So Good To See Buck Showalter Again (Not)

Update: Within an hour of posting this, I got an email from an old friend who used to be a national baseball writer for a major metropolitan newspaper. He reports that when Buck Showalter was the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he pulled the same stunt on him as I outlined here. So we have a recidivist Manager-Who-Throws-His-Players-Under-The-Bus. 

From Yankee Stadium: On Sunday, August 22nd, 1993, the New York Yankees were tied for first place in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays. As I watched in horrified astonishment from the press box, they were 4-hit by Chris Haney, a soon-to-be journeyman pitcher who would end an eminently frustrating career with an ERA of 5.07. The Yanks, now in second place and flying out to Chicago hours later that afternoon for a critical series, were in big trouble and had a lot to worry about. Or so I would’ve thought as I ventured into the clubhouse to commiserate with my friend Danny Tartabull. 

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There to my shock I found the usual crowd of reporters but – 10 or 15 minutes after the game had ended – not a single player. Worse yet, though nothing was said, several of the reporters seemed to be staring at me. That’s when Yankee factotum Arthur Richman took me aside: “The manager would like to see you.” I asked Arthur if I had been sent to the Yankees’ farm club in Columbus. “Matter of fact, you have,” he deadpanned. Inside there was second-year boss Buck Showalter, affable and cordial and welcoming. After a few pleasantries he began his soliloquy: “I asked you in here, because when I saw you on the field before the game I was frankly worried for your safety. Some of them truly do not like your style on SportsCenter and I thought someone was going to take a swing at you. These guys claim to ignore the media but every day our newspaper recycling bin is full. Actually, the players refused to come into the clubhouse until you leave. Me, I don’t care, I have a tough skin, you’re a bright fella and you know your baseball and you make me laugh. But I thought Boggs or especially O’Neill might take a swing at you.” Having startled me with this announcement, Showalter asked a question. “Far be it for me to tell you how to do your job, but how much of that job is dependent on access to the players?” I told him that conveniently the answer was none. He was silent for awhile. I told him it was all academic because I would be leaving SportsCenter soon to join our new ESPN2 product. Showalter smiled. “Well, we have a flight to catch but it’s been a pleasure. Sorry I had to be the bearer of such bad tidings about how the players feel about you but I really thought you needed to know.” I left the Stadium quickly, wondering not just about the oversensitivity of the Yankees, but more importantly why they would be worried more about me than about getting shut out by Chris Flipping Haney. 
I’m not going to say the story haunted me, but I renumbered it. So at the ESPY Awards of, I guess, 1997, I was more than a little worried as I saw a door open and several Yankees step out. As I tried to look shorter, the outfielder extended a had: “Keith! Paul O’Neill. Big fan!” I rushed through my thanks to tell him the Showalter story. “What? That was you? Nobody was avoiding you. Buck ordered us into the trainers’ room. 25 guys in there like sar-blanking-dines! All he told us was there was a reporter he hated and he wanted to air out and we needed to stay put till he let us back in the clubhouse.” Several beverages and second-hand Showalter stories later O’Neill brought it back up again. “You ever heard of me hitting some BODY? All I do is hit water coolers. That Buck!” 
There were two former Yankee managers at the Stadium today, Showalter and Yogi Berra. It’s nice to see Yogi in such good health again.

18 Comments

Harvey Dent’s got nothing on Buck.
What do you think of the chances of him falling out of favor with Angelos, only to have his replacement take the team he builds to the Series a third time?
NY. Arizona. Baltimore!?

Wow. What a story!! Unreal, that he let you stew for so long. I’m glad you finally found out the truth!! And I have to agree with Paul O’Neill. I’m a big fan also. :)

He needs to go Buck himself.

In other words, Buck Showalter is one of many. Consider Ralph Houk. He used to curse out writers in front of his players, then apologize to them privately. One time, he got physical with Maury Allen, just to let the players know he was their friend. That doesn’t mean The Major was a bad guy, but Buck sure isn’t the first phony in a manager’s chair and he won’t be the last–and if you don’t believe me, see if you can find any beat writers from Lasorda’s days with the Dodgers. Some of them have a slightly different version of Lasorda than the version perpetuated in the LA Times by Bill Plaschke, who either is Lasorda’s ghost writer or lets Lasorda be HIS ghost writer.

So let’s see. By your own admission, the Yankees “were in big trouble and had a lot to worry about.” You were strolling into the clubhouse to get cozy with your buddy on the team (breaking the first rule of journalism, Keith!), and you were prepared to trash the team for getting shutout by “Chris Flipping Haney”.

Seems to me that Buck played this one perfectly. Did HE get to be your buddy afterwards? No. But his team went to Chicago and took 2 of 3 from the White Sox (who won 94 games and their division that year). In fact, the Bombers were in first place two weeks later, and although they eventually succumbed to Toronto and finished in second (7 games back, as Toronto was a powerhouse who won the WS in 1993), Buck got them to win 12 games more than the previous year.

But none of that matters, right? It matters more that Buck told a lie to get a reporter out of the clubhouse. Whatever.
I’m a big fan of yours, Keith, but this story smacks of the thin skin that you are sometimes known for. And FYI, I write not as a Yankee fan, but an Oriole fan who is thrilled to see a manager going to the mat to get his players to excel. (All stats from baseball-reference).

Off topic, but MLB history was just made last night. Trevor Hoffman got his 600th save. Any chance you might blog this? I’m not a Brewers fan and he unfortunately got it against the Cardinals, but I think it deserves some recognition.

Sir:

If you know Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets, please pass this along with my thanks to him and the Mets for his visit to my Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC earlier in the week. He was kind enough to give me an autograph, too – a fine gentleman. Thanks…

http://americansoldier.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/09/thank_you_mr_hernandez_new_yor.html

He was kind enough to give me an autograph, too – a fine gentleman. Showalter was hired as manager of the Single-A minor league Oneonta Yankees in 1985, leading them to 114 victories in two seasons. In 1987,70-29770-431 he became manager of the minor league Fort Lauderdale Yankees, leading the league with an 85-53 record in his first season. By 1989, Showalter was with the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Eastern League, where he was named Minor League Manager

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