Comparing Homosexuality With Racism

Comparing Homosexuality With Racism

Here we go again comparing homosexuality with racism.   In recent times, this has been done repeatedly, and many Bible believers are sick of it.  In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (March 3, 2014), on its editorial page, high praise is given for those who have come out of the closet and have openly declared their homosexuality.  These are called men of great courage.  This is being compared to Jackie Robinson breaking the racial barrier in baseball!   This is another “42” moment for sports!   But such a comparison should be an insult to every black person in America.  I do not think that Jackie Robinson had to openly declare that he was black.   That was rather obvious.  Being black is not a choice, but “sexual orientation” , a favorite term used by those who promote homosexuality,  can include many things involving choice.   It is not like the question, “What is your sex?” where you could write either male or female.  The concept of “Sexual Orientation” has to do with a process of  indoctrination that has been occurring over a long period of time.  This term is found on forms one is asked to answer, including questions like, “What is your nationality?”, “What is your race?” and  “What is your sexual orientation?”--- as if all of these questions are of equal weight and constitute born or natural characteristics.   As to “sexual orientation” it is legitimate to write, “transgender, homosexual, bi-sexual, and by logical extension, it is certainly broad enough to include polygamist, rapist, pedophile or any other preference or sexual addition.  This brain-washing technique has been used to penetrate the government, public schools, the military, and now sports.  After all, who are we to question anyone’s “sexual orientation?”   I predict that in time such terms will include a lot more than transgender, homosexual and by-sexual activities.  But,  as our secular and humanist friends tell us, “We ought to accommodate all human beliefs and activities no matter how weird and bazaar they might seem to us”.    And what if we do not choose to recognize those values?   Well, too bad, they tell us.  That makes you not only weird and bazaar but unfit to enter into the conversation! 

Jackie Robinson

The story of Jackie Robinson breaking the racial barrier in baseball was a great thing and should have happened many years earlier.  Part of the problem was a plain lack of Bible knowledge on the part of some religious people.  Much of what I do is deal with so called Bible believers who believe many wrong and outlandish things simply because they do not know their Bibles.   But the Jackie Robinson story is very interesting to me.   One of the main forces behind the push for desegregation in baseball was a man named Branch Rickey, who was general manager and part owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He was a very religious man, a teetotaler when it came to drinking, never used curse words, and, a fact little known, he never worked on Sunday as a matter of religious conviction.  This was also true of Billy Sunday, who finally quit baseball and spent the rest of his life in evangelism.  The belief that Sunday was the “Christian Sabbath” was common among many evangelicals at that time.   The Sunday blue laws were pushed both by Catholics and Evangelicals.  It was a bit inconsistent of Branch Rickey, since he operated baseball clubs which forced the players to play on Sunday.   It is not clear whether or not he would have allowed players, for reasons of conscience, to renege on that part of the contract.   To be consistent, Mr. Rickey would be obligated to grant that exemption.  While I am writing about forced compliance when it comes to matters of conscience, let me interject this side note.  The government has no right to interfere with honestly held religious convictions, unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.  Thus, the burden is placed on the government to prove that there is compelling reason.  Also, on the part of the individual, he has the burden to prove it to be a sincerely held religious conviction and not just a matter of  preference or convenience.   If it is actually based upon a true religious conviction, the Christian would choose jail over violating his or her conscience.

Convictions of Conscience

Some may say, “O.K. Lindy,  you claim to be religious.  So why were you willing to play baseball on Sunday?”    I have explained this many times.  It was because playing on Sunday did not violate my religious convictions.  I only asked to be allowed to worship on Sunday, not take the whole day off.  I do not believe that Sunday is a “Christian Sabbath.”   The early Christians assembled on Sunday, because that is the day Jesus was raised from the dead.   Otherwise, Sunday was a regular working day, which is why they usually met in the evening.  This became a regular pattern of New Testament churches.    Had playing on Sunday violated my conscience, I would not have considered playing professional baseball.  I have wondered about Jewish players, who do follow some tenants of Judaism, but were willing to play baseball on the “Jewish Sabbath”.   But, as I have discovered, evidently only the orthodox Jews practice “sabbath keeping”.   But I am getting a bit off the main subject. 

