The title of this post is a favorite saying of my brother's. I like it--it applies to a number of circumstances.
We spent some time last summer with
long-time friends who have a nice house on Cape Cod, in a part of the peninsula
that hasn’t been developed. It’s a relaxing and entertaining place to
I am a huge baseball fan, and I had heard for years about the Cape Cod Baseball League, which is
an NCAA college level organization which has sent a disproportionate
number of players to the majors. One evening, we caught a game between the Brewster
Whitecaps and the Falmouth Commodores. It was a
beautiful night, and because it was a college game, there was no
admission charge. People drew up portable chairs around the perimeter of
the outfield of a beautiful little park.
I thought it was baseball as
it should be.
I also thought back to my own undistinguished career in
baseball, which ended when I was twelve. My basic problem was that I was
afraid of the ball. I thought this was a reasonable attitude to have
since a baseball hurts a lot when it hits you. As a right-handed batter,
I consistently hit to right field, which meant I was swinging late.
There was so much to think about during an at-bat. Do I want to hit this
pitch? Will this pitch hit me? What should I do? Duck and cover?
Scream and run? So much to think about…
Because I was not very good
at the sport, although I loved it, I ended up twelve years old in the
minor leagues. Most of the twelve-year-olds were in the majors, but for
some reason, the coaches decided to put all the uncoordinated
twelve-year-olds on one minor league team. Because we were
uncoordinated, we didn’t play very well but, because we were bigger than
the rest of the kids in the league, we could win enough games to make it
worthwhile. I remember one game we won 63-0. Our coaches kept telling
us to make outs to end the spectacle but we kept merrily hitting and
running around the bases. I pitched that game—not that I was any
good--but asked to be taken out in the fifth. I felt too sorry for the
opposing team who cried their way through the last couple of innings.
As a result, they couldn’t see well enough to hit anything. It was
Anyhow, we ended up in the playoff game for the
championship—one game, winner takes all. Larry, our third baseman, had
the most athletic ability of any of us. He could field anything hit to
him and make an accurate throw to first, which made him a rarity on the team. He used a big black bat that
was his personal stick: no one dared touch it. He occasionally
banged the ball off the fence but never hit a home run. He also struck
out a lot.
I remember one situation well. I was playing shortstop and
we were behind 3-0 in the top of the sixth (the last inning for Little
League games). The other team had loaded the bases with no outs and it
looked like they were going to increase their lead. The hitter smacked a
sizzling line drive straight at Larry. He caught the ball, stepped on
third to double the runner who had taken off at the crack of the bat and
reached over to tag the player coming from second who apparently ran at the sound of the bat and didn't look to see that Larry had the ball.
There was a
stunned silence. “Unassisted triple play,” my coach said with total admiration in his voice.
So we were
up, but still three runs behind. Larry came to bat with the bases loaded
and two out. I was on deck.
He swung at the first pitch and missed. He
swung at the second pitch with the same result. He stepped out of the
box and wiped his eyes. C’mon, Lar, don’t tear up now, I thought. I was
ambivalent about getting to bat. If Larry made an out, the game would
be over and we would lose. If he didn’t, I would be up and the thought
of all that pressure made me feel queasy.
The third pitch came in to
Larry and he whipped the big black bat around. Crack! It was the sweet
pure sound of bat meeting ball cleanly. We all watched, frozen, even
the runners who should have been running, as the ball sailed high
through the air and dived into the deepening twilight beyond the fence. I
could hear my coach screaming above the tumult, “Grand slam home run!
Grand slam home run!” We had won the championship.
I played a few
more games after that, but never managed to swing at pitches at the
right time. I don't know what happened to Larry or the rest of the team. Somewhere I have a team picture, a collection of eleven gangly, goofy-looking kids tagged as losers who ended up winning it all. And I know it wasn't because we were any good: we were just extraordinarily lucky.