just want me to go away. They think I’m a lazy bum. But my name is Mark James and I used to ride this train to work just like them.

“I had a life back then,” he continued. “I had an apartment and an iPod and I owned a fantasy baseball team. I drafted Jeter and Mo and did pretty well in the league.”

Mark James – who used to ride the 2 train to his job and had the good sense to draft Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera for his fantasy baseball team – forced a smile and said:

“Maybe things will get better and I’ll have all that again. I guess anything can happen in fantasy baseball.”


Two men sat on a curb and ate breakfast this morning. A friend who works at a restaurant on the corner made them egg sandwiches and gave them paper cups filled with coffee. The owner doesn’t mind because the men help with dishes and deliveries and even haul the trash to the curb at night.

So they can stop every day on their way to work at a downtown construction site and grab a bite as long as they don’t take a seat from a paying customer.

“It’s a good deal,” one man said. “It’s quiet out here and we can talk about baseball.”

They smiled and ate and drank their coffee.

“I heard the Yankees really want CC,” the man said. “You knew that, right?”

“Yeah,” the other man said, “but I don’t mind hearing it again. It’s cold today and I need something to keep me warm.”

The man stood up and wadded his paper cup. He stepped on the curb and came set – a righty pitching left handed – and then threw toward the corner trash can.

“Strike three!” he yelled as the cup went in. “Now finish your breakfast so we can get to work.”

SHADOW GAMES: The Truest Things

I love baseball, but can’t play very well. I love poetry, but can’t write very well.

So I watch and read those who are truest to the crafts.

Derek Jeter is the best shortstop I’ve ever seen. He has been praised by some and criticized by others. A few have even felt the need to explain him with numbers.

Jeter needs no explanation. Everything about him speaks clearly.

Langston Hughes is the best poet I’ve ever read. He has been praised by some and criticized by others. A few have even felt the need to explain his work and his time.

Hughes needs no explanation. His words always speak clearly.

Theme for English B

By Langston Hughes

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you –
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me – we two ­– you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me – who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records – Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white –
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me –
although you’re older – and white –
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.


SHADOW GAMES: Big-League Dreams Don’t Pay the Bills

Darrell Rasner made a real-life decision about baseball the other day. The 27-year-old pitcher asked the New York Yankees to sell his contractual rights to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League.

It’s a sound financial move for Rasner, who is coming off his best Major League season. A two-year deal with the Golden Eagles will pay him far more than he could make with the Yankees – a reported $1.2 million guaranteed with the chance to earn $3.5 million – and there won’t be any worries about going down to Scranton.

“I just have to hope and pray that this is good for me and my family,” Rasner told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. “Having another kid, that kind of changes everything. I just think now’s the time to try to do something and try to get the stability that I need for those guys. This is what I’m doing it for, anyway. My family is everything to me.”

Baseball collides with real life all the time, but players are conditioned to ignore it. They dream of the Major Leagues from the time they are old enough to throw a ball and swing a bat. It’s an all-consuming obsession until one day they realize that big-league dreams don’t pay the bills.

Rasner woke up to that reality last week.

A pitcher named Shannon Withem got the same wake-up call 10 years ago.

Withem went 17-5 with a 3.27 ERA for the Syracuse Chiefs in 1998. That AAA performance earned him a September promotion to Toronto where he pitched once in relief: Three innings, one run, two strikeouts. There was talk that he could earn a spot in the Blue Jays’ bullpen with a strong spring in 1999, but he chose to sign a two-year contract with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League.

“It’s tough to give up when I’m so close to my dreams,” said Withem, who had just turned 26. “But I’ve played pro ball for seven years and never made a whole lot of money. This is a chance to help my family and I just can’t pass that up.”

Withem never made it back to the Major Leagues and there is a chance that Rasner won’t either.

Pitchers are taught to be fearless. They learn to locate their fastball and throw curves and sliders and cutters and splitters. They pitch until their shoulders ache and their elbows burn, but the hardest lesson is the one that Rasner and Withem had to figure out on their own: That big-league dreams don’t pay the bills.


Freddy Rodriguez retrieves his T-shirt cart from a basement on West 118th Street near Lenox Avenue every morning. He hauls it down the subway stairs and takes the 2 train from 116th Street to Chambers Street and switches to the 1 train that carries him to South Ferry where he pulls the cart up more stairs.

“Then I get my T-shirts ready for the tourists in Battery Park,” Rodriguez explained. “I carry all the staples: Jeter, A-Rod, Mariano, Posada, Joba and the Statue of Liberty. I’ve got lots of hats and some sweatshirts now that it’s getting colder.”

Rodriguez smiled as he showed off his newest item.

“This Yankee Stadium water globe is going to be a big seller,” he said. “I’ve also got a connection that can guarantee me number 52 CC Yankees shirts the day after he signs.

