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The Story of O
GARY SMITH
June 18, 2007
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
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June 18, 2007

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

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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 m�lange 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.

For years Lolo Minaya had pedaled his rickety bike through the Dominican town of Valverde Mao, happy to pull over and let anyone know what a bastard Rafael Trujillo was, not to mention the lapdogs who'd taken the slain dictator's place. It was in Lolo's blood. His brother had been imprisoned for refusing to fight for the regime, an insurgent nephew had been executed, and his father, Zoilo, had died after being slashed with a machete in a dispute that some believed was rooted in Zoilo's outspoken politics.

Shhhhh, O's nervous mother, Antonia, kept begging her husband. He'd dismiss her with a wave as he creaked on his rocking chair, perusing his beloved World Almanac and spinning dreams--"Do you know how many kilometers from here to the Himalayas? Thirteen thousand, two hundred and twenty-five! We could leave today and be there tomorrow! Let's go!" Never sweating the details, because O's mother was drenched in them.

She'd stunned the men at a property auction at city hall back in the '30s--what was a young woman, a vendor of meat pies and sweets, doing in this males' den, bidding to become a landowner? Antonia won the property and had a house built, turned her backyard into a school for poor children and a soup kitchen for beggars, cripples and starving Haitians. So respected grew O's mother that she became permanent secretary to the mayors of Valverde Mao, invulnerable to the wind shear of politics ... almost.

Dios m�o, could she, her daughters, Adelina and Sixta, and the son she'd named for the Persian poet Omar Khayyam survive her husband's loose tongue? A decade earlier, when Trujillo ordered every Dominican household to post his picture and the words IN THIS HOUSE TRUJILLO IS CHIEF, Lolo had barked, "In this house I am chief!" and crumpled the portrait. Garbagemen who found it in the trash had tattled, and Lolo had rotted for two years in prison.

Now it was 1965, four years after Trujillo's assassination, and O's father was loading another empty casket onto a truck bed and going off to play once more with fire. Two of O's cousins had melted into the mountains with guerrillas planning to overthrow Trujillo's successors. Within weeks the rebels had been routed by the army, one cousin imprisoned and the name of the other, Joseito Crespo, on the government's list of the dead. So every day for a week Lolo headed for the hills with a coffin to retrieve Joseito, only to return with the corpse of some other insurgent instead. O peered into his backyard, so much bigger than it seemed. Big enough for a school that had educated a Haitian orphan who would become mayor of Santo Domingo, for a weekly beggars' banquet ... and now for a freedom fighters' mortuary. Lolo left the bodies there to await their next of kin, shoved a fresh wooden box onto the truck, bid farewell to his terrified wife and set out again.

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