TORONTO – Daryl Boston has little doubt what would have happened back when he was playing in the 1980s and ‘90s if a player made a gesture toward the opposing dugout, even if it was in jest, the way Josh Donaldson did to the Chicago White Sox this week.
“He probably would have been thrown at,” says the White Sox first base coach, whose whistle has suddenly gained notoriety across baseball. “But I got a kick out it because I didn’t find it disrespectful at all. The downside of it is I may have got caught on video laughing after us giving up a home run. That’s the one thing I felt bad about. But other than that, it’s all in fun.”
Given baseball’s customary conservatism and enduring staidness, it’s progress that Boston’s playfully irritating use of a whistle to cheer his team’s defensive plays, and Donaldson’s blow-the-whistle gesture in response when he touched home after going deep, didn’t lead to any unwritten-rule righteousness.
Moments of levity and intense competition don’t need to be mutually exclusive. There’s room for both on the field and the exchanges between the two Monday followed by Donaldson’s use of Too Short’s Blow The Whistle as the walkup song for his first at-bat Tuesday are proof of that.
“I agree with you 100 per cent,” says Donaldson. “The whole time I was (blowing the whistle) to him he had the biggest smile on his face. It was good and I’m glad – you always hear about these unwritten rules of baseball and all that jazz – well, I think you’re starting to see some of that change in a positive manner. Not to where I’m trying to disrespect them or they’re trying to disrespect me – we’re out there having fun and competing against each other.
“Like, if you’re going to do something, we’re going to do something.”
Donaldson isn’t the first player to use Blow The Whistle in response to Boston’s whistling as the 55-year-old from Cincinnati has had several memorable exchanges with the Kansas City Royals, notably with their former first baseman Eric Hosmer and left-hander Danny Duffy.
“He’s the one who doesn’t like it at all,” Boston says of Duffy. “Hosmer informed me he didn’t like it so I used to blow it, blow it. They scored a bunch of runs (one night) and next day they played that song.
“We used to have a good time with the whistle.”
Boston, now in his sixth season as White Sox first base coach, started using the whistle a couple of years ago as a way to get the attention of his outfielders when aligning them defensively.
Over time, that morphed into blowing it as a way to celebrate good plays on the field, leading to some fun exchanges with annoyed opponents, which he thinks is good for the game.
“Having fun is what we try to preach over here,” says Boston. “We are a young team and we try to play hard with a lot of energy, but with an emphasis on having fun during the game. My whistle is part of the energy that we’re trying to bring here.
“I get a kick out of watching Miguel Cabrera,” he adds. “He seems to be one of the rare guys to still have interaction with the opposing pitcher in-game. There’s room for that.”
The exchanges with Donaldson were rooted in some pre-game conversations Monday the third baseman had with White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson and his assistant, Greg Sparks.
The three of them go back to their days together in the Oakland Athletics minor-league system, and Donaldson talked a little smack about Boston’s whistle.
Sparks and Steverson passed that along to Boston – “I got word that he is not fond of the whistle,” is how he put it – and he decided to give Donaldson “a little peep peep” when he stepped into the on-deck circle.
That set up Donaldson’s good-natured reply, which left Boston cracking up.
“If you’re going to dish it, you’ve got to be able to take it,” says Boston. “If you’re a pitcher and you gave up a long one, deal with it. The answer to is it to get him out, the answer to (a pitcher’s celebrating) is to get a hit. I think there’s plenty of room for it.
“That unwritten book of rules is out the window. Or it should be.”
A little bit of fun on the field shouldn’t be a novel concept. Props to Donaldson and Boston for showing how to do a little give-and-take right.