September 09, 2010
John Lindsey(notes) was ready. He had slipped on his batting gloves, adjusted his batting helmet, taken a few practice cuts and even accepted some well-wishes from an unseen person behind home plate. After 16 years spent as a career minor leaguer, the 33-year-old first baseman was finally getting his first at-bat as a big league ballplayer with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was one swing away from becoming the oldest non-Asian player since 2002 to make his major league debut.
Up in the Petco Park broadcaster's booth, legendary announcer Vin Scully remarked that this was where Lindsey should hit a storybook homer to give the Dodgers a chance in a 4-0 game. Then he poetically read through all of the various minor league outposts Lindsey had visited. If you were watching at home, it really did feel like a moment straight from a movie.
But then Scully threw the broadcast to commercial and when he came back, he was telling us all to forget that once-in-a-lifetime introduction.
Lindsey's debut would have to wait for another day.
So what caused Lindsey to get the hook on the doorstep of his great moment? Well, San Diego Padres manager Bud Black — the skipper with the villain's name! — went to the bullpen so righty Luke Gregerson(notes) could replace lefty Joe Thatcher(notes).
And that caused the Dodgers to do some requisite maneuvering of their own.
"It was something I had to do," Torre said. "It didn't work."
If you believe in baseball gods, that's what Torre gets for playing lefty-righty in a lost season when he could have let Lindsey fulfill his dream.
But if you believe in pure baseball strategy, no matter the situation — and I do — then Torre opting for his All-Star in a game that still has a lot of meaning in the Padres-Giants division race was the right move. (San Diego would end up winning, 4-0, but inserting Ethier into a close game is never the wrong move.)
Besides, there will be other chances for Lindsey, and the silver lining is that he will probably start a game against the lefthanders in Houston this weekend, where his parents and other family from Mississippi can easily drive in and watch the game.
And though he probably would have liked to bat in a key spot, Lindsey was able to teach us one more valuable lesson on the values of perseverance and good humor. Despite what must have been great disappointment, Lindsey wore a smile as he went back to his spot on the bench.
"So almost 16 years he waited to get in the game, he'll have to wait for another moment. I'll tell you one thing: He must have the sweetest nature. He must be the most determined, the most unswervering-type character. To spend a lifetime in the minor leagues and then to get that close and come out laughing."
On that, I think we can all agree. Lindsey's determination is the only reason he was even in that position to be disappointed again on Wednesday night.
But it's also the reason we feel invested in his story. Here's hoping those baseball gods finally give him that storybook moment against the Astros this weekend.