The 2011 World Series

Excuse me for being caught up a bit in the 2011 Baseball World Series. I played for the Cardinals for seven years (1955-1962) and have followed the team over the years, but found myself rooting for the Texas Rangers. I have followed the Rangers closely for several years since I live in the Dallas/Arlington area. This has been an exciting series to watch. Guess I am not such a great fan since I will not pay the $500.00 to $3,000.00 per ticket it would cost to personally attend a game. But there are worse ways to use money, so I am not being critical here. Also, in my opinion, I might add that the baseball fans in both St. Louis and in Dallas are the best and most polite fans in baseball. In this you will see a real contrast with Boston, New York, or even Los Angeles fans as some other examples. No matter which of those teams win the championship, do not expect to see a lot of rioting and arrests as typically seen in many other cities.

I thought about calling this article, “Who Is The Greatest?” for that is what fuels sports competition. “Who is the best” is the fodder of all of the sports talking heads, and special awards are handed out in all kinds of categories in every field of sports. The Baseball World Series is part of that whole process. It represents baseball competition at it’s highest level with the winner taking all the spoils.

As I think about the 2011 World Series just completed, and since I write from the standpoint of spiritual lessons that can be learned from sports, then what over all lessons can be learned from this event?  Below are some of my conclusions that ought to be obvious to anyone who has witnessed these games, either in person or watching on T.V. So here goes . . . . .

#1: The game is unpredictable. Who would have thought that in game #3 there would be a total of 25 runs scored, with the winning team scoring 18 runs to be followed in game #4 with a pitching duel and the winner of game 3 being shut-out? Also, most all the games were close and the difference in winning and losing is usually determined by one key play or out even though the game may last for 3 or 4 hours. Success one day, no matter how great, means nothing as to what will happen the next day. As a standard rule, great pitching stops great hitting, but great pitchers are not always great. Yes, the game basically comes down to pitching, defense and timely hitting. Game #6 in St. Louis was one of the craziest and most bazaar games in the whole history of baseball! Some have called it the greatest game in baseball history. If greatness is based upon drama and excitement, perhaps there is a case for saying this, but if it is based upon excellence of performance, this is far from the greatest game. It was in and out, up and down and round and round. The lead changed hands over and over. At the end, the Rangers were one pitch away from winning the series with a two run lead only to have the Cardinals hit a double or triple to clear the bases and tie the game. This reinforces the concept that time and circumstance affect all things (Eccles. 9:11: “again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”).   The game was also a comedy of errors leading to bad consequences, which leads me to my next point . . . . . . .

#2: All people are fallible. This truism has been demonstrated in bold letters in this series. In this series we have seen the fallibility of players, managers and umpires. The great Albert Pujols put on a show of great hitting in game #3 to be followed by calling for a ‘hit-and-run’ at a most inopportune time and failing to cleanly field a cut-off throw from the outfield leading to a loss in game #5. The great future Hall-of –Fame manager for the Cardinals failed to communicate to the bullpen as to who he wanted to warm up which contributed to the same loss. There were some great unbelievable plays in the field, but also some very routine plays that were messed up. I might add that Pujols three homeruns in game #3 were all hit off of mistakes by the pitchers. So it is not as if any player is invincible, but time and circumstance affect all men. It is never wise to make an icon out of any fallible human being. Such worship belongs to God alone, thank you. Baseball is a game, not only of great heroics, but also of goof ups, and no one is immune from this. Just don’t let it happen in the World Series, at a critical point in time, because then it will mark you for life. I say this in jest but it does happen. I am particularly thinking of those two Ranger relief pitchers who were only one strike away from being the pitcher of record when their club cinched the Championship, only to fail and having to live with the consequences. But these are not the only examples of being the “goat” in a critical situation. How can you account for the record number of walks given up by the Ranger pitchers? Well, that’s another discussion.  My next point is that . . . .