“That will be great for business,” Rodriguez continued. “Nothing has ever gone my way, but that’s starting to change. When CC gets here I’ll officially be on Easy Street.”

SHADOW GAMES: Only On A Saturday

Moussa Akwari doesn’t mind working Saturdays.

“Everyone else wants it off,” he explained. “I volunteer and the boss loves me, but it’s really my favorite day.”

Akwari delivers party supplies – balloons, decorations, hats, horns, napkins, cups, plates and plastic forks – for a little shop on Broadway.

“It’s mostly boring office parties during the week,” he said, “but today there will be lots of birthdays.

“Last Saturday I delivered for a party on the Westside,” Akwari continued. “A boy was turning 10 years old and his mother ordered balloons and everything else we had for the Yankees. When I got there she had a blue and white cake with a picture of Derek Jeter and real Yankees hats and plastic bats and foam balls.

“They were going to eat cake and then play baseball in the apartment,” Akwari went on. “That must have been the best party ever.”

Akwari smiled and said:

“And it could only happen on a Saturday.”

SHADOW GAMES: Where Emotions Lead

The discussion around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart started out cold and calculating this morning.

“I hope the Yankees are already talking to CC and A.J. and maybe Lowe and Teixeira,” someone said. “We need to sign a couple of arms and maybe another bat even after the Swisher trade.”

Everyone nodded and the matter seemed decided.

Javier – the neighborhood’s voice-of-reason on baseball matters – peeled the lid off his coffee cup and nudged the conversation in another direction.

“I know everyone gets excited about free agents,” Javier said. “There’s some great talent available, but remember that other teams can start talking to our players, too.

“Guys like Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu played hard and won games for us,” Javier continued. “I know the decision makers can’t get emotional about ballplayers, but we certainly can.”

Everyone nodded again.

“Remember all the times Giambi signed autographs outside the players’ gate?” someone said. “Once he brought an armload of Yankees yearbooks and passed ‘em out. Every time he came over I asked him if we were gonna win the World Series and he always said: ‘I’m gonna do everything I can to make it happen.’”

“How about last year when Abreu got that big walk-off hit,” someone else said. “He came out of the Stadium after the game and was high-fiving everyone. I didn’t have anything for him to autograph so he signed the back of my hand. Now I’d hate to see him sign with anyone else.”

Emotions may sometimes lead to “bad baseball decisions,” but they always point to the best baseball fans.

SHADOW GAMES: Take What You Can Get

Marcus Carter showed some wear on the 2 train this morning. The stress of too much work and too little pay was catching up with him.

“I sleep okay,” he said, “but I’m still tired all the time. I guess it’s from worrying about having to wake up in a subway tunnel or under a bridge next month.”

They have cut him to part-time at the warehouse in Hunts Point. He got another job washing dishes at a downtown coffee shop, but the pay isn’t very good and the hours are worse.

“The traveling and the split shifts mean 18-hour days,” Carter explained. “I also work weekends at the coffee shop and my paycheck still comes up short, but the bills keep coming.”

So Carter keeps looking for anything he can get.

“There ain’t much out there,” he explained while scanning the newspaper classifieds. “Actually there are jobs, but I’m not qualified to do most of them: CPA, dental hygienist, medical assistant, sales manager.

“Maybe I could do something in sales,” Carter reasoned. “But who would buy anything from me? Who’s buying anything, period?”

The sports pages were more promising.

“Here’s something,” Carter said. “This baseball story has all kinds of information from an ‘unnamed Major League executive.’ That sounds like a growth industry with free agency ready to start. ‘Unnamed’ means there’s probably not much responsibility. ‘Major League’ means a job in baseball. ‘Executive’ means my mother would be proud. Perfect!”

Carter laughed at himself.

“Guys like me don’t get those kinds of jobs,” he said, “but at least it was funny.”

You take what you can get on the 2 train these days.

SHADOW GAMES: A Stubborn One

Alexi the barber has been looking for me. He doesn’t use telephones or emails and the only instant message he’s ever delivered is a quick right hook. I got the word from a guy who was talking to another guy who got a haircut earlier this week.

“Alexi was asking about you,” I was told. “He ain’t mad, but he wants you to own your words.”

I didn’t need a haircut, but I stopped at the barbershop to settle the score.

“Where have you been?” Alexi asked. “Your guy Roy Jones got clobbered on Saturday.”

“He put up a good fight,” I countered. “And win or lose he’s still my guy.”

“You don’t know when to quit,” Alexi said. “Your Yankees didn’t make the playoffs and now Jones got beat. What have you got left?”

“I stand behind my team and my guys,” I snapped. “The Yankees are gonna win the World Series next year. Derek will win the batting title, A-Rod the MVP, Wang the Cy Young and Mariano will save at least 50 games. And Roy will bounce back in his next fight, too.”

“So you’re a stubborn one?” Alexi asked.

