August 18, 2010

The Qualities of Leadership

Bobby Bonilla & Barry Larkin, 1991 Fleer, NLCS Team Leaders

Look at these two guys here. They have nothing in common! One guy is tall and the other guy is not as tall. One guy plays for the Pirates and the other guy plays for the Reds. One guy has a mustache and the other guy only kinda has a mustache. One guy plays by the rules and the other guy is unorthodox and goes only by his gut instincts, I imagine. What common denominator could possibly bring two men together who are otherwise worlds apart with regards to their careers, backgrounds, general worldviews and favorite musical artists?

Bobby Bonilla and Barry Larkin don’t have the same physical stature or play the same position,

You’re telling me! I mean, how could two men who aren’t the exact same size and don’t play the exact same position within the sport that they both play professionally possibly relate to one another? How?!

But the two did share one thing in the 1990 National League Championship Series:

Popcorn? Groupies? Playing in the 1990 National League Championship Series?


Huh. Leadership. Come to think of it, they do both resemble leaders of their respective clubs, what with their arrogant smiles and “come follow me” demeanors. I would go to war with either of these great men! Or whichever one was on the winning side! Let us discover the manner in which both men lead:

Bonilla, the Pittsburgh Pirates slugger, put together a marvelous 1990 campaign as Pittsburgh captured the NL East title.

Bobby Bonilla: Leading by marvelousness.

Bobby finished second in the NL with 120 RBIs and delivered a career-high 32 homers (sixth in NL). Bonilla placed second in the NL in runs and total bases (324) and finished 10th in slugging percentage and hits.

Bobby Bonilla: Leading by finishing second and sixth and tenth in various statistical categories.

Bobby, a switch-hitter who was signed by the Pirates at a baseball clinic in Europe in 1981, was moved to the outfield after playing third base in his previous four years with the Pirates.

Bobby Bonilla: Leading by being a switch-hitter in Europe in 1981. Bonilla would actually go on to display his leadership in future NCLS contests by reportedly playing cards with Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse while his team, the Mets, were outside attempting to reach the World Series in 1999. So there is that.

Larkin once again proved to be the Major League’s best offensive shortstop in 1990 as Cincinnati led the NL West Division from start to finish.

Barry Larkin in clubhouse after first game of 1990 season: We’re in first place and I intend to stay there! Are you with me?!

Clubhouse: erupts in chorus, Yeah!

Larkin: I will prove to be the best offensive shortstop again in 1990! Who’s better than me at playing shortstop offensively?!

Clubhouse: erupts in chorus, No one!

Larkin: They can’t handle the truth!

Clubhouse: erupts in chorus, Yeah!

Larkin: They can take our lives, but they’ll never take…our FREEDOM!

Clubhouse: destroyed in ensuing mayhem

Larkin had a sensational first half in the 1989 season, but an injury during the All-Star Game Skills Competition sidelined him for most of the rest of the season.

Barry Larkin: Leading by entering the 1989 All-Star Game Skills Competition and injuring himself while trying to throw a baseball through a giant clown’s mouth.

This account of the various leadership qualities of two men, and the specific events and situations in which these two men –- otherwise so different -– exercised their innate ability to lead, has been, for me, truly inspiring. Churchill & Truman? Pffttt. As the great Bobby Bonilla once said:

Looked who just walked in, {beep}. Hey, Bobby, why don’t you {bleep} my {bleep}? But don’t take it personally….That’s right, you heard me, {beep}. But, hey, don’t take it personally.

Somebody needs to put that on a poster. A poster entitled “Leadership.”


Ben Hughes said...

Used to be a couple of my favorite players.

Bill said...

Thanks for the great commentary, and for the Klapisch link! I faintly remembered another legendary story with Bonilla where he says - in a leadery way of course - "Make your move..." And sure enough, it was a little further down from the quote you ended with...

"Come on, motherf-----, make your move," he said. "I know you're feeling the itch. Make your move."