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 awhile, 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.