It happened on October 16, 1912, the eighth (*) and deciding game of the World Series. In the bottom of the 10th, with his New York Giants winning by a run, Clyde Engle sent a lazy pop fly to centerfield. Fred Snodgrass, an average hitter and dependable fielder, settled under it and ultimately dropped it. A lot of other things happened. Snodgrass made a spectacular catch on the next play. Hall of Fame pitcher walked the next batter. Tris Speaker, before driving in the winning run with a single, hit a pop foul that both Fred Merkle (aka “Bonehead Merkle,” but that’s a story for another day) and Chief Meyers failed to catch. Snodgrass’ blunder was the scapegoat for the Giants’ series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Fred would go on to be successful in business as a banker, an appliance merchant, and a rancher, was elected mayor of Oxnard, California, and served on the City Council for three terms. There was so much more to Fred Snodgrass than a single unfortunate moment in time, but even his obituary read: “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.” In a 1940 interview, Fred spoke of how that fated fly ball would come up as he met or spoke with people (info via sabr.org and history.com).
Isn’t it interesting how a mistake or sin committed in a moment can have such lasting implications, bringing infamy and an enormous challenge of trying to live it down? But doesn’t Snodgrass also prove that we do not have to be defined by our failures? Maybe our blunder is not played out with such renown and infamy, but it can still stay with us and dog our continued steps.
Have you dropped the ball with something? Maybe you let down somebody you loved or somebody that was really counting on you. Maybe you hurt someone special to you. It might have been a foolish or ungodly word or deed when someone was watching. The bigger the blunder, the heavier that burden of guilt might be in your heart. There’s no excusing it. But what will you do now? Will you let it keep you down or will you refuse to be defined by it? The writer of Hebrews urges us, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1b). The focal point must be what’s before us, not what’s behind us. So said Paul (Phil. 3:13).
Dust yourself off. Regroup. Get ready for what’s next! Focus on what’s next, not on what’s over and done.
(*) Game 2 was called on account of “impending darkness”