Branch Rickey, out of religious conviction and some early experience with raw racism, which was rather widespread at the time, determined that he would break the racial barrier in baseball.  Most baseball historians credit him with bringing that about.  And for this reason alone, his example should be praised for bravery and courage. You can read more about him by searching the internet.  Fighting racism was a legitimate battle and has been hard fought.   But now I get to the subject of homosexuality.  My point here is that true religious conviction lies at the heart of every great reform.  That is why all societies that rule out God are doomed to fail.  

The Homosexual Movement

The homosexual lobby is very strong and the science behind this movement (that is, that one is born homosexual) is extremely flawed.   The Biblical defense of it by certain liberal members of clergy is most disgusting and degrading for anyone who claims to be a student of the word of God.  Such people would not last 5 minutes in a real debate using the Bible as the standard.   They regard the Bible as a “living document” which means that it can be twisted and changed anyway they wish to fit their own agenda.   But the actual words and text of the Bible will not support this.  But they just quote the statement that “all men are created in God’s image” (see Gen. 1:26) or “in Christ there is neither male or female” (see Gal. 3:28) and that seems to be all they need to establish their views with their parishioners.  They can just ignore scriptures which directly deal with the subject such as Romans 1:24-27 and a host of others.  They do not realize that “the sum of God’s word is truth” (see Psa. 119:160) which some are willing to twist and turn to their own destruction (see 2 Pet. 3:16).   Some I have heard also promote the idea that the constitution of the United States endorses homosexuality under the clause “all men are created equal”  (evidently they can jam into that clause about anything they want), since they view the constitution as a “living document” which can be made to conform to our changing times and their own agendas, regardless of the original intent of the framers.  Whether or not these arguments are effective depends upon the ignorance of the people regarding both the constitution and the Bible. 

The Failure Of Governmental Anti-God Policies

Here I could mention many things including legalized abortion, attacks on private ownership, and other rights guaranteed by the constitution; but here I am dealing with just this one topic.  It is true that there have been homosexuals from ancient times.   But in all of my research, I have not discovered at anytime in history where the government used the term “marriage” to describe this abomination, as the Bible calls it.   Not even ancient Rome, with all of its degrading activities, including that of homosexuality and abandonment of children, ever defined marriage as being between two women or two men.  And yet in a period of just 20 years this has become an accepted practice in our society, and anyone who is opposed to this is openly called a “homophobe” and is unfit for public office.    My, my how times have changed!  I suppose the next step is to ban all references to homosexuals from pulpits and all public places of discourse.  However, the word of God does not change.  Thus, the Bible itself is under serious attack.  I am told that to believe in creation is idiotic, to believe in God is archaic, and that such people should not have any voice in the public realm.  

Meanwhile, our country is falling apart due to the destruction of the home, which is the bedrock of all social living and action.  These are the real scientific facts and studies that are being ignored.   We are fast becoming a society where many will never know the joys of true companionship between husband and wife, the joys of experiencing children or grandchildren, the joys of sharing life together in a home as God would have it to be.  It is so sad that we are now witnessing so many broken homes, broken hearts and broken lives when it does not have to be that way.  These involve true choices that we can make.   Well, I guess I will just continue to be homophobic and unapologetic.   I would prefer to line up with Moses, Jesus Christ, the apostles, and, dare I say it, God.  

I have read four recent editorial articles in Sports Illustrated promoting homosexuality (see SI, April 15, 2013, p. 68; SI, November 18, 2013, p. 102; SI, January 13, 2014, p. 64; SI, March 3, 2014, p. 68).  Isn’t it about time that some one stands up and defends the Bible?   Why don’t we hear from the  “Fellowship Of Christian Athletes” or from various athletes who claim to be Christian?   Are we afraid to speak out against such things for fear of being ridiculed?   Evil triumphs when good men say nothing.  

