When Terry Collins walked across the field at the conclusion of last night’s contest to shake hands with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, (right) he had just completed his 1680 th game as a major league manager. The final chapter of a man’s baseball life had been written and you could just sense the relief and gratification that only comes from a long uphill climb that led his team (or family as he calls them) to victory and a chance to compete for a spot in this year’s World Series.
In the 1970’s, Terry Collins was a minor league shortstop playing first in the Pirates organization and then later with the Dodgers. He never had a major league at bat. However, a turning point in his career came when Peter O’Malley, then the owner of the Dodgers offered him a chance to manage.
Back then, the Dodgers were not the mega corporation they are today and O’Malley (left) emphasized the family culture that surrounded his teams. For example, when the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988, he took not only the team but virtually the entire staff, including the groundskeepers, to Hawaii for a vacation. At the time, Collins was on another assignment for the Dodgers. When he returned home, he was welcomed with a trip to Italy replacing the one he missed for his entire family. Terry Collins never forgot the way the Dodgers treated him. More importantly, he picked up on those values and voice as the manager of the New York Mets stressing the nature of team building and family.
No doubt, last night was a bittersweet moment for a man who beat the parents who raised him (so to speak). To a man, the Mets reflect the character of their leader in the dugout. But, this didn’t happen overnight. Actually, it began before the first game of the season when Sandy Alderson, the Mets General Manager, stunned the Mets fanbase by declaring that the Mets would win 90 games this year. With a team of young talent, Collins tried to downplay the whole thing while the media pressured him every day. But inside the clubhouse, Collins was already building the structure of his team – one that would accent a quiet confidence.
Well, we know the end result. The Mets did, in fact, win 90 games. But it was Collins’s leadership that brought them together and through the tough times – like losing their captain David Wright (right) for several months, as well as Lucas Duda – their only bona fide power hitter until Cespedes came along. And then of course, there was the ongoing saga of Matt The Brat Harvey who on more than one occasion caused a disruption off the field as well as in the clubhouse. Collins, known for having a temper, never lost it. More importantly, he never lost his players.
His is one of those stories you only find in baseball. One thousand six hundred and eighty games – and finally he is a winner.