#3: Little things mean a lot. That stolen base by Kinsler, safe by a hair, that led to scoring the winning run in game #2. Note: That was the only stolen base in the entire series by the Rangers who are known as a base stealing ballclub. Who would have thought? The missed call by the first base umpire that led to a 9 run inning in game #3. The perfect throw by the right fielder Cruze to home plate that resulted in a critical out in game #2. On and on you can analyze each game and various plays. In the final game, a Ranger pitcher had the bases loaded with two outs and a 3 ball 2 strike count on the hitter. He made a perfect pitcher on the low outside corner of the plate, only to have the umpire miss the call. So here is an example of par excellence only to have it cancelled by a bad call. This illustrates both the technical nature of the game plus the fallibility of man. Baseball is a game of inches and fractions of inches. It is this attention to details that make the difference between winning and losing. This underscores the point that . . . . . . 

#4 The game is not easy! All of those who competed in the World Series will agree with that statement. The appeal of the sports is simply this: It is an all out effort to win in open honest competition. You witness up close the determination on the face of the pitcher. You see the pressure mount when there are men on base in critical situations. You see the intensity of the batter as he struggles to hit a very small round ball on the good part of the bat. When everything works just right, it is like a mighty work of art, whether the batter swings and misses or the ball is hit out of the park. You observe the nervousness of the manager when the game is on the line and the tenseness of the players as they watch from the dugout. Throughout the game you cannot miss the ebb and flow of the fans as they hang on every pitch and the frustration or joy continues to mount. Yes, it is a long game, but that is the way it is supposed to be. And last, but not least, the game is not over until the last man is out! This leads me to my final point . . . . . . .

#5 Pride should always be subdued. Sports people are always asking the question, “Who is the greatest pitcher?” “Who is the greatest hitter?” “Which is the greatest team in history?” These are always questions of endless speculation and debate. But I keep asking, “What difference does it make in the whole scheme of things?” What if it could be proven that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player of all time. Does that mean that he didn’t have flaws?  Does that mean he was an expert on anything outside of baseball?  To put things into perspective, which is better, to be the world’s greatest baseball player or to be a great father or husband? The latter is more important, but that doesn’t give you a lot of publicity or make you millions of dollars.

If you win there is always a sense of pride, but it is always with the recognition of all of the factors that made success possible in the first place. In fact, it is very humbling to realize that winning depended on a lot of factors outside of our control and also the contributions of a lot of people and things. Only a fool would become puffed up and declare that “I did it all myself.” I am not a fan of players who are so full of themselves and become offended if they are not recognized as “The Greatest.” These types of players become disruptive to every team the join. But often this attitude is encouraged by the constant demand to know who is the best on the part of so many people involved in sports. So, in my opinion, a true champion is always full of gratitude on many different levels. It is ungodly pride that needs to say, “I am the greatest player, or the greatest this or that.” And we do know that a haughty spirit comes before a fall. No great champion can afford the luxury of pride. If one becomes puffed up with pride, they are not living in the world of reality. One word of caution, “Don’t believe all the press clippings!”

Even the disciples of Jesus Christ had a problem with the desire to be the greatest. “They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me’.” (Mark 9:33-37). They wanted to know, “Who is the greatest?” The answer of Jesus defused that notion in a hurry.

As I have written so many times, sports can teach us a lot about life and religion. That is why the apostle Paul used the language of sports to teach disciples about the true way of life in Jesus Christ. Paul’s purpose involves drawing similarities and contrasts between the physical and the spiritual. For those who belong to Jesus Christ the discipline and struggles are never in vain and the rewards of success are more than worth all the effort. If more had the passion for Christ that is so evident in the players, managers, and fans for the game of baseball, then there would be reason for great rejoicing. The true disciples of Jesus Christ experience a continual celebration and thanksgiving.

The photo at the beginning of this article is of yours truly displaying the Top Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards for the National League in 1960 and 1963. I would have much preferred celebrating with my teammates a World Championship which I never experienced.

If you would like to have monthly articles of Pitching For The Master E-mailed to you in advance, let me know by contacting me at: Your comments are always welcome.


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