My prayer is that there will be a strong backlash in America against these strong “in your face” liberal agendas and people of faith and conscience will rise up and change the tide of moral corruption.   I am also sure that God is watching and will have the last word.
                                                              Lindy McDaniel, April 30, 2014

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Note:  Since I am working on materials for a three year Bible Reading Program, I have gotten behind in writing articles for Pitching For The Master.   I am glad to hear from my readers any time.  If you believe that I have misstated either the Bible or any other fact you would be my friend to point this out.   If you know of others who would like to receive advanced copies of this paper attached to e-mail, please list the names and  e-mail addresses and send to me at   

What I Learned In Baseball About Drinking

This goes back in time when I went from the farm to the big cities playing Major League baseball.    This is about growing up with home spun values based upon the Bible and how those values were put to the test.   In particular, this is about growing up as a teetotaler when it comes to drinking alcohol and my exposure to the pressures and philosophies of baseball on drinking and how it affected my thinking on the subject.  This exposure to the world and reexamination process happens to every Christian on many levels as his faith in Jesus Christ is put to the test in the real world.   The choice is very simple, either we become molded into the image of the world or else we become transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 12:1-2).  I have seen many a rookie with a fairly decent set of values inherited from his parents and early religious training change before my very eyes simply because they desired to fit in and follow the examples of the superstars or the culture of the game.  To deny that there is a certain social culture when it comes to the game of baseball, or other high profile occupations, is to have your blinders on.   Anyway, this article is what I learned about drinking and baseball from my own experiences.   I could either grow and meet the challenge or crash.  Would my religious beliefs hold up in the real world?   I have deliberately kept this article as light as possible, and even a bit humorous at times.  I must apologize to those of you who idolize baseball celebrities and look up to them as “gods.”   You might not want to read the rest of this.

Chicago Cubs

I learned a lot in baseball about drinking.  For example, when I was playing for the Chicago Cubs in 1965, I learned some things from Lew Burdette, the famous spit ball pitcher from Milwaukee who had been recently traded to the Cubs.  Formerly he was one of the main starting pitchers for the Milwaukee Braves, along with the more famous Warren Spahn.   Anyway, this was late in Lew’s career, and he would tell us guys in the bullpen how things were when he and Spann played together.   He told us that they would drink at least 10 beers a day, but because they worked so hard running and exercising between starts, it would never affect their pitching.   The effects of the beer would just sweat right out of their bodies. Lew said that he didn’t drink during the off season, because he wasn’t working hard enough to sweat it out.  Going from 10+ to zero sounded kind of strange to me, but that’s what he said.   Anyway, he told us that you can never trust a man until you get him drunk.  That’s when the real person comes out.  Well, I am not sure I buy that one either.  I’ve seen a lot of drunk guys and in their stupor they have made some of the most stupid and ridiculous statements I have ever heard.  If that is the real, honest person, then I would much prefer that the real character remain hidden!  I am sure that at the A.A. (Alcohol Anonymous)  meetings everyone is told to get drunk so that they can have a real, honest conversation!  I do think that when a person is drunk, he loses self-control, and starts “spilling the beans” so to speak.  That is, say things he would never say when sober.  Lew also said in light humor and jest, “Guys, I wouldn’t want to be like Lindy here (pointing to me).  When he gets up in the morning he feels as good as he is going to feel all day.  But when I get up in the morning, I know that I will feel better as the day progresses.”  Of course, everyone laughed.  I later learned that most of his material was borrowed from the Dean Martin Show and his buddies in the “rat pack”.  Am I dating myself or what?   It is fantastic how much a person can learn sitting in the Bull Pen! 

St. Louis Cardinals

Earlier with the St. Louis Cardinals, I had roomed with Jim Brosnan, a relief pitcher acquired from the Cincinnati Reds who was busy writing books.  He took pride in being an atheist and never really enjoyed talking to a dumb,  uninformed, Bible believing and flat-earthish person like me.   In one of his books, he did write that he spoke to me 15 minutes about religion, and that was enough to convince him that I we shared no common ground.   He believed in the old adage, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”  For the atheist, what else could there possibly be?  Even though we were roommates, I never saw him much, as he would come in about 3 or 4 am very drunk from an outing on the town, and most of the time would barely locate his bed.  Sometimes he would just fall by his bed and lie on the floor.   The next morning, I would have to make sure not to disturb him, dress and sneak into the bathroom and gently close the door when leaving, and then stay out until he got up mid afternoon.   Not a good match to be sure.  I do not know if the Cardinals wanted me to influence him or if he was supposed to influence me.  But whatever the reason, it didn’t work.   What did I think?  I think maybe no one else wanted to room with him and they reasoned, “Oh, Lindy won’t mind!”  No,  I didn’t raise a stink, but I probably should have.  Hey, I can also name some good roommates.  Come to think of it, none of them were drinkers and we had more compatible schedules.  During the last 10 years of my career, I had a room all to myself.  Nice.

