Classic card of the week

Astros Leaders, 1987 Topps

Leading the 1987 Houston Astros was Yogi Berra and his band of merry, old men, of which Yogi was arguably the merriest, and definitely the oldest. While it would be safe to assume from this baseball card that Yogi Berra was the manager of the 1987 Houston Astros, that would be an unsafe and stupid assumption, because Yogi Berra was not the manager of the 1987 Houston Astros. He was the bench coach.

For further explanation as to how –- and in what specific statistical categories –- a bench coach can lead his team, let us turn over the back of the card:

Noticeably absent from this list of team leaders is Yogi Berra. Allow me to relay my confusion as to why, on the front of the card which is titled “Team Leaders,” there is a dream sequence picture of Yogi Berra among several other dudes who have formed a force field of old, white, nondescript baseball knowledge around him, while on the back of the card, which is titled “Houston Astros 1986 Team Leaders,” there exists a listing of actual Astros leaders that does not include Yogi Berra or any other coaches that made up the 1986 Houston Astros coaching staff. What gives?

Here is what gives. You cannot lead by actions. Sure, Glenn Davis and Kevin Bass led the Astros in most offensive categories, but did they lead the Astros in a general sense? It’s difficult to say, but according to the front of this card, no -– they obviously did not. In order to be a true leader, you need to sit on the bench, and be old, and say nonsensical yet endearing things that motivate people like Glenn Davis to go out there and hit home runs. You need to take your hat off every now and then and laugh, to remind your team that this is just a game. But then you need to put your hat back on to remind them that this is also serious, and should they fail, they can have a seat on the bench right next to you, where they will no longer be able to play baseball, although –- because they are now on the bench -- their chances of leading will increase exponentially.

Another person who apparently did not lead the 1986 Houston Astros was manager Hal Lanier, who led was there when his team won the Divison Title, and who also won Manager of the Year for reasons that remain mysterious. Many believe his lack of leadership skills stemmed from the fact that he preferred to hang over the dugout railing instead of sitting on the bench.

Did you know?
During a 1994 interview, Hal Lanier stated that he is still haunted by a recurring dream in which Yogi Berra – surrounded by men that are his father, but not really – laughs at his lack of leadership skills.