Dierker, the improbable manager of the Houston Astros from 1997 to 2002, deals some choice observations on the game.
“I thought I could bring some fresh air to the situation and help the team become more fun-loving and efficient at the same time.” With that thought in mind, Dierker—who’d been an All-Star pitcher for the Astros during the 1970s and ’80s and then part of their broadcast team—accepted the offer to manage the club. It wasn’t a job he anticipated—pitchers don’t become managers, perhaps because of the overwhelming focus they must bring to their position—but he had been with the organization quite some time and knew it inside out. He also liked a challenge and wanted to be part of the solution to the Astros’ losing ways—to learn to organize and orchestrate a team and a season, taking his lessons where he found them, from veteran managers up to the bullpen catcher, a bottom-feeder on the food chain of baseball. Even though Dierker played the game a mere 20 to 30 years ago, those were less fancy times, and he felt the Astros needed an infusion of fun that echoed his own playing days, pranks and antiauthoritarianism and all. He does bring fresh air to the team—and a series of winning seasons—but he also learns that nothing is simple, that strategy and instincts clash, intuition isn’t everything, and delegating responsibility doesn’t always work. He might have wanted to “form a team that had nine captains on the field, all thinking together and playing a smart brand of baseball,” but intelligence that focused isn’t wed to playing talent. Still, he has great stories of marching through the seasons, of the humor amid the startling realities of dealing with umps, beanball pitchers, steroids, and gambling.
Reverent in his irreverent way, Dierker demonstrates how a simple game gets complex as you struggle to make one more run than the other team.