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baseball influence leadership speech tongue

Lessons From Yogi Berra’s “Yogi-isms”

Neal Pollard

One of the great American personalities of the 20th Century, Yogi Berra, has died. The 90 year old died Tuesday, September 22, in West Caldwell, New Jersey.  In his wake, Berra, a Hall of Fame catcher with the New York Yankees in the 1940s-1960s, left a book full of memorable quotes, such as:

  • “It’s deja vu all over again”
  • “you should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours”
  • “if I can hit it, it’s a good pitch”
  • “when you come to a fork in the road…take it”
  • “you can observe a lot by watching”
  • “it gets late early out here”
  • “a nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore”
  • “if it’s an emergency, it’s usually urgent”
  • “nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded”
  • “never answer an anonymous letter”
  • “pair off in threes”
  • “I really didn’t say everything I said”    (via USA Today and Fox News)

Yogi’s inimitable wit and wisdom will long outlive him.  Those of us who were born after his amazing baseball career more likely remember him for the Yoo-Hoo ads or the Aflac Commercials. However, observers of human behavior can learn a lot from this legendary figure.

—“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Yogi reminds us of the influence we wield by the very words we speak.  Paul would urge us to let our “speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” so that we will know how we should answer every man (Col. 4:6).  Daily, people hear our speech. Are we “killing” them or “saving” them?

—Cause people to think.  The longer you mull over a “Yogi-ism,” the more profound it becomes. With the Bible, our source material is unmatched. Whether a preacher or a Bible class teacher or a one-on-one Bible teacher or even as a Christian being light and salt in the world, the “attention getter”—not to ever draw attention to us but to the Lord—is powerfully effective. Jesus caused hardened officers to confess, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46). He had a wisdom and insight we’ll never attain, but we have a message unmatched by even a wordsmith like Berra.

—You will be remembered. Do you remember how the writer of Hebrews memorialized righteous Abel? “…Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (11:4).  Of course, how we are remembered is etched by the lives we live in these bodies. We will be recompensed for this before Christ one day (2 Cor. 5:10).  We’ll be remembered by the people we leave behind, from the eulogy and obituary to the memories people keep with them of us. We’ll be perfectly remembered by God (cf. Rev. 14:13).

We lost an iconic cultural figure with Yogi Berra’s demise. But people like that continue to leave an impression on us after they are gone. As Christians, may we live so that when we die the impression we leave can influence and positively alter the eternal destiny of those we touch.

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1912 baseball Fred Snodgrass influence recovery repentance sin World Series

“Snodgrass’s Muff”

Neal Pollard

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”

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baseball Bobby Doerr church of Christ history Restoration History Restoration Movement

A LINK TO HISTORY

Neal Pollard

He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.”  There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest.  Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame.  But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts.  He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats.  Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball.  Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).

How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam?  They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/).  Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).

It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history.  Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together.  Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much.  Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest.  Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.

As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church.  When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia.  She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.

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Zana Michael is the lady in the middle

Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church?  This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?

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Baltimore Orioles baseball Christianity encouragement support

No Fans?

Neal Pollard

Baltimore was the host of history yesterday.  Never, in nearly 150 years of professional baseball in America, has a regular season baseball game between two Major League teams been closed to the public.  I estimated the crowd inside Camden Yard to have been exactly zero fans in the stands, breaking Baltimore’s old record-low attendance of 655 on August 17, 1972, also against the White Sox.  There were fans behind the stadium gates in left-field and a small group gathered on the balcony of the Baltimore Hilton yesterday who could somewhat see the action, but their reaction as the home team won was muffled and faint as far as the players were concerned. The game was played this way because of the ongoing Baltimore riots, for the safety of fans and players.  The latter, when interviewed, talked about how eery and bizarre it was to play a game in front of no fans.

While we could chase the political and cultural rabbits stirred by the fact of those teams playing that game yesterday, let’s think about the players.  How hard is it to concentrate when you are on the field and can hear the sportswriters typing or the two scouts in the stands talking?  What’s it like to have success at the plate or on the mound and the appreciation be the deafening silence of the empty seats?  These guys make a whole lot of money, but, as Chris Davis said after the game, “When you’re rounding the bases, and the only cheers you hear were from outside the stadium, it’s a weird feeling. I’ll take any home run I can get at any time I can get it, but it’s definitely more fun when there are fans in the stands” (info via Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun online, 4/30/15, and baseball-almanac.com).  I think any of us could imagine how surreal and distracting that would be.

We are not running the Christian race to glorify self, for earthly accolades and recognition.  In fact, Jesus condemns such an approach to religion in Matthew six.  Yet, God knows how we are made, that we thrive on encouragement.  He tells wavering saints in Hebrews about the “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1).  He mentions the crowd in the midst of the metaphor of running the race. While we cannot hear or see those referenced there, we can be audible and visible support for each other—strengthening weak hands, feeble knees, and heal others (12:12-13).  We must cheer each other on and “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thess. 5:11).  The world will not applaud us for standing up for what’s right and living the way God instructs. But, we have each other.  It’s not the size of the crowd, but the vociferousness of the cheering, that will make the difference.  Let’s be fans of one another, today and every day.