Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What could have been?

When considering the career of George Herman Ruth, I’m staggered by his statistics. Besides being an all-star pitcher early in his career (89-46 record), he amassed 714 non-steroid driven home runs, a lifetime batting average of .342, and led his teams to 7 World Series titles. After the Red Sox sold him to the Yankees in 1919, Ruth single-handedly outhomered the entire Boston team in 10 of the next 12 seasons! His statistics are the focus of baseball enthusiasts when Ruth is often declared the greatest player of all time.
I will tell you what I can’t help focusing on- Ruth played 21 years and accumulated these kinds of stats despite poor discipline in most areas of life. What would Ruth’s numbers have been had he maintained even a basic level of personal discipline?
Ruth trained very little during the off-season (one notable exception- before the 1927 season he trained and dropped his weight to 212 pounds, he hit 60 home runs that year). During most seasons he spent too many all-nighters on the town. He was legendary for his abuse of alcohol. It was once stated by a teammate that the “great” Bambino could drink a bathtub full of beer and two bottles of Rye in one sitting. By all accounts his personal relationships were tattered and strained and his womanizing is well documented. To play for 21 seasons and generate such incredible numbers with this kind of lifestyle is amazing. It is also very sad. Again, what could the Sultan of Swat done with even a basic level of discipline? Home run hitting, I am told, is mostly about concentration for those gifted enough to hit a ball traveling 80-90 mph. Imagine what less alcohol (much less), a better diet, more sleep, a healthy social life, and a stable home life could have done for Ruth’s concentration. I’m not talking about rigorous off-season running, weight-lifting, hitting practice, and the like, just basic life disciplines exercised by a gifted athlete.
There is something analogous to this in our walk with the Lord. When I think of Ruth’s potential against his actual accomplishments, his lack of basic discipline makes me disappointed we didn’t get to see the performance of a healthy Ruth.

When I come to the end of my days, I hope my life is marked with a simple gratitude and love for Jesus. I honestly don’t think I’ll be disappointed if I don’t ascend do some “prestigious” ministry position or gain some kind of widespread recognition (we ministers have more sanctified ways of saying “fame”). I do think I’ll be disappointed if I haven’t been faithful in the “basic” things. I don’t wonder what Ruth would have been like had he trained like a modern world-class athlete, but rather- what would he have been like had he exercised some restraint in the various areas that he over-indulged? I just want to live my life in constant thankful reaction to the undeserved grace God has shown me in Christ. Such a demeanor then motivates me to spend time in God’s Word and with His people, etc.

“What could have been”? is one of the hardest questions to wrestle with.


Aaron said...

Why do you have to hate on the Bambino?

jmalcolm said...

C'mon T. I play golf with guys that get better with every beer. Maybe the Bambino was the same way.

JON MEYERS said...

I would tend to agree that the Babe's lack of personal commitment to himself was a great hinderence to what he could have accomplished. I expect a blog next on why Sandy Koufax could have been the best pitcher we have ever seen. Or you could write about how Bob Gibson was a better pitcher than Roger Clemens.

AJF said...

No hating on the King of Crash here...just the facts.

Jmalcolm- you have a point.

Jon- Who's Sandy Koufax? Bob Gibson?

S. Baker said...

Who is Bob Gibson, let's see he was MVP in the 1964 World Series and won Game 5 & 7. Oh yea the Cardinals happend to beat some team from NY that year!!

AJF said... I remember Gibson. I have to admit, the Cardinals have me worried...something like 20 more world series titles and they'll tie the Yanks!

Frontier Forest said...

I am not a sports fan, especially professional sports. But in today's post-modern world where moral values are scarcely observed and more often ridiculed, I find myself disgusted with most every “super-star” sports figure. When we are daily bombarded by the antics of so many of these steroid loaded, immoral, over-paid thugs that call themselves athletes, it’s hard not to express righteous anger.