As a rookie with the Cardinals, I was very popular with the players, for the owner furnished us with free cases of beer.   Since I didn’t drink, players became very friendly wanting me to give them my cases.   Not wanting to offend anyone or perhaps lead them astray, I finally sent word to the Cardinal front office not to send me any more cases.   Now I never said that drinking a beer was wrong.  I was thinking more in terms of the power of example on young people.  In fact I spent a lot of time researching “Wine and the Bible” and refined my own conclusions.  This is what I have done with everything I was taught growing up.  Of course, I knew that this kind of research would really go over real well with the ballplayers.  HaHaHa!   They already thought I was really strange for insisting to go to church on Sunday.   If anyone is interested in that research, all you have to do is let me know.  Who knows, maybe you are strange like me and want to know facts.  I have found that most beer companies will tell you how good and healthy drinking beer can be, and I have no doubt that it helps your social life.  I also have no doubt that it can hinder your social life, as many blaring headlines show.  You will notice that those beautiful beer commercials aways have a disclaimer, “Drink Responsibly”.  They never show the celebrities in the police mug photo after they are arrested or the untold carnage on the highways.   I have even had some of the more religious players tell me that drinking a few beers or wine is not harmful if you eat a meal with it.   And it seems like they do handle it pretty well until they hit a slump or had a special reason to celebrate.  Then all logic seems to fly out the window.   Even a casual student of the Bible knows that the Bible draws a clear line on drunkenness.   Somehow I was always seeing the bad side of alcohol use such as broken homes, out of control anger, alcoholism, infidelity, and the things that make headlines today but were hidden from the public then.  So I’m thinking, if you don’t need it, why start it?  Guess what my message is to young people in the schools?  Well, it is the same for all so called “recreational drugs”.  I think my radicalism on the subject can be traced back to my family training.  My dad and mom were teetotalers.  None of my brothers drank nor did my sister.   Sometimes it works just as effectively when children see the disastrous effect drinking had on their family.  Of course, we never had as much fun as other people and people could never truly get to know us, if you know what I mean.   Only alcohol can reveal your real character, I’m told.

My brother Von and I were even jumped on for not going to the bars and mixing with the players.  Bob Broeg, a famous sportswriter for the St. Louis Cardinals and a writer we both respected, sat with Von and me in a car in the parking lot of Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg in the spring of 1958 for over an hour, trying to convince us of this very thing.   It was all in the spirit of team cohesion.  He said, “Even if you don’t actually drink, it is a good way to mix with the players.”   Broeg’s idea of an ideal team was “the Old Gas House Gang” of the 1920’s and 30’s.   They were a real “rooten, tooten” wild bunch of players!  Knowing some of that history was the very reason that my mom was very concerned about my playing professional baseball.  Von and I remained unconvinced by the arguments of Mr. Broeg.  We said to him, “Look, that may seem innocent enough, but we have to think of our influence on the young people.  And besides, if we are not drinking, we are not sure that the players would even want us there.”    It has been my experience over the years that most players want to do their own thing after the game, and they really do not want “party poopers” like myself around.   That is just the hard truth on the matter.  This has nothing to do with sitting around in the clubhouse while some of the players have a beer or two.  There are different ways to relate to your teammates without hitting the bars.  In baseball, you are around your teammates more than your own family, due to the scheduling, traveling, and playing baseball every day, etc.  Do we need to extend that even more?

San Francisco Giants

During my first year with the Giants, we opened the season in St. Louis.  Our players attended a banquet in St. Louis the night before opening day.   During this banquet, the great owner of the Giants, Horace Stoneham, got up to make a speech.  He was soused, that is, drunk as could be.  His slurred voice got stuck on “I have some good ballplayers and some bad ballplayers”,  over and over like a needle stuck on a record, and he finally had to be escorted from the podium.  I was thinking to myself, “A real good start for me and the Giants!”   He had a good drinking buddy in our manager, Herman Franks, and things didn’t go bad for me until close to the end of the season when Hermon tried to pull a fast one on me by putting one of his recently acquired drinking buddies in my usual relief spot which blew three critical games.   We lost the pennant by 1 ½ games.  But I will not go into all of the gruesome details here.  In 1964, Herman Franks had replaced Alvin Dark, the only strong manager the Giants had during those years.  Was Alvin fired because he didn’t drink with the owner?   Many think that was a factor.  Herman was brought in as a buffer between the owner and manager, and to deal with the unrest between the black and Latin players and the manager, and it wasn’t long until Herman had the job all to himself and Alvin was out.

