Photo: This has nothing to do with the contents of my post but, I needed to show-off how I dual-wield cast-iron pans now, thanks to some gift certificates for my birthday. All Lodge everything in my kitchen now! Freaking sweet. Yeah, that’s kale in the background. And there were sweet-potatoes in the oven! T’was the yum.
I’m not really a huge baseball fan. I’m a Orioles and Camden Yards fan, which means that I enjoy attending games at Camden Yards and eating my way through them, I enjoy rocking my Orioles gear, and I really enjoy hating all things Yankee. Actually, that’s probably the best part. The rest of it is casual: I know the basics of the game and how it is played, I try to learn the names of team members and I keep up with the team record… I shamefully admit: When I watch a game on television and listen to the announcers speak about the game in numbers, my eyes glaze over.
When it became abundantly clear that my beloved Orioles were going to make it to the playoffs, I admit that I started lobbing some smack-talk toward my singular Yankee friend (read: Orioles fans all have a token “Yankee friend” like suburban white folks have a singular token Black friend. That’s right. I said it.), and may or may not have gotten a little too excited. The Orioles are going to win the World Series, I exclaimed! My friend was not convinced. A volley of insults and counters went back and forth until a bet was made: If the Orioles made it to the World Series, my dear friend would write me a Friday Quiet Thoughts post. If they didn’t, I’d have to write an essay on who I believe to be the greatest Yankee ever (eww) with the added stipulation that I needed to be earnest. So confident in my Birds, I happily took the bet.
And then my Orioles were swept by the damn Royals in the ALCS.
So.. you know… if you hate the Yankees as much as I do, you might want to skip this post. I’ll see you Monday. Lord knows, I wish I could skip it… but I’m a woman of my word.
In speaking about this bet with my uncle a few weeks ago, I was reminded that my late maternal grandfather, Poppy, was a really big Yankees fan. He would sit on the back porch of his rowhouse in Maryland, babies in bed and wife off doing other things, and listen to the games on the radio… sometimes, I was told, with my great-grandfather. I can see him there, exhausted from his day (he often worked multiple jobs), sitting on a stool on that back porch, enjoying a cigarette and listening to his game. “But why?” I asked my Uncle. “Why the Yankees and not the Orioles??”
There wasn’t really an answer. He was just a man who liked his team. He had a few Yankees caps that he would wear proudly. He’d drop everything to watch the games on television when he retired. He used to get tickets to Camden Yards to watch his team play against the Orioles from time to time, proudly festooned with Yankee regalia.
So when the writing was on the wall and I knew I’d have to write this post, I started thinking about who my grandfather would probably have admired. Of these men who I so dislike, could any of them reflect the values that I think of when I think of my grandfather? My grandfather was a quiet man who lead through strong and quiet action. He worked exceptionally hard, holding up to three jobs at once to make all of the ends meet. Yet, he was a community leader, welcoming the men and boys of the community into his home, holding court in his living room, resolving conflicts and working on community needs. Was there a man like that among the despicable pinstripe crew? Someone who wasn’t a show-off, someone who was reliable, someone who worked tirelessly and gave the team what they needed when they needed it?
He was difficult to find, but Roy White was the answer to my riddle. An Outfielder for the Yankees from 1965 to 1979, Mr. White hit 160 home runs and 758 RBIs in his career with the team. He was twice an All-Star player (1969, 1970) as well as World-Series champion (1977, 1978). He was an excellent defensive player, reliably working in the “Death Valley” of Yankee Stadium Left Field, even fielding an errorless season in 1975 (the first ever Yankee to do so).
What I appreciate about Mr. White, though, is that I had a hard time finding him. He isn’t a man known for pomp and bravado, but rather a man who is known to be a class act, a hard working man, a man who worked alongside (and, maybe, in the shadows of) other big-name players and held his own, even without a lot of recognition. This is a man who set a record for sacrifice flies in a season. This is a man who is known for being on base during another guy’s famous home run at Fenway. This is a guy who didn’t get a single vote for entry into the Hall of Fame, though his work helped others put up the numbers for their own entry…
I have a deep respect for background guys like Mr. White. Longtime readers know that I have a great appreciation for the men and women who stand behind the known man; people who choose to be the scaffolding to support “great” men through their own devoted toils. The Yankees were not always a great team when Roy White was a player, but Roy White was a great and dedicated player through the feast and the famine. Just to add to the cool factor, Mr. White played three years in Japan with the Tokyo Giants, earning him another championship win (you know I love Japan, so… this is a bonus point for me). Instead of fading away after retiring, Mr. White decided to go home to New York, lending his talents, energies, and expertise into coaching his beloved team in the 1980s. I appreciate people who know where there heart is and return there time and again, no matter the wondrous places they may travel to.
And when all of that was over, Mr. White decided that he hadn’t done enough. He created the Roy White Foundation with the mission of providing “financial assistance to young adults and children whose desire to further their education is inhibited by financial complications.” The foundation has created literacy programs and a scholarship fund, and states boldly that their aim is to “teach young adults and children the benefits of self-sufficiency” and “to demonstrate that the best way to achieve distant goals is by maintaining good values and never giving up hope.” For every student success that his foundation helps foster, Mr. White creates a rich and lasting legacy.
To work hard, to stay humble yet hungry, to give back, to keep an eye to the generations behind you… these are virtues that are too often overlooked, and the people who choose to keep these virtues are too often overlooked as well. But to have found this man, read his story, and be able to share it with you… I suppose there is benefit to losing this bet. There aren’t a lot of good Yankees, but I think I’ll give Mr. Roy White a free pass. A great career and an even greater legacy makes him the greatest Yankee ever in my book.
It is a Friday in New England and I’m here instead in Baltimore with my fellow disappointed fans. You boys had a great run! In the meantime, dear reader, I have wishes for you. First, I wish you a really good breakfast. Seriously! Something served with warmed syrup and whipped butter, crispy bacon or sizzling sausage… something that will keep you feeling warm and full for a good chunk of your day. Made with loving hands, of course, but maybe also with your assistance. And while you are cooking, I wish you a story. Something to take you a few generations back, to a place that you miss or a place you’ve never been, and about people who contributed to your existence. I wish you a memory of a baseball cap and a comfortable chair, proud looks from aged eyes, old voices given to eternity and yet ever living in your heart and mind. I wish you a moment of inspiration, a commitment to doing something for those who look up to you. I wish you the assuring wisdom of knowing how much you are loved and can be loved through the great work that you do or have yet to do. I wish you a walk among falling leaves, a loving smile, and a whispered secret. And love and joy, because you are so deserving.
Until Monday, take care.