The crowd in Pittsburgh suddenly erupted in ecstatic cheers as the baseball disappeared over the left field fence. The shoulders of left fielder Yogi Berra slumped in disbelief and defeat as he watched it go. It was 3:36 P.M., and the unthinkable had happened. Bill Mazeroski, the Pirate’s second baseman, had just hit a dramatic, seventh game, ninth inning walk off home run to steal the game and the World Series from my beloved New York Yankees. I sat in front of the flickering black and white images of the television long after the coverage of the game was over. How could it have happened?
Just three years earlier the combination of Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Eddie Matthews and Joe Adcock had been too much and the Milwaukee Braves had beaten the Bronx Bombers in the 1957 Series Now this! Mickey Mantle cried for hours. Casey Stengal, the Yanks manager was fired. And I, a fourteen year old kid, was devastated.
Interestingly, last year when our Atlanta Braves were beaten in the first round of the playoffs (again) I felt no absolute devastation. Some disappointment, yes. But I am amazed at reactions like that of the Atlanta fan who said, “I am so depressed, I won’t be able to get out of bed for a week.” I guess, in the past, I have experienced that kind of let down when “my team” lost. Maybe maturity has taken care of that. Or maybe it is a new perspective about what things in life truly matter.
In the movie, “Field of Dreams,” James Earl Jones’ character muses, “Throughout our lives the one constant has been baseball.” Much of the American public has an attachment to baseball. But it is not all important. Our lives and attitudes do not have to rise and fall by the outcome of a game. I can remember how, may years ago, the entire mood in my church’s Sunday services during the fall was affected by how the Dawgs had fared on Saturday. I hope we have all grown.
Now I care very much about sports. Every year for at least 35 years in late winter I have written a column about baseball. I love the smell of freshly cut grass. I love the sound of horsehide hitting leather or connecting with the sweet spot of a bat. I love it when spring training begins because that means the season and spring are near. But baseball doesn’t rule my life.
A loss doesn’t affect my salvation. My life goes on. When you see your life affecting other people externally, when you have your priorities right, things have a way of getting into perspective. I am looking forward to the Braves’ opening day. I love turning on the radio on a summer evening and following a game. But even if they have a losing season, my life will not change. Now if I could just get that perspective on my golf game….
Stewart B. Simms, Jr.