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"Why I Love Baseball" by "Dirty" Al Gallagher

02/13/2004 9:14 AM - "Dirty" Al Gallagher is an underrated American treasure. If you've ever seen the movie "Bull Durham" - the manager of the Durham Bulls, the one who throws an armload of bats in the shower and calls his charges "lollygaggers" - that was allegedly based on Al. The man's been around baseball for 38 years and loves the game. Here's what he thinks about baseball, and why he loves it.

"Baseball to me is but a microcosm of American society. Sure, there is greed and a lack of discipline in there, and that can cause us to lose as a society. But when you take those good old American values - competitiveness, teamwork, and fair play - and put them into any sport or business, you will have success. Baseball is a team sport, but it's the one sport where one man can step out and control the game.

"I love this game because at age 1 1/2 I started taking batting practice with my Dad. We would be in the kitchen and I would hit a beachball with a strainer. So much of baseball is about fathers and sons, whether it's watching, playing, or talking. I've seen differences patched up with conversations about this simple game. To be honest, I've never had any other occupational goal than to be involved in baseball.

"I love this game because it's changed my life so much. I was a poor boy in the Mission District of San Francisco whose father was a carpet and linoleum layer. I got a Masters degree and a wonderful family of six children and eleven grandchildren because of it. I got to dine with Ronald Reagan and Jonas Salk. I got to meet Jackie Robinson, the true leader of the Civil Rights movement. I got to play with Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Juan Marichal, and Gaylord Perry. I got to be the first native born San Franciscan to play for the Giants.

"Most of all I have been proud to represent this profession. Never once since 1965 have I ever not wanted to go to work or not been proud of what I do.

"Baseball is the heart of American society and we have settled in the beautiful heart of America, Kansas City. What better could happen to me on this earth than to be involved with such a special game."

- Alan Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry Gallagher