Today’s the last day of September. Fall is in the air. And baseball playoffs begin next week, with the World Series just around the corner.
What team will rise to the top? What heroics will be talked about for years to come? Who will be Mr. October? And what stories will be retold from bygone years?
One name surfaces almost every year. Babe Ruth, known as “The Bambino,” or “The Sultan of Swat.”
It was on this day in 1927 that Babe hit his 60th home run, breaking his own record of 59 set in 1921. It’s a record that would stand for 34 years. He would go on to hit 714 career homers, a record he held for 39 years.
There are many great stories about Babe, but one that stands out occurred toward the end of his career.
In October 1932, Babe Ruth and the Yankees faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. The team was playing well and led the series 2-0. Ruth, however, was in a serious hitting slump.
In game three at Wrigley Field Ruth came to the plate and was quickly behind in the count with 2 strikes. The crowd began to boo. Players, as they did in that era, were heckling Ruth from the dugout. Ruth, was already facing a decline in his natural abilities. So, the odds were it would be another strikeout.
But on the next pitch, Ruth hit the ball with such force that it was not only a home run but one of the longest homers ever at Wrigley. (Incidentally, legend has it the Ruth called that shot by pointing to the outfield before hitting it out of the park).
Following the Yankees 7-5 win, a reporter asked Babe what he was thinking about before that homer. Ruth replied that he was thinking about what he always thinks about when he steps up to the plate – of “just hittin’ that ball”.
Three life lessons come to mind.
#1 Stay Focused Despite Distractions.
Life is filled with distractions, both large and small. Schedule interruptions. Family challenges. Health problems. Financial concerns. And sometimes people who discourage us instead of encouraging us.
Ruth’s advice is to keep your eye on the ball. Concentrate. Stay focused. Just hit the ball.
Spiritually speaking, that means “pressing toward the prize (Phil. 3:13-14). And laying aside those issues that may sidetrack us and keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).
It’s easy to allow diversions and disturbances around us to disrupt our focus on what’s most important. Too many have become all consumed with politics, COVID-19 concerns, economic worries, and a host of other issues.
Don’t take your eye off the ball.
#2 Learn to Manage Failure
Ruth not only retired as the home run king but also as the strike-out king with 1330, a record he held for 29 years until Mickey Mantle, another great home run hitter, broke it. Today Reggie Jackson, known as Mr. October, holds the record with an incredible 2597.
Success in any endeavor is often preceded by and sprinkled with failure. This is true in sports, business, education, and politics. It’s true spiritually. It’s a part of life.
Have you failed spiritually? Ethically? Morally? Don’t give up and quit.
Think about these Bible heroes of faith.
Noah got drunk.
The apostles fled.
And Saul killed Christians before he became the great apostle Paul.
Don’t confuse failing with failure. Don’t let your strikeouts keep you from taking another swing. Babe Ruth’s baseball philosophy will serve us well in life and in our Christian quest. “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” And “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”
#3 Stay committed to what you do and who you are.
Babe Ruth once said, “Baseball was, is, and always will be to me the best game in the world.”
Those who achieve in every field of endeavor are committed. They do what they love and they love what they do.
That’s great advice for a successful life. And for remaining faithful to the Lord.
I’m weary of those who claim to be Christians but are always finding fault with the church. Looking for the chink in another’s armor. Questioning Bible authority. Doubting God. And sowing seeding of distrust, disbelief, and discord.
Imagine a baseball player who hates baseball. A business person who disdains the business world. Or a musician who dislikes music.
But no more so than uncommitted Christians. Reluctant “disciples” of Jesus. And so-called Believers who refuse to follow the Bible.
Finally, a word of caution to those of us who enjoy sports and find inspiration and application in the sports world.
Be careful. Don’t allow your passion for the game to distract you from the goal that lies beyond this life.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman