A Moment in the Sun
A summer day in Yankee stadium is an extraordinary engagement of the senses. The smell of cotton candy and popcorn, mixed with the freshly cut grass fill the warm air; and surround you like a blanket. The sounds of the children laughing, the roar of the crowd after a long single is hustled into a double, or the seventh inning recitals of “take me out to the ball game.” The vision of excitement and agony take turns on the faces of the fans, as the eyes are torn between the magic of the game and the spectacles in the crowd. The feel of the summer breeze lightly kissing the back of your neck.
The ballpark is where we go to escape from reality, if only for a little while. We lose ourselves in the game, in the experience. We hide from our inhibitions, our fears, our sorrows. We clear our minds of ‘real’ life, and let our imaginations carry us away. Away from tragedy, and misfortune, and heartbreak…..but not today.
On this somber day we reflect on a career, a historical career, cut short. Our captain, who led us through victory and defeat, can lead us no more. The ‘iron horse’, who has been the model of toughness and strength, was all but a shell of himself as he walked out in front of 62,000 friends. Unable to escape their reality any longer, the crowd was forced to face the tragedy, as tears filled their eyes watching their fallen hero make his way to the center of the diamond.
Just before Gehrig approached the microphone, the crowd bursts into a roaring applause, sending their love the only way they know how. Humbled by the moment, Gehrig stops to collect himself, before addressing the thousands of lives he touched throughout the years. It would have been understandable for him to feel sorry for himself. Sorry for such a promising career cut short….or the life of an extraordinary human about to be taken far too soon. It would have been understandable. But it would not have been Lou Gehrig. Gehrig stood tall in the face of tragedy, in the face of ALS, and proclaimed that he regretted nothing. That he lived and loved, and experienced the life that most couldn’t even dream of. Instead of wondering what could have been, Gehrig cherished what was….as he proclaimed: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Today, July 4th 1939….Lou Gehrig declared his own Independence Day. Independent to choose the way he wanted to live life. Not constrained by the regrets of a career and life left unfinished, but rather embracing the blessings of a life lived to the fullest. Being apart of this special event is something that I will not soon forget, but you didn’t have to be one of the fortunate who filled Yankee stadium today to benefit from Gehrig’s message. His message transcends the game of baseball….live life with passion and without regret, and be thankful for everyday, every moment you have in the sun.
information for this post was collected from:
video of Lou Gehrig’s speech can be seen here:
Chasing the Babe
Its hard to imagine a professional athlete who models the phrase “slow and steady wins the race”, more than Henry (Hank) Aaron. Over the course of an amazing 23-year baseball career, Aaron accumulated some of Major League Baseball’s most prized individual records. Of the numerous records Aaron compiled, none held more historical significance than the all time homerun record he set on April 15th, 1974. With just one swing of his mighty bat, the “Hammer” solidified his place in baseball royalty forever. Lets now take a look at how Hank Aaron shocked the world, fighting off high fastballs…and racial inequalities along the way.
Hank started his baseball career in the Negro League, with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951. Aaron had a short stay with the Clowns, before leading them to a league World Series championship in 1952. After the championship, Aaron was recruited by the Milwaukie Braves of the Major League Baseball association. He played one year in the Braves’ farm system, before making his major league debut in 1954. Over the next 20 years, Aaron was the model of consistency, never finishing a season with less than 20 homeruns.
Due to playing in the relatively small baseball market of Atlanta during this time, Aaron did not receive the attention and respect that he truly deserved. Without things like the Internet, social media or even SportsCenter…Aaron, through most his career flew under the radar of the major media coverage. That is, until people began to see how close he was getting to Ruth’s all time homerun record.
The year prior to his all time homerun milestone, Aaron began receiving racially driven hate mail and death threats. The record, which was held by a white player for nearly 4 decades prior, held major significance to a segment of white fans; and seeing this record fall to a black player caused an enormous amount of tension directed at Aaron. So a chase that should have been filled with overwhelming excitement and anticipation was darkened a bit by the racial overtones of the times.
Aaron wasted no time tying Ruth’s mark of 714 homeruns, launching the first pitch he seen of the 1974 season, as the Braves visited the Cincinnati Reds. After sitting out the next game, and only playing part of the following game…the stage was set for Aaron to break the record back home in Atlanta. On April 8th, 1974 the Braves hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers in their home opener. NBC broadcast the game, with Curt Gowdy handling the play-by-play. The game was also broadcast on the Brave’s radio network (Milo Hamilton, play-by-play) and on the Dodgers radio network (Vin Scully, play-by-play). In the bottom of the 4th inning, after walking in his first at bat, Aaron walked to the plate amongst more than 50,000 fans on their feet. Dodger’s pitcher Al Dowling, throws a 1-0 fastball to Aaron…and the rest is history.
Television coverage of the event shows the Dodger’s pitchers running in the bullpen, scrambling to be the one who retrieves the legendary number 715. The camera then quickly pans back to Aaron who is now circling the bases, as random fans run out on the field to give a pat on the back, as he trots towards home. The images of Aaron being mobbed by his teammates, fireworks lighting the Atlanta sky, and the embrace by his parents behind home plate are visions that even the most novice of sports fans can remember seeing.
While the Television coverage of the event had a special way of capturing ‘the moment’, radio, too, enhanced the event for sports fans. The legendary call by Milo Hamilton of the Brave’s radio network is one of the most recognizable calls in sports history…“Here’s the pitch by Dowling… swinging… there’s a drive into left-center field… that ball is gonna beeee… OUTTA HERE! IT’S GONE! IT’S 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time… and it’s HENRY AARON!” Even to this day, most videos of the homerun are accompanied by the Milo Hamilton play-by-play.
It’s important to note how the two different coverages (television and radio) were equally successful in capturing the moment. Those who had access to a television in 1974 would attest that nothing could have been better than actually seeing the event. While the thousand who listened to the broadcast on radio stations around the country would agree, letting their imaginations paint the picture had a unique way of remembering the moment.
Aaron’s record-breaking homerun was not only a joyous event for him, that we who know of it could only imagine, achieving the milestone came as more of a relief to “hammer’n Hank”. When asked how he felt about the record, Aaron replied “thank God its over.” It was clear that the enormous amount of coverage, coupled with the hate mail and death threats by racist bigots, had taken its toll on the slugger. But through it all, Aaron prevailed. He was an inspiration to all, both on and off the field; and a true hero in every sense of the word.
Here are the links to a few sites that helped in researching the story and stats behind my post:
The Tim Tebow story has been an exciting one to follow this year, but it looks like it will take a miracle (no pun intended) to come back from the 35-7 deficit he and the Broncos face at halftime. Brady has already set an NFL record for throwing (5) touchdowns in a half, (3) to Gronkowski, and has no signs of slowing down. Only 30 minutes left to see if the Broncos can pull one more rabbit from the hat.