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The Story of O

How did Omar Minaya, the major leagues' first Hispanic general manager, turn the Mets back into contenders? By welcoming one and all into his ever-expanding circle

Posted: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:13PM; Updated: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:13PM
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Omar Minaya of the New York Mets.
Omar Minaya of the New York Mets.
Walter Iooss Jr./SI
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By Gary Smith

Once upon a time, in a castle he had rebuilt from ruins, there lived the most fortunate of men. At dusk on spring and summer days, he could be found gazing from its ramparts. From there he could see what other men surrendered in order to reach such heights. He could see himself.

His castle was a baseball stadium. As the sun sank, he would walk up a ramp instead of the elevator that others of his rank preferred, pause and see his whole life unfurled. He could see the wonderful team he'd assembled, men from faraway lands who played with togetherness and joy. He could see the neighborhood he had grown up in as an immigrant, the fields on which he'd played, the wall he used to sneak over to slip into the castle as a boy. He could see the metallic orb rising from the World's Fair grounds, the vast globe he'd traveled in search of a treasure that turned out to have been right here, in front of him, all along.

He could see the train rumbling into the station just beyond the castle wall and the masses spilling from it, people whose sweat he'd smelled and breath he'd breathed when he was crushed against them on that train all his life. Now they called out to him, "Thank you! Thank you for giving us back our pride!" and were astounded at how familiarly he waved and called back, at how clearly, unlike other kings and moguls, he saw himself in them.

No one called him king, or even the regal name that he was born with: Omar Teodoro Antonio Minaya y Sanchez. He was too humble for that. His family and friends -- even the President of the United States -- called him O.

It was the perfect name for the major leagues' first Hispanic general manager, the perfect letter. Round. An opening. A circle that invited outsiders in and made them feel there was room for them. It was much of the reason that Pedro Martinez had left a world championship team and an adoring public in Boston to join the New York Mets, why other stars had soon followed, why Moises Alou had virtually begged to be included this year. It was why his team looked like the mélange of cultures inside that number 7 train beyond rightfield, and the soundtrack at Shea Stadium pulsed like a festival of music from all their native lands.

But then, everyone was born an o, with a lifetime of chances and choices that widened or shrank it. This is the story of O.

His bedroom wall had one. A tiny circle, bored by a bullet in the early 1960s, a warning shot meant for his father that had hissed past the bed where little O slept. The peephole fascinated the boy. But the bullet hadn't hushed O's father any more than had the two years in jail.

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