Alvin was strong on discipline, but all managers after him were extremely weak and the superstars were allowed to run the club.   Could this be the reason the Giants never won the pennant all of those years even though they were loaded (no pun intended) with “Hall of Fame” talent?   Actually a few were loaded in other ways from time to time including some who became or were alcoholics.  One of these, a great hitter, was a bright candle for a while, but was just a throw-a-way when he was no longer useful.  Everyone knew he was on the hard stuff, but there was no intervention.   After spending 2 ½ years there, I would say there was definitely poor leadership at the top.  As to personal and private matters these are best left unsaid.   There was a sign in the clubhouse that said something like, “What you do and say here stays here.”   Well, another atheist, Jim Bouton, who wrote “Ball Four” a tell all book about the drinking and social habits of several Yankees, including Mickey Mantle, one of the largest gods in the game, and you know what happened to him.  Bouton was barred from the Yankee clubhouse for years.   They finally let him back in, for with so many exposé  books on the market, his book was no longer a novelty.   With the rapidly changing morals in society, such books did not seem to be causing much negative reaction.  In fact, in the eyes of some young aspiring kids, they were even greater heroes.  Some players are more interested in the fringe benefits, to be adored and perused by women, than the game itself.   These are the spoils of conquest.  On every club I played for there were the party guys, married and unmarried, usually formed into small clicks, and the only question was, who is responsible for the booze, and who is responsible for getting the women.  Were they all guilty?  No.  But this was the culture.  In the early days, and from time to time, baseball attempted to enforce curfews, hire detectives to check on players, and do all sorts of things, but most of this disappeared in the 60’s. 

The Giants asked me to come to the 50th Anniversary of their moving to California in July of 2008.   And every morning, I got up and ate breakfast with 4 other great players, all non-drinkers, which included Alvin Dark, Bob Bolen, Billy O’Dell, and the other I don’t remember.  We had a great time and shared some great stories.  I have always said that Christians have more fun, but the party people don’t believe me.     

As to my playing for the Giants in San Francisco, it was rather miserable to be on a team void of  leadership and cohesion, the weather was cold and the people drank a lot.  At the ballpark,  the sports writers were furnished all the liquor they wanted and they always wrote nice things about the ball club.  It was always about “Willie Mays & Company” and so it was.  Sandlot baseball played by a team of superstars.  No complicated signs, no hit-and-run, no stealing bases and no bunting, etc.  No doing the little things that win close games.   Keep all the superstars happy.  Just power baseball and power pitching.   Yes, and they had some of the greatest players in baseball history.  Years later, my buddy Steve Hamilton of the Yankees was traded to the Giants, and he told me later, “Lindy, you didn’t tell me half of what was going on!”  No, I didn’t.    Although Steve was highly respected with the Yankees and served as our player representative as well as the league representative, he was treated as “a nobody” with the Giants.  Also his “folly floater” pitch did not exactly fit the Giants either, but it does furnish me with a lot of funny stories to tell.   I was not exactly surprised that his “blooper pitch” was outlawed in the National League, but that is a different story entirely.  He retired not long after being traded. 

New York Yankees

I did know a few good sportswriters who covered the Yankees, but most of them hit the bottle as well.  I could tell you many stories not decent to mention here.  Now these eastern writers can be vicious indeed and no one could accuse them of being controlled by the ballclub.  It was usually a love/hate relationship between the owners/players and writers except for the Giants.   I think that many of them were jealous of the players who often were arrogant celebrities, for most writers do not make much money.  Poor souls, they spend their lives pecking on a typewriter and going to bars.  Many end up being alcoholics.   Oh, I keep using that word!  I must bite my tongue.  I think that sportswriters were mostly journalists who never made it to the top and finally settled for the lowest rung of the journalistic pole.   Well, yes, I must admit, there were a few good journalist who I respected as being accomplished, hard working and notable writers.   And some famous well known authors outside of  baseball that did drink a lot.  We all know that.  Talent and productivity has to be separated from personal habits and weaknesses.   But I never did like the idea of having to go to the bar to get ink.  That’s a code word for write-ups or publicity.

