Monday, October 13, 2014

I Don't Hate Randy Bush

I came across an old baseball card of former Minnesota Twins outfielder Randy Bush while sorting through a box the other day and for the first time in years I didn't want to stomp on it and set fire to it.

And I realized a lesson that my wife taught me shortly before she passed away had stuck with me. (I know, women reading this will be stunned: A guy actually listened and remembered something that his wife said!)

I let go my hate and it no longer consumed me.

Bush was part of that 1987 World Series Twins' team — a team that made being a loyal Minnesota fan since I could fit a baseball glove on my hand worthwhile. I began following the Twins in 1966, a year after their World Series appearance against Sandy Koufax and the L.A. Dodgers, when my family moved to Minnesota.

I learned baseball from Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Leo Cardenas, Rod Carew and the others Twins of that era. While the rest of the kids in my neighborhood were sporting Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays gloves, I dropped fly balls with my Twins' pitcher Dave Boswell mitt.

The Twins ran deep in me.

Couple that with the fact my father passed away in March 1987 and one of the few eschewals I had from the sorrow of losing him came from that great season. I even went to Minneapolis late that summer and watched the Twins play Seattle in the Metrodome. Bush led off in that game, grounding out four times, but catching a fly in right field.

Later, that season, I saw Bush play again. He pinch hit in Game 5 of the World Series in St. Louis. He popped out, so for that 1987 season I saw Bush go 0 for 5. But it didn't matter. He was a Twins player; that's all that counted.

So, years later when I ran into him at an Arkansas State University baseball game, I was ready to regale him with my fandom. This was in 2000 or 2001 and he was the coach of the University of New Orleans baseball team. I was friends with Bill Bethea, the ASU baseball coach at the time and former assistant coach for those great University of Texas teams, and I often went to the ASU games in support of Bethea.

In between games of a doubleheader between ASU and New Orleans, I met Bush near the concession stand. I introduced myself to him and said 1987 was a special year. I opened up about the loss of my dad and how in some small way that Twins team helped me cope. I told him I grew up in Minnesota and I loved the area and …

… and I noticed a steely glean in his eye.

“Look, I'm working here,” he said, curtly. “I don't have time for this.”

And he strode off.

And I thought he was an ass. And I pledged to bring his baseball cards to the game when they returned two years later and burn them by the dugout. (Drama has always been an issue with me when my teams lose.)

I harbored that anger for a long time, seething whenever I heard of him. Bethea later told me he was surprised to hear of Bush's reaction, saying he was normally a very congenial person.

But for years, I held the opinion Randy Bush was a turd.

Then, maybe a year before her death, my wife told about letting hate go. It wasn't in the case of Bush, but for another person I once worked with who made it a point to make my job as miserable as he could. “Quit hating,” my wife said. “He doesn't even think of you at all, probably, and you're letting your feelings run you. Let it go.”

So I let it go. And it doesn't run me anymore.

And when I found that Bush card the other day, tucked in a long box of baseball cards I've had for a
while, I let the anger toward Bush go, too. Maybe he had a bad day that day. He had lost that first game of a doubleheader and maybe he was mad at himself for not managing well enough. You really can't form a full opinion of someone on a moment's notice (despite what Malcolm Gladwell writes in “Blink.”)

I have the Randy Bush card on my desk at home now. It's a Topps 1989. No. 577. He's swinging a fungo bat and smiling.

And now, I realize my wife was right. I see the card and I think of that 1987 team and I'm not blinded by the anger and hate I had. Instead, I think of the good things of that team.


  1. I had to this happen to me as a 14 year old Dodger fan after they won the World Series in 1988. I saw the Dodgers play on a family trip going through St. Louis in the summer of '89. The hotel that the team was staying in just so happened to be the one my Mother had booked for us. I tried to talk to Mike Davis and John Shelby but they were rude and ignored me. In their favor, the hotel was overrun by signature seekers trying to hunt down Orel Hershiser (who had his own floor with security at all exits), and they were in the midst of a terrible season. Kirk Gibson was playing center field due to Shelby's ineptness with a bum knee that day!. They wouldn't even say hello even though they saw me sitting quietly, politely, and eager to meet them.
    "I am with my family. Leave me alone!", T-Bone Shelby told me. They were mediocre players anyway ;)
    After this I just leave celebrities alone. They are just people like you and me, putting their pants on the same. And as John Gotti once told his son, "Why would you want to be a baseball player?!?! Baseball players are the biggest assholes." Even though he was a crook, he is probably right. Athletes are ultra competitive and sometimes have Ty Cobb syndrome.
    I laugh because years later my Mother ran into Jesse Jackson at the airport and he was an ass to her when she approached him in kindness. I had warned her beforehand to leave him alone. He looked sweaty and tired like he was hungover.

    1. Jesse came to Jonesboro, Ark., a couple of years ago to lead a protest march against the city's police determination that a kid in the back seat of a police car had fatally shot himself. (Jackson et. al., alledged police shot the kid). I had to cover the protest for the paper for which I work and, when Jesse saw me scribbling notes in a pad in a crowd of about 500 people, he actually motioned for me to come to him. "Got any questions?" he asked when I got to him. "Hell, yeah," I blurted out. He was pretty nice, but I also realized he was using me to get his message out to the masses via our newspaper.

  2. I feel that the money hungry memorabilia salesman ruin these experiences for the average fan or young child that just wants an autograph with their greed and opportunism. I refuse to buy this shit haha
    I'd rather buy a cap, jersey or APBA/Strato cards ;)
    Course my Mother, bless her heart, did buy me a Manny Ramirez T-shirt in 2007 to my protests. I like Manny but he was just a short lived mercenary in Dodger history.

  3. RE: 1989 Dodgers = That was the height of memorabilia madness. People just collecting autographs to sell them at a profit. I'd see why players would get annoyed. I'd like to think they'd make an exception for a kid though.

  4. Ah, it's okay. And forget Randy Bush. Remember the Harmon Kilibrews and Sandy Koufax's!
    And ROD CAREW! Oh my gosh, I'll never forget Thomas Boswell writing about how he was so focused he could fall asleep on a crowded bus in a wink.

    And KIRBY PUCKETT! What a ball player! Rest in Peace, Kirby, We Love You!

    PS-I always remember Tom Brunansky, Viola, and Big Bert's Curve from those Twin's Glory Years. Reminds me of KC this year. Truly special years, 1987 and 1988 and 2014

  5. When I was in Minneapolis in 1987, one of the Minnesota magazines had a cover story about Kirby, suggesting that if he wanted to run for mayor or governor there, those in office would gladly step down and give Puckett the position.

    And all that memorabilia madness probably created that atmosphere of "leave me alonedness." It has changed the meaning of autographs. Of course, Randy Bush? I doubt there's a huge rush for his autograph and the lines at his table at card shows ain't probably that long....

    When I was a kid, I wrote to Bart Starr and asked for his autograph. He actually sent it back to me on an index card with a note. I still have the card some 45 years later. I wonder if the stars of today would do that?

  6. Growing up in Wisconsin, it was hard not to count Starr among your boyhood idols. A gentleman in every respect, and one hell of a quarterback who never seems to get much run on sports radio whenever they talk about the best ever ...