Art Stewart catches my eye and I see that spark, the one that means he’s got something to say. This is Thursday afternoon and the rain is pouring. The game is going to be delayed an hour, at least.
This is the 58th year for Stewart in professional baseball, and if you count his part-time work you can add five or so more years. There is no telling how many rain delays he’s sat through, but the number is in the hundreds, at least, and for most of us rain delays are an enormous pain.
Rain delays mean idle time, wasted time, schedules are off. Flight reservations need to be changed. Maybe you’re not home for dinner. But, like I say, there’s a spark in Art’s eye as he walks over.
“Hey Sam,” he says. “I’ve got a story for you. Wanna hear a story?”
Well, of course he has a story. And of course I want to hear it. Hearing Art’s stories has been one of my favorite parts of covering the Royals. I helped him put a lot of them in a book.
This story goes back to the late 1950s, when Art was new with the Yankees. They were in spring training, and the rain was coming down and the guys were grumbling. They didn’t really want to be there anyway, it’s spring training, and with the rain they really didn’t want to be there. But the instructions were coming from above their heads, so they had to wait out the rain.
Casey Stengel was the manager of the Yankees back then. When stories about Stengel come up, Art usually mentions that Stengel was born in Kansas City, but here he gets to the point. Stengel yelled a little to get his players’ attention, looked down at the ground, and then made his point.
“Gentlemen,” he says, “we can work our damndest to beat our opponents. We can work every minute of every day to be at our best and beat the other guy, but one thing I’ve learned …”
Here, at this point, Stengel points to the sky.
“We can’t beat that guy.”
Art is smiling as he finishes the story, and to Art, the moral is basically the old baseball line that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you smile. He’s been around a long time. He’s seen players and scouts and reporters and everyone else get angry about rain delays.
But to me, the moral of Art’s story is that you have life beat when you’re doing something you love — and you’re always able to remember you love it.