Monday, July 03, 2006

Same Time Next Haircut

From The Los Angeles Times
Inside Baseball
Tim Brown; July 2, 2006

As a young ballplayer with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Manny Mota would wait for his haircuts until the schedule brought him to New York.

Mota knew a barber near the corner of 95th and Amsterdam. The shop owner also was from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and Mota would have his cabdriver stop on the way to Shea Stadium.

The ritual blended necessity and a taste of his homeland, because other Dominicans, including children from nearby apartments, often filled the little shop.

One boy in particular adored baseball. So, when Mota arrived, the owner would call the boy, who would rush over to shake the ballplayer's hand and talk about his other favorites — Juan Marichal and the Alou brothers.

"He knew the schedule," Mota recalled. "Every time I'd go there, he'd come to see me."

Thirty-five years later, Mota attended a ceremony in San Francisco honoring Marichal. He was invited to sit beside Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

"Oh, no," Mota told Fernandez. "Are you sure you want me to sit with you? There are a lot of important people here."Fernandez insisted, then asked Mota if he remembered 1965, the barbershop in Manhattan, the children who'd run to greet him, the one boy in particular who would never miss a visit.

"Yes," Mota said, "I remember my little friend." Fernandez said, "Manny, that boy, that was me."

Fernandez and Mota were together again June 24, when Fernandez threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium.

"He's an idol," Fernandez said of Mota. "He's a hero in the Dominican."

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