Failure after failure after failure. Massive failure. Inside all of it just a modicum of success. For many the daily grind would break them, the glimmer of hope would not sustain them. But these humans have that something extra which drives them to seek out splendid discipline and by doing so, to shine.
The Sunday Series (35): The Hall of Fame
If this blog is about anything, it’s about purpose, passion, meaning, it’s just about… life. Baseball, the sport which most closely resembles it. The sport which relates to the every day challenges almost all of us face. It’s how you overcome, persevere, strategize, hope, love and then step up to the plate, with the knowledge that if you just keep trying, learn from failure after failure, work at getting better, you too will shine.
That’s life. That’s baseball. And those who do it best, those who make failure their friend and success their brother, earn their way to the top of the mountain and a golden ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Today six men who played and/or managed the game get their place in baseball immortality. No, I didn’t interview a single one, but I did get to watch them play and I simply thought it fitting this Sunday to share some Hall of Fame quotes from or about these players. Day after day these men managed to find success admist a sea of challenges at the plate, on the mound, in the dugout. The statistics in baseball are everything, but the numbers are necessary because in this game where everything counts, just like life, the numbers never lie. And if you can hit 3-out-of-10, if you can throw more strikes than balls and win more than you lose, if you can manage 25 men to greatness, then you can become the best. And if you do, if you can, there is nothing quite like a view from the top.
First there are the two pitchers and a manager, all who were part of the Atlanta Braves historic run through the 1990’s: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
Greg Maddux, nicknamed “Mad Dog” and “The Professor” by his teammates. The only pitcher in major league history to win at least 15 games in 17 seasons. The only pitcher to record 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts and walk fewer than 1,000. A 4-time consecutive Cy Young award winner, who racked up 355 wins.
Maddux has one of the greatest quotes of all time for a pitcher, and little leaguers should listen up: “The secret to pitching, is to make your balls look like strikes and your strikes look like balls.” Love that one.
Tom Glavine, who had five 20-win seasons, 2 Cy Young awards and the fourth-most wins (305) by any left-handed pitcher in Major League history: “There was always that willingness to look at myself and know there were things I could do better and I needed to do better,” Glavine says. “In my mind, I was never shy about taking those things on to try to get better.”
Then there is Manager Bobby Cox, who spent most of his career with the Braves, guiding them to 16 post-season appearances, four pennants and a World Series: “Bobby did things no other manager had the guts to do,” former pitcher John Smoltz says. “He understood players. He understood what made them tick, and trusted them, and what their pride was. We didn’t have parachutes in spring training or any of those gimmicks.” No gimmicks for Cox, who earned Manager of the Year honors four times and had more than 2500 victories.
Two other managers also are enshrined today, inclulding Joe Torre, best known for his days in pinstripes with the Yankees, winning six pennants and four world championships cementing his niche in baseball history. “I learned from every managing job, said Torre. There are certain things you don’t care for but you have to do. You just have to learn how to do them. I always tried to find a positive way to get a message across to a player. So I had to hone my communication skills. I tried to stay the same person as manager, I was as a player.”
Manager Tony LaRussa won multiple World Series championships with the Oakland A’s and St Louis Cardinals. He was also one of those whose skills were documeted in George Wills legendary book, Men At Work. “I never imagined managing so long”, says Larussa, whose career lasted 33 years. LaRussa has been criticized because some of his most successful teams included players who were suspected of, or admitted to steroid use. LaRussa says, “I know there are people that have accused me because of some of the guys that helped us win in Oakland and St. Louis, so the only thing I can say is I know 100 percent that our program was absolutely clean for everything that we could control.”
For Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, “The Big Hurt”, who also played ball during the steroid era, but was never linked to any performance-enhancing drugs, this honor means so much: “I can just tell you, what I did was real and that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now because the writers, they definitely got it right.” Right is right. Thomas was a 2-time Most Valuable Player (in consecutive years), a Comeback Player of the Year and had more than 500 homeruns, while maintaining a .300 lifetime batting average. He’s on a short list of players who accomplished that feat including Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Fox, Mel Ott , Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. That’s some serious company.
Though most of us will never take the mound in a major league ballpark, hit a homerun over 400 feet, (or even 200 for that matter), nor have the patience, talent and smarts to corral a group of 25 men and march them toward a world championship…we can all learn a lesson from those who lived these moments as part of the greatest game ever played, because we too overcome great challenges.
Baseball is a tough game. So is life. We face struggles and failure. In baseball, hard work, discipline, consistency and extraordinary achievement is rewarded with a ticket to sports immortality. Do the same in life and you too are rewarded, maybe not with a bust in the Hall of Fame, but with a legacy you leave that all whose lives you touched will remember.
Yes, there’s a “Hall” for all of us.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Author, Huffington Post Blogger, Financial Services
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