August 02, 2010
Buck Showalter may not be successful in turning the Baltimore Orioles around, but I think he has already recorded a win before managing his first game.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Showalter will wear No. 26 with Baltimore as a way to honor Johnny Oates, who passed away from brain cancer in 2004.
The reasons for the tribute are simple. Not only did Showalter consider Oates a close friend, he has now managed the same two clubs — the O's and Texas Rangers — that Oates managed a combined 11 seasons with, compiling a 797-746 record.
Oates was also Showalter's manager when both were in the New York Yankees farm system, which allowed Baltimore's new manager to learn that Oates was "as ethical and moral a guy as I've ever been around."
Because his usual No. 11 is already being worn by Juan Samuel, Showalter thought wearing the number would be a fitting tribute. As long as Oates' family agreed with the idea.
He asked [Oates' wife] Gloria to discuss the idea with her children — Lori, 39; Andy, 34; and Jenny, 31 — and get back to him.
"I said, ‘Listen, Gloria, either you and the family are going to think it's a great idea or nobody is going to wear the number while I'm there," Showalter says.
Showalter says Gloria called him back in 15 minutes. She had spoken to her children.
"Each one of them had the same reaction," Gloria says. "They were screaming, ‘Yes! Yes!'"
It's one thing to memorialize a person right after his death, which Showalter did by speaking at Oates' funeral. (Rosenthal's article has a few of the good stories, which you should go read.)
But it's even better to remember someone's legacy after a few years have passed and many people either 1) start to forget or 2) never knew about him in the first place. Because of Showalter's classy nod, Oates' memory is getting some well-deserved airtime today.