Results tagged ‘ Jackie Robinson ’

The Luckiest Man

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

About a week ago, I finished reading Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig. I got the book in November during the Hall of Fame’s Character and Courage statue unveiling. The event honored three men who deserve a special place in the Hall of Fame. Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig now greet every visitor who enters the Museum, reminding them of the values we baseball fans admire.
 

3-27-09-Hayes_CharacterCourage.jpgCompared to the encyclopedias I work with, I’m very much a baseball history novice — actually strike that, and we’ll call it like it is: I’m a baseball novice. In the weeks prior to Character and Courage Weekend, I heard a great deal about these men. Before arriving in Cooperstown, I knew about Jackie and the color barrier, and I’d heard a little about Clemente. Gehrig, however, was just the guy who played with Babe Ruth. He had a disease named after him, but the biggest thing I recognized him for was holding the record that Cal Ripken Jr. broke.

That’s a vivid memory for me. I watched Ripken beat the streak on a TV in a bowling alley in Kansas City. The bartender let me sneak in to watch Chirs Berman’s call. Despite being only 10, I think she knew I needed to see what was happening, even if I didn’t understand it. For some time now, I have understood the magnitude of the streak. It started two years before I was born and when it was over, I was 14. I know it may be one of baseball’s unbreakable marks. But now, the important thing for me about Ripken’s streak is the man who came before Cal.

My baseball career ended in middle school after a broken finger and a broken nose. Gehrig played with broken fingers and didn’t notice them. That’s just the tip of it with Gehrig. He literally played until he couldn’t. ALS sapped his ability and withered his strength. He continued to play every game in 1938, despite starting to lose muscle mass as early as the winter before that season.

ALS strikes quickly and attacks the extremities and coordination first. Gehrig almost immediately lost his baseball skills. Throughout the book, Gehrig was both human and hero. Once he was diagnosed, he became a human, stripped of the athleticism that made him special. But at the same time, he wasn’t. He came to terms with his affliction; he never let it deter his spirit. The way he dealt with his “bad break” — as he referred to it during his farewell speech — is an inspiration that can be admired today.

At 24, I am still finding baseball heroes, and with the 70th anniversary of his final season and his unforgettable speech approaching, I am going to remember Gehrig’s character and courage.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Character, Courage and Curt

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

By the numbers, Curt Schilling may be the best postseason pitcher baseball has ever known. But when he visited Cooperstown last November to help dedicate the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s new Character and Courage statues, Schilling’s steely nerves and icy demeanor betrayed him.

Schilling, invited to speak on behalf of Lou Gehrig at the ribbon-cutting for statues honoring Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, was visibly moved during a short speech in front of a packed Museum foyer.

3-23-09-Muder_Schilling.jpg“I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Schilling, who — after missing all of the 2008 season — announced his retirement Monday. “I’m embarrassed to be standing here, really. These three men accomplished so much.”

Not that Schilling is any slouch in the stats department. The six-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion posted a 216-146 career record with 3,116 strikeouts (one of only 16 pitchers to reach the 3,000 plateau) and a 3.46 ERA. His 4.38 career strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks first among pitchers in baseball’s modern era.

In the postseason, Schilling posted a 2.23 ERA and an 11-2 record, good for an .846 winning percentage, the best of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions.

Schilling, who will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in time for the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote, has been a generous Hall of Fame donor over the years. The bloody sock from Game 2 of the 2004 World Series is currently on display in the Museum, and Schilling has also donated these items:

  • a Phillies cap from 1997, when he led the Majors with 319 strikeouts;
  • a Diamondbacks cap from the 2001 World Series, when he was the co-Most Valuable Player along with teammate Randy Johnson;
  • and spikes from Game 2 of the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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