He was a solid count-on player in high school and then the door opened
And he walked in and found his place in a uniform that smelled of money.
He had some success in the Minor Leagues, hitting or pitching or even fielding.
Stories were written about his place on the depth chart; fans paid (not so much)
To watch him perform and chattered about his potential and their hope of
Telling friends and strangers that they knew him when – – – .
He showed up early to sign autographs for waiting youngsters, the way a
Rock star throws kisses to adoring throngs. This is the life he’d fantasized about
Since the day he’d saved enough to buy a Rawlings glove and make a dependable pocket
With oil, a beat-up baseball, a bunch of rubber bands, and a giant portion of patience.
He walked nervously as he approached the office of his grizzled manager,
A life-long devotee to the only sport worth anybody’s time,
Daring to dream the words that might come out at him like polychromatic fireworks,
Celebrating what he hoped would be a day he could memorialize in his forever recall . . .
And there they were: firecrackers, then rockets pronouncing his call-up
To the Show, the Bigs . . . The Major Leagues!
“Pack your bags and your dreams. All that work, all that practice, the conditioning
And now the chance to show them Up There that your record is no fluke;
Show ‘em what you got!”
It’s a story oft repeated but which bears no guarantees of permanence.
It is a story every boy has heard and felt, but it lacks authenticity unless
You put a name to the struggles, the challenges, the reveries. Will he make it?
Will he remain when he does? Will he excel and enter Cooperstown?
Think about players who had meaningful careers. It must have been a smooth
Journey for them, a magic carpet ride from their start as true professionals.
The Yanks have won more World Series than any other team, haven’t they?
Who was the greatest player the Yankees ever had? Ruth? Mantle? Each
Had a rocky road to the summit of his career – and it wasn’t sweet.
Ruth, arguably one of the three greatest ever to have played the game, best known
As the Sultan of Swat, began his vaunted career as a pitcher, not a slugger.
In 1914, he was called up to the Big Club, the Red Sox, to pitch . . . but he was not
Good enough on a talented team, so he was sent back to the Minors
For the rest of the season . . . and helped the Providence Grays win their pennant.
The next year, he was in the Majors for good, playing for 22 seasons. You know the rest.
Mantle, heir to Di Maggio’s place in center and at bat, was a 19 year old hitting .260
For the Bronx Bombers when he was sent back to the Minors for work on his stroke
After just 69 Big League games. He wanted to quit but his father, whom he adored, a hard-
Working lead and zinc minor, challenged him to stay and fight his way back to the Bronx.
You know the rest.
Another Yankee, A-Rod, started with the Mariners at age 18 but then became the victim
Of a strike; when it ended, he was sent back to the Minors, playing for Tacoma, always
Ready for that recall — which came when he replaced an injured player on Seattle.
You know the rest.
Those who played for the Yanks had no patent on resilience. Harmon Killebrew,
A “Bonus Baby,” had his greatest years for the Senators and then the Twins
(Same franchise U-Hauled from a non-state to a permanent state). When he retired,
He’d hit more homers than anyone not named Ruth . . . but so much earlier
He was sent back to the Minors and bounced back and forth until 1959,
When he hit 42 dingers and drove in 105. You know the rest.
Willie McCovey was Senior Circuit Rookie of the Year in 1959 but was hit hard
With a slump and he was sent back to the Minors in 1960 for a stretch of 17 games.
He didn’t gripe or whimper about his struggles as a lefty swinger against southpaws.
The time away from Major stress helped him concentrate and focus. When he returned,
It was to remain the rest of his HOF career. You know the rest.
There are others who replicated the jagged road to success — Mike Moustakas,
Yasiel Puig, et al — but the point’s been made. Work hard, listen, don’t relent,
Have a strong belief in your potential . . . and your potential will become Today!
To hear he was sent back to the Minors is not to listen to a death sentence on a baseball
Field or in any other. It is a call to what you’re made of, a chance to show ‘em all!
I’d say much more but what’s the point?
You know the rest.