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Brian Cashman: Civility is there, you just need to look

Updated 11:49 am, Thursday, December 5, 2013
  • Brian Cashman, New York Yankees general manager and senior vice president, spoke about civility in baseball at the Stamford Public Library on Monday, Dec. 2. Photo: Megan Spicer / Darien News
    Brian Cashman, New York Yankees general manager and senior vice president, spoke about civility in baseball at the Stamford Public Library on Monday, Dec. 2. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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To Brian Cashman, New York Yankees general manager and senior vice president and a Darien resident, Mariano Rivera is emblematic of civility in America's pastime.

"Mariano Rivera has got civility," Cashman said. "He's conducted himself in such a civil manner throughout his career. It's respect for the game, respect for others. ... When Rivera wins, he wins with class and dignity and respect for his opponent. That's civility. When he loses, he loses with class and dignity and respect by recognizing that he wasn't as good as his opponent that day."

Dressed in a grey suit with a light blue shirt and navy tie, Cashman checked his iPhone and sipped on a grande iced vanilla latte from Starbucks during the 45 minutes he spent with the press before the start of his talk, "Civility in Baseball," at Stamford's Ferguson Library Monday. Cashman's speech was part of a series on the topic of civility that has taken place for the last three years at the library. The event was organized by the City of Stamford, the Dilenschneider Group, Sacred Heart University and Purdue Pharma LP in conjunction with Hearst Media Group.

Cashman said he was a little apprehensive to be giving a speech about civility.

"Am I someone who can speak to civility?" Cashman said to the audience in the library auditorium.

He then issued a disclaimer that he may not be the best person to speak on the subject. Within the last year, Cashman has made headlines after he told Alex Rodriguez, who is appealing a 211-game suspension for alleged personal enhancement drug use, to "shut the (expletive) up" during the summer in regard to the player's lies about his hip rehabilitation.

"Civility in baseball, there is and there isn't," Cashman said. "It's like life, sometimes you see it, sometimes you don't. It doesn't catch the eye or stay in the spotlight as the alternative."

There are small bouts of civility in the sport that can be seen if one looks in the right places, Cashman said. It can be seen in the exchange of lineup cards between managers before the start of the game or players patting opposing players on the back during the game. However, those moments are not what make the "front pages or back pages," Cashman said. It's the bench-clearing brawls, umpires ejecting players, steroid use and other events that are covered by the media in the hours and days after a game.

"In a sport that has so much competition and money on the line, you have heroes and goats, winners and losers," Cashman said. "Sometimes civility can get lost."

An example of civility took place just after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, the team's first in 86 years. In order to do so, though, they had to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship.

"The schedule makers rained down on us pretty hard, putting us in Fenway Park to open up the season in front of our arch rivals who bested us in the American League Championship the year before," Cashman said. "And there we were as they were receiving their World Series rings, unfolding their World Championship flag, the celebration of their championship for the first time in forever right in front of our eyes."

The Yankees had two options: To stay in the clubhouse and avoid watching the rivals and fans celebrate their victory or watch from the dugout and field. They chose the latter.

"I think we demonstrated great civility in standing as an entire unit in front of the dugout for the entire ceremony and paying our respects," Cashman said. "There's a right way to win and there's a right way to lose."

"Does civility exist? Yes and no, just like in society," Cashman said. "Civility has been reduced, it's not dead. It's just not as sexy or loud as the alternative. It's the reality we're dealing with."

Cashman frequently circled back to Rivera, who retired at the end of the 2013 baseball season as one of the greatest relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history.

"Mo represents the best of baseball and the best in civility," Cashman said after recounting the night the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Rivera, who blew the save, stayed in the locker room after the game and answered questions from media for close to an hour with "politeness, dignity and class," Cashman said.

During a question-and-answer portion of the evening, Cashman praised the coaches in the Darien youth leagues who make winning secondary, and growing in the sport and having fun the primary goal.

"Our sport is no different than society," Cashman said. "You see it in politics right now. The left and the right and the mudslinging that takes place. The disagreements that occur because of that and the passions and emotions that flow from that. You look at any part of society and you'll see that. The fight of good and evil, of the civil versus the unrest."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews