Sometimes, Nice Guys Can Finish First

By Tony McClean
Updated: November 8, 2006

Seneca Wallace

Seneca Wallace

Ron Washington

Ron Washington

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Amidst the ever swirling black clouds in the sports world, sometimes there can be some light at the end of the tunnel and not a gorilla with a flashlight.

This past Monday was one of those days that lets us know that at times, good guys can indeed finish first. The two men I speak of in particular are Seattle Seahawk quarterback Seneca Wallace and Texas Ranger manager Ron Washington.

While both men are on opposite ends of the sports spectrum, they both also represent a small part of the “old school-new school” differences in today’s modern sport scene.

In many ways, it’s still significant to see African-American quarterbacks and managers being given a chance to show their wares. It’s also very refreshing that the accomplishments of Wallace and Washington can be widely seen as welcome changes.

Wallace’s story is similar to the plight of many African-Americans athletes who have strived to become a quarterback on either the collegiate or professional level.

Originally recruited as a defensive back by Oregon State, The Sacramento (Ca.) native was a JUCO All-American at Sacramento Junior College in 2000 where he passed for nearly 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore.

A year later, Wallace joined Iowa State University and was named the Big 12′s Newcomer Of The Year. At the end of his career with the Cyclones, Wallace threw for over 5,000 yards and was a two-time All-Big 12 selection.

He was picked by the Seahawks in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-11 Wallace has gone from making the team as a third-stringer that season to becoming the team’s starter following Matt Hasselbeck’s injury.

While Wallace may only be a temporary starter for now, he’s more than shown that he can do the job. In his first start on October 29, Wallace threw three touchdown passes in a close loss to Kansas City.

In Monday night’s win against the Raiders, Wallace added another scoring pass while also running for 49 yards on the ground. The win kept the Seahawks in first place in the NFC West.

Earlier that same day, Ron Washington was named the newest manager of the Texas Rangers. The 54-year-old Washington, who has served as a coach with the Oakland A’s over the last 11 years, is one of those baseball lifers who has finally gotten his first shot at running the show.

One of the last players to come out of the old Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy, Washington has nearly three decades of professional baseball experience.

The former infielder spent all or parts of 10 seasons in the Major Leagues with five different organizations including Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Prior to his years with Oakland, Washington spent four years in the New York Mets farm system — two years as a Triple-A coach for the Tidewater Tides and two as a Class A manager with the Columbia Bombers of the South Atlantic League.

Ironically, the naming of Washington as Texas’ new skipper is somewhat similar to the Mets hiring of Willie Randolph. The theme is very identical: a longtime baseball man finally being given the chance to prove himself.

What Washington may have working for him is that he inherits a somewhat better team in Arlington (80-82 last year) than Willie did in New York (71-91 in 2004) when he took over from Art Howe in 2005.

“This means a lot to me,” Washington told “It means I’ve come full circle. I’ve been a player, a Minor League coach, a Minor League manager, a big-league coach and had a chance to influence a lot of baseball people along the way. Now I have a chance to influence a whole organization. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

While both of their plights appear to be headed in different directions, the roads paved by both Wallace and Washington will hopefully lead to even more chances for other qualified African-Americans in sports down the road.

Yup, sometimes nice guys can really finish first.