LAKELAND — MEMO TO: Peter Ueberroth, Commissioner of Baseball
FROM: Sparky Anderson, dean of managers
RE: A little favor Peter:
I know you’re busy. I know you ain’t got no patience for little things. That’s why I ain’t gonna tell you my joke about the nearsighted catcher in the laundromat.
You hear that one yet?
No, this is serious. It’s about these two players I got. Scott Lusader and Billy Bean. Good kids, Peter. Oohhh. I mean, good kids. College graduates. Clean-cut. Well-groomed. They look like they’re 14. Before they shave. If they shave. I ain’t even sure if they shave. What the heck. It ain’t my business.
The problem is, I ain’t got room on the roster for both. Not really. I got one spot open in the outfield, which came about, and you may have heard about this, because SOME STUPID ARBITRATOR RULED THAT KIRK GIBSON COULD LEAVE.
But hey. I ain’t complaining. It’s just that these two young kids are special. Lemme tell ya about ’em.
First we got Billy Bean. Is that a name, Peter? Ooooh. He comes up last year, late April, and I stick him in the lineup immediately. And the kid goes 4-for-6. Can you believe it? Ties a major league record. The people in Detroit are going nuts! Before the game, they thought he was the batboy!
‘Course he didn’t stay the whole season. I had to send him back down. I heard him telling a reporter the other day: “At first I thought I might have been happier if I hadn’t gotten called up at all, that’s how bummed out I was about going back to Toledo.
“But then I thought about it, and I realized, no matter what happens, I’ll always have that day. If I blow out my knee or something bad happens, I’ll always have that first day in the major leagues.”
Ain’t that beautiful, Peter? Damn near makes me want to cry, I tell you. Competitors and friends All right. The other guy. Lusader. A short kid. And a redhead, Pete. You know what he’s had to go through in life already? Now this young man — whoo, boy. We bring him up September 1st, I throw him right in — you know I like to get the kids used to the heat — and he takes off! I mean, Peter, the kid hit over .300! Made a hell of a catch in that big series against Toronto. If the season don’t end, this guy’s on an All-Star team.
And he’s a good kid, too, Peter. Smart as a whip. Talks real good. Don’t get uptight over nothing. The other day I hear him telling a reporter: “I’ve always been confident about my abilities. My goal isn’t to play Triple-A baseball. My goal is the major leagues.
“As far as I’m concerned, Toledo is a place I plan on seeing once this year, when the Tigers play an exhibition there. That’s it. I’m not even thinking about not making this club.”
Now, Peter. That’s the kind of winning attitude you gotta like. Of course, as I said, I ain’t got room for everybody.
So what happens? These two guys decide to live together during spring training. Roommates. Now, I says to myself: great. One starts to do good, the other don’t do so hot, the pressure builds, we see which one cracks.
And I take the other one.
After all, I gotta have someone in left — where Gibson played UNTIL THAT ARBITRATOR LET HIM WALK OUT THE DOOR.
But I ain’t complaining.
Anyhow, what happens? These guys are so nicey-dicey, I ain’t got a prayer. Lusader goes around saying: “We’re friends. The press is making more out of it than it is.” And Bean goes around saying: “I don’t wish Scott anything bad. If he makes it and I don’t, I’ll be happy for him. I’ll know it’s because he played real well, not because I’m lousy.”
Geez, Peter. What am I gonna do with this? Extra spot would fix the shaft Now I know you ain’t no ballplayer. Swimming’s your game, right? And I love swimmers. I really do. That Spitz kid, ooh, he was something.
But try to imagine what it’s like for a young ballplayer who got a taste of the big leagues to have to go back to minors. Riding them buses. Playing in them small stadiums. Think about it, Peter. It’d be like you having to fly coach.
Makes your skin crawl, huh?
So this is why I’m writing. Maybe you can see your way clear to let us have one extra spot on the roster this year. One teeny-weeny extra spot. In the interest of developing a young mind. I know you don’t owe us nothing. Then again, there’s this Gibson thing, in which WE GOT THE SHAFT.
But I ain’t complaining.
No, Peter. I can only appeal to your sense of fairness and faith in the future. On the one hand, we can bring these two fine young men to Detroit, where they can thrive in a big-city environment filled with stimulating culture, media, and fine food.
Or we can leave one in Toledo.
You want that on your conscience? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, Yours, Sparky