Speaking of the Yankees, we had a “Father Joe” who traveled with the ballclub and ran around with a lot of the players.  Some of his pals got into serious trouble with “wife swapping” and actually trading families, making headlines all over the country.  I didn’t blame him for that, but he did like to drink.  One day, while sitting in the family section with the players’ wives and children, he made fun of my wife for not drinking.   After my wife told me, I should have jumped him hard but I was a moral coward in those days and kept quiet.  I should have reminded him of the large number of priests who became alcoholics and that the Catholic Church had their distilleries going strong even during “prohibition.”   But I must pass on, not out.

 I never could quite understand why some players, after they got drunk on the airplane, would come toward the front of the plane and sit by me and want to talk about religion.   I was polite, but I would usually inform them that when they were sober again, I would be glad to talk to them.  Well, they never did.  That is, want to talk when they were sober.  Maybe when they were drunk, as Lew Burdette had explained to me, their real character was coming out.   So perhaps, I should have encouraged them to get drunk again so that we could have an honest talk about religion.   This is all rather confusing.  But you know, that’s baseball, and that’s the way it was many years ago.  Well, I could go on with many other such baseball stories about drinking, but this article would be way to long. 

Learning From Experience

There are some good things that come out of being a celebrity and an alcoholic at the same time.  You can join A.A., become a counselor and people will listen to you.   I am often told, “Don’t knock it unless you have tried it!”  Which means that unless you drink and have gotten drunk, you have no right to speak out on the use of alcohol.  But how about this one, “Wise people do not have to learn from their own experience, they can actually learn from the experience of others.  Only poor students have to learn the hard way.”   Is this not what a recovering alcoholic will tell you if he has the chance?   I know it must be thrilling to jump off a 20 story building, but I think I will leave that experience for others.   When it comes to social drinking, I think that I have been immune to pressures put upon me.   However I am very much aware of the raw pressure that can be put upon players due to the power and example of “Famous Celebrities.”   I am not afraid to engage in conversation with anyone, if kept on a rational and logical basis, as to what I believe on this subject.  I even like to engage in a little humor.  After all, I am born and bred an “Okie.”   I also spent a lot of time in the “Show Me” state of Missouri, and presently live in the great state of Texas, which is another thing entirely.   However, religiously I am a just a Christian and have been trained to follow only one Lord and Master when it comes to spiritual or religious values, and I realize that these values affect everything that I do.  I also believe that these values are understandable and defensible.   But Christians need to lighten up if they are to understand those on the other side and make compelling arguments.   Yes, I am more into prevention, especially when talking to young people, than trying to repair the damage, although that is also important.  Don’t be afraid to engage your friends and loved ones in these discussions.   Well, that goes for your enemies and strong opponents as well.  But we can only persuade, not force.  We are blessed with this great gift of free will.

As to the larger issue of succeeding in the world without allowing the world to shape your values, I place high importance on the Biblical examples of such high profile men like Joseph and Daniel, who maintained their convictions and found success even in the midst of great ungodly empires, and I am motivated by the living examples from our own times of those men and women who stand tall against overwhelming odds.   And yes, for sure, you will be tested. 

                                                          --- Lindy McDaniel
                                                          February, 2014

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Note:  At the beginning of this article is a photo of myself in a Chicago Cub uniform in front of the batting cage around home plate in Wrigley Field taken in 1964.   I was only 27 but already with eight years of experience in the National League.  I still had a lot to learn about life and playing baseball.

If you know others who would like to receive advanced copies of Pitching For The Master attached to e-mail, please let me know and send me their e-mail address and they will be placed on the list.    These e-mail lists are protected and will not be made available to others, and they will only receive articles from me.   Thanks.  Your comments are always welcome even if you do think I am a bit radical. 

One Highlight and One Lowlight

One Highlight and One Lowlight

Often when I have the opportunity to speak to young people, I use actual real life experiences taken from my baseball career to illustrate particular points.   I speak of both “highlights” and “lowlights” of my career.  I rarely do this in Pitching For The Master, but I am going to write about what is perhaps the greatest highlight of my baseball career, but I will follow this quickly with a lowlight that falls within the same context.  This illustrates perfectly the “ups” and “downs” of baseball, and also of life itself.

