Depression, war, tragedy; as tough as it was growing up, we always had baseball to help get us through. The Babe was bigger than life, how many tears dried up because of him? Lou, Joe D., Ted – “C’mon, with their help we could do anything!”
I once read that Henry Aaron was pitched bottle caps as part of his early training. He used a cut-off broomstick to hit them. Hard work, yes, but what a champion. Thank you Mr. Aaron for being a true hero and role model. When I was young, I dreamt I was Roberto Clemente – able to fly, catch, and make that perfect throw to the plate. Thank you Mr. Clemente for setting the standard both on and off the field.
Koufax, Gibson, Marichal: weren’t they gods? Through dedication, determination, and desire they could make your shudder at the plate. Thank you Reggie, or should I say “Mr. October.” How many of us were inspired by those home runs?
Years ago, I went to a Yankees vs.Toronto game and participated in a memorabilia auction. Willie, Mickey, and the Duke were on the same ball sitting in a bronze glove enclosed by a glass case. A chubby kid from Astoria, Queens desperately wanted it. These legends had to go home with me. Luckily, they did. To this day, looking at the case inspires me to hope that baseball will once again exist without the blemish of steroids. Fans should be able to dream in the Field of Dreams again. You see, baseball itself is perfect. As a result, any blemish (i.e. steroids) is obvious. Steroids are not a direct result of the game, but the fault of the complicit baseball player. Congratulations to those who admit their mistake and proceed properly from here.
The legends of yesterday will always be honored and remembered, but it is today’s active player who sets the daily example for this generation. Through hard work and repetitive motions, skills become reflexive to your subconscious mind. Do you think that when Derek Jeter has to run back, reach, catch, spin, and throw he makes excuses? Years of hard work have created reflexive skills so automatic that the crack of a bat allows him to shine. Thank you Derek Jeter for being Derek Jeter.
Where have the heroes gone?
What is that man’s name in St. Louis? Albert J. Pujols. Yes, Mr. Pujols, I agree you are not ‘the man.’ Stan Musial is. I know this because I have an autographed picture which says, “Stan ‘the man’ Musial.” All those years as a St. Louis Cardinal, 20 plus All-Star games, .331 lifetime batting average – what a player and what a man! Now, in his golden years, just hearing his name can make the hair on your arm stand up. How many great players had ‘Stan the Man’ as their role model? Would I be wrong if I said, “Maybe even you?” Yes, Mr. Musial is the man. However, Mr. Pujols, the heroes of tomorrow live today through you. I have been told that you have a genuine love for the game and your fellow man. Your peers honor you with their respect and admiration. Your fans honor you by pretending they are you. It does not matter whether you are the man or Superman, you are Albert J. Pujols. Thank you for being you.
As Brandon Inge shed his tears around the bases, we all cried with him. Mr. Inge, just knowing part of what you do for all of those children inspires us to try harder. Thank you to all of the players who on a daily basis and show unquestionable respect for themselves, their fellow teammates, the fans, and the game.
Where have the heroes gone?
They are on that diamond, shining as bright as ever.