Lessons of the Game
By Eric Wright
I love spring and summer. Growing up in Cocoa Beach, spring was when we were able to shed the cumbersome wetsuits we used to brave the winter surf and don our “baggies,” as we headed to beaches christened, “Shark Pit, Spanish House, 2nd Light” or “Missiles.”
For those who wilt in the summer heat, I like to remind them that Florida has more coastline than any state, with the exception of Alaska, of course. However, spring isn’t celebrated in Anchorage by grabbing surfboards and going to the beach.
Spring is also about new beginnings and for me that doesn’t call to mind flowers and foliage, but baseball. The legendary Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Okay, so you’ve never surfed and you don’t like baseball, but obviously you’re engaged in life, so here are a couple of my favorite baseball maxims:
Saul Steinberg: “Baseball is an allegorical play about America.” Like America, baseball is a connection to the past and a link between generations. Like free enterprise and democracy, we’ve shared it with the world, and the world has given back some of our most celebrated players. Like America and Americans, baseball adapts, it has its setbacks and it reinvents itself. Most importantly, no matter how bad your previous season was, you get a fresh start every spring, with an unearned batting average of 1000. Only in America!
Ted Williams: “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” Though we admire Lexus’ “Pursuit of Perfection,” their cars are not perfect and neither are we. The player whose name is still identified with the game 66 years after his death, Babe Ruth, not only held the single season and lifetime home run record for decades, but he also was the game’s strikeout leader. However, Williams and Ruth never got up to the plate expecting to strike out; an attitude that carried them to the Hall of Fame.
Leo Durocher: “Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” Baseball is a simple game that kids can learn and play quicker than using an Xbox. At the same time it has more statistical information governing its success than an economic theory. Life is all about the wondrous blending of the simple with the complex and recognizing no matter how much we know or think we know, there will always be the element of mystery.
Casey Stengel: “No baseball pitcher would be worth a darn without a catcher who could handle the hot fastball.” Yep, life is a team sport; no one is an island and no one is self-made. We all depend on others for our success, just like they depend on us; we’re interdependent and each has a position to play.
Earl Weaver: “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals and three-run homers.” Life is all about the fundamentals of focus, vision and discipline, but it’s also about luck. When asked what kind of generals Napoleon liked, he replied, “I like the lucky ones!”
Hank Aaron: “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.” One thing that sports does, for players and fans, is it teaches us the important life lesson of laughing at ourselves.
Now perhaps you understand why George Will said, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”