My Greatest Highlight

Before I write about the greatest highlight of my career, it is necessary to give a brief  background.  I had just come off of two subpar seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.  In December of 1962, I was traded to the Cubs along with Larry Jackson, my teammate with the Cardinals for seven years.  In exchange the Cardinals received George Altman and Don Cardwell.  Some baseball experts were saying that my career was basically over.  But to the surprise of the baseball world, and the Cardinals, I made a big comeback in 1963 with the Cubs and won my second “fireman of the year award”.   That year against the Cardinals I pitched 25 innings, giving up no runs, 10 hits and picked up several wins and saves which was a major factor in their failing to win the pennant. 

Because of its spectacular nature, I call this my greatest highlight in baseball, but that may not be strictly true in terms of actual importance.  But it did make big headlines in Chicago and all over the country.   This unusual event occurred on June Sixth, 1963 when I was playing for the Chicago Cubs.  This occurred on a Sunday afternoon and was the last game of a four game series against the San Francisco Giants.  The Giants had won the National League Pennant the year before.  The game was played in historic Wrigley Field.   The Giants came to town leading the league by four games.  The Cubs were in second place at the time.   All four games were played before a packed ballpark.   The Cubs won the first three games of the series.  I picked up a “save” in one of those games.   A “save” is when you come into the game as a relief pitcher with a lead and are able to preserve the win. 

In the fourth game, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, Dick Ellsworth started the game for the Cubs and after 9 innings the score was tied 2 to 2.  In the top of the tenth inning, the Giants had loaded the bases with one out.  This is when I was brought into the game.   After completing my 8 warm-up pitches, the game was resumed.  I took Dick Bertell’s (the catcher) sign from behind the rubber as I would normally do in a full wind up delivery.   Dick flashed me the sign for a pick-off play at second base.  The play works like this.   If Andre Rogers, our short-stop, thinks that he can sneak behind the runner at second,  He gives a sign to the catcher, who then relays the sign to me.   I get the sign with a relaxed stance and act like I am about to go into my normal windup.  Bertell then flops his catcher's mitt down, and I immediately wheel and throw to second.   The catcher does this as soon as he sees daylight between shortstop and the base-runner.   Willie Mays is the runner and is two short steps away from the bag.  The throw caught him totally by surprise and he was tagged for the second out!   He never moved.  The next batter Ed Bailey, hitting from the left side of the plate, struck out swinging on three straight “fork-ball” pitches.   I received my first standing ovation after picking Willie Mays off second base.   I received a second standing ovation when I walked off the mound after striking out Ed Bailey on three pitches.  Of course, I couldn’t do it by myself.  It takes the shortstop, the catcher, and some cooperation from the base-runner. 

I was the lead-off hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning.  With a two ball and one strike count, I hit a slider off of Billy Pierce deep into the left-center field bleachers for a homerun.   The crowd went absolutely wild!  The entire ball club met me at home plate.  We were tied with the Giants for first place!  That was the beginning of the down fall for the Giants and they never recovered from this blow.  The next day the Chicago Tribune newspaper had the entire sequence of my picking Willie Mays off of second base.  The paper stated that Willie had fined himself $500 when he reached the Giant’s dugout.   At the beginning of this article is the photo of my coming to home plate after hitting the home run.   All of this happened in quick succession and took only about 15-20 minutes.  Not a bad afternoon’s work at the “friendly confines of Wrigley Field” as Ernie Banks would call it. For one brief moment all was joy in Chicago land. 

Followed By A Lowlight

A few days later, the Cubs were playing against the Houston Colts, now called the Houston Astros, in Colt Stadium.    I entered the game in the bottom of the nineth inning with score tied, bases loaded and no outs.   The hitter was Bob Aspromonte.  All he had to do was hit a long fly ball, the runner tags up at third and scores for the winning run.  I pitched Bob inside to try to get a pop-up.   He was evidently looking for the pitch inside, for it was just off the strike zone, but he opened up his stance, swung and hit a home run.  Seems like in 1963, the bases were loaded almost every time I entered the game.  That year I gave up three grand slam homeruns and each one was freaky in some way.  I also led the league in relief pitching for the most wins and saves and received the fireman’s award.   But even so, it was strange to give up those three grand slam home runs.  This is how they occurred. 