I nodded.

Alexi smiled and said:

“I like that.”


An Airman started his day by unloading a plane at Dover Air Force Base. It had just arrived from Vietnam and was filled with body bags. That was the worst duty at Dover in those days, but it was nothing compared to the duty of the dead American soldiers returning from halfway around the world.

The Airman felt like getting drunk when he finished with the bodies so he headed for a bar in town. He never considered the late-night walk back to the base while he was drinking and trying to forget.

He was about halfway back and starting to sober up when a car stopped and offered a ride. The driver took the Airman to a diner and bought him an early breakfast before dropping him off at the base.

That Airman was my father. He never could remember the name of the guy who gave him a ride and a meal on that long-ago night, but he never forgot what the man did.

My father never passed anyone in the military without at least shaking their hand and thanking them. He gave rides and bought meals, but never felt like it was enough.

He died nearly 10 years ago, but he’ll always be with me. I never pass anyone in uniform without extending a hand. It is my honor and the honor of my father.

I meet so many soldiers and see his face in all of them. I only hope they never come home through Dover Air Force Base.

I have included a couple of stories about soldiers at Yankee Stadium that were originally published on Yankees For Justice. These are just two of several million people that we owe everything – or at least a handshake and a thank you – on this Veterans’ Day and every day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Soldier’s Story

Brian peered over the crowd at the players’ gate outside Yankee Stadium last night. He wore standard-issue military fatigues and clenched a baseball in his left hand.

“Thanks,” I said offering my hand.

Brian shook and smiled.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Oklahoma City,” Brian said. “I come from a family of Yankees fans that goes back to Mickey Mantle and Bobby Murcer, but this is my first time here. It’s the first time anyone in my family has been to Yankee Stadium.

“I’m stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany,” he continued. “I’m on my way home for a couple of weeks before I have to head back to Iraq. I just had to stop and see a game. I want to get this ball signed for my father. He’d really like that.”

“You can move to the other side of the fence,” I offered. “The players always sign for soldiers, especially Johnny Damon.”

“How do I get over there?” Brian asked.

We walked toward East 157th Street along Ruppert Avenue and appealed to the good nature of the police.

The cops nodded Brian through.

“Thanks,” he said.

Then he turned and waved at me.

“Thank you for helping me out.”

No, Brian. Thank you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Off The Island

Justin arrived at Yankee Stadium in full uniform. He walked proudly through the tunnel and got his first look at the field.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m finally here.”

His father placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You earned it,” he said.

Justin is a week off of Parris Island. He is a United States Marine and proud of it. His father is proud, too.

“I bought these tickets awhile ago,” his father said. “I surprised him when he got home from basic training.

“He’s a good kid,” his father continued. “He always tries to do what’s right. I didn’t want him to join, but there was no stopping him. He used to look at my Marine photos when he was little and that’s probably where it started.”

Justin doesn’t know where he’s going next. He might be headed to Iraq or maybe Afghanistan.

“But I’m here tonight,” he said. “Nothing else matters right now.”

Justin put an arm around his father.

“Thanks, Dad.”

SHADOW GAMES: About The Weather

The weather was making everyone uncomfortable. The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart opened their collars and glanced at the early-morning sky.

“It looks pretty good,” someone said. “Another nice day is on the way.”

Everyone nodded and went back to their coffee.

“The weather is too damn good,” someone finally said. “We need it to get really cold. We need it to snow and sleet and pour down freezing rain so we can get this over with. We’re all looking forward to Opening Day and winter won’t even get here.”

“You gotta be patient,” someone else said. “The players need to rest up and Brian Cashman needs time to get the team rounded into shape.”

They all cracked smiles.

“We’re still gonna need a break in this nice weather,” someone said.

“It’s always gotta be something with us doesn’t it?” someone else said.



Leaders must be able to bring things clearly into focus. They need to look beyond themselves and put others first. They must travel long roads and be forced to change their opinions and sometimes even change sides. And they always need to be compassionate and courageous and can never be afraid to take a stand.

It’s a tough job. Not many people want it and even fewer can do it. Maybe that’s why everyone is always looking for the next great leader.

I’ve listened to a lot of talk about past leaders and present leaders and future leaders and I keep coming back to the way Charlie Manuel led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series title.

Manuel gave everyone a good look at what it means to be leader during the National League Championship Series when he told reporters:

“If I had never gone and played baseball in Japan (where he hit 48 homers for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1980), I don’t think I would have been a coach or manager. What I learned was there’s a lot of different people in the world, and there’s more people in the world than Charlie Manuel. And I mean that I learned to respect things more. I learned to care about more things.”

That helped mold Manuel into the best kind of leader: One who understands that everyone is different, but we are all the same.

It’s a simple lesson with a confusing past and an uncertain future. Figuring it out helped make Manuel a better person, a great leader and eventually a champion.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver