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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Answering Critics

Answering Critics

If we strive to be a Christian, we can expect criticism.   Some criticism is good.  I call this constructive criticism.  This is to be appreciated, especially if it is done in kindness and with the right motive.  Paul wrote:  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).   Paul defended himself by writing:  “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  (Gal. 4:16).   Yes, sometimes the truth hurts, but it is needful.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Pro. 27:6).   Sometimes criticism is bad, having no object to correct or instruct in righteousness, but rather, is designed to tear down the individual.  I call this destructive criticism.   But even destructive criticism can be useful to our growth as a Christian (see James 1:2-3).

One such very blunt, critical note was E-mailed to me recently in response to my article entitled, “Is The Bible Allegorical.”   I was chided strongly for disagreeing with Bill O’Reilly over his calling the Bible allegory.   This writer declared that we were both wrong, because Christians should never criticize other Christians which only causes division.  He declared that I was flat wrong and hoped that God was easier on me than I am on others, because no one has the right to judge.  Hmmm.   That sounds a little bit like he is contradicting his own definition of judging!   It is always a bit humorous when people contradict their own logic.   I might add that most responses to the article were very positive.   But I am using this particular response to write about how to answer critics.

Anyway, I tried to get some dialog going with this individual, but he refused.  He wrote that I was flat wrong but refused to get into any details of why he thought I was wrong.  Such discussions might prove to be a bit messy.  After all, we don’t want to get our hands dirty fooling around with these bad, judgmental people.  It is much better to just “hit and run.”  

The Tactics of Humanism

That response reminded me of first time I really started studying the philosophy of humanism.  At that time I learned the different techniques they used in dealing with those who professed to be Christians.  They advised that when Christians start to criticize you, all you have to do is tell them that it is wrong to judge, and they will fold up like an accordion.   Yes, indeed!  Those Christians are surely easy pickings for the humanist!   Just use their philosophy against them.  You can slap them up one side and down the other, and they just have to take it.   They are not allowed to answer back or they will be guilty of judging.  Turn their own religion against them.  Yes, and did that philosophy ever invade the churches that had no spine to stand up to them.  Now the tentacles of humanism are seen everywhere, not only in universities and government schools, but in the churches.  That does not sound anything like New Testament Christianity to me.   It has always been hard for me to understand how one can pull a passage out of context and that becomes the answer to everything!   Since the early 80’s and even before that time,  I cannot count the times even religious people have used that same argument against me if I question