I gave up one grand slam homerun in Chicago to  Hank Aaron, the great hitter for the Milwaukee Braves.   I remember it well.  Why is it that I always remember such things? I threw him a fast ball low and away which would have been a perfect strike on the corner.   He swung and popped the ball up to Ken Hubs, our second baseman.   It was a very high pop-up.  The second baseman started drifting back on the ball.   The right fielder came slightly in, then floated back, all the way to the outfield wall.  The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced into the right field bleachers for a home run.   Oh, I forgot to tell you one small fact, the wind was blowing 40 miles per hour towards right field!   My wife was sitting behind home plate directly behind Lew Burdette, who was charting the pitches, and the starting Brave pitcher for the next game.  He turned around and said to her, “On some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed . . does it!”  Later Lew Burdette was traded to the Cubs and we had some interesting conversations.  He told me one time that you never really get to know a person until after they are drunk.  That is why it is so hard to use a lot of baseball material in my preaching.  But let me finish my story.

On another occasion that year the Cubs were playing the Mets in the old Polo Grounds in New York.   I was brought into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded.   There were two outs.  The Cubs had a one run lead.  Jim Hickman, a fellow Oklahoman,  was the batter.   The Met fans were screaming their heads off.   I got to a 3 ball 2 strike count on the hitter.   If I walked the batter, the game would be tied.  The fans were yelling so loud that it was hard to even concentrate.   I threw a fastball inside.   It would have been a ball if the batter had not swung.   But the pitch was too close to take.  In those situations there is as much pressure on the hitter as on the pitcher.  Hickman swung and his bat broke into two pieces.  The ball traveled straight down the left field line.   Billy Williams, our left fielder,  got under the ball and waited for it to come down.   It was a sure out.  In the Polo Grounds, the left field wall was only 252 feet down the line.  Oddly enough the upper deck overhangs the lower stands.  The ball just nicked the lower facing of the upper deck for a grand slam home run!   Another sad day at the old ball park.  Then we had to walk all the way to the clubhouse in center field among all the yelling and screaming.  

Now getting back to the Bob Aspromonte home-run.   In about 2008, I happened to read an article in the Reader’s Digest on Aspromonte and he commented on this same 1963 event.   The article relates a great story about Bob visiting a young man in a hospital.  The young man had a terminal illness and was not expected to live much longer.   The kid was a big Colt 45 (Houston Colts) baseball fan.  He asked Bob to hit a home run for him.   Bob promised that he would try.  That was the home run that he hit off of me!   Now how can I complain about that?  After all those years, I don’t feel nearly so bad about giving up that home run!   I have always said that real life is stranger than fiction and it really is.

Here is a side note about Bob Aspromonte.  As many of you know, my brother Von and I were teammates together with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957.  After my brother had arm trouble in 1958, he was sent down to the minors where he spend 9 years before retiring.  The closest he got to the Big Leagues again was in 1962 as a third baseman in the Astro organization.  Von was the last man cut from the spring training roster that year.   The player who beat him out was Bob Aspromonte.   Life is really strange.

Folks, this is basically an article about baseball, but in many respects it is also an article about life.  Life has many twists and turns.   Only in your dreams is life smooth and easy.   Life was never intended to be easy, for it is a testing ground. The only way to safely navigate life is to listen to God and trust in Him with all of your heart.   In my next article, I will leave the field of dreams and get back to the full reality of life in Jesus Christ, my #1 interest.    Because, folks, if we don’t get that right, none of the rest is going to matter.
The photo at the beginning of this article was taken on June 6, 1963 as I was touching home plate after hitting the game winning home run.  The entire team met me at home plate.

Special note:  A baseball researcher friend of mine sent me a list of all the home runs I gave up in my career.   There was a list of 172 home runs, with dates, places, teams, hitter, number of men on base, etc.   I am not sure that was a great ego booster!!   Usually those are facts you would rather forget.  But there were some very interesting things about these lists.  Of the 172 home runs, 60% came with the bases empty, 24.5% came with 1 runner on base, 10.2% came with 2 runners on base, and 4.8% came with the bases loaded.    I gave up a total of 8 bases loaded home runs in my career.   So the three bases loaded home runs I gave up in 1963,  which I mention in this article, comprised about 37% of the total number I gave up in 20 years.   And yet I was the most effective relief pitcher in the National League that year.   My friend also informed me that the great Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts, usually lead the league in homers given up, but most of those were with the bases empty.  I think there must be a pitching theory in there somewhere.   One of these days I will try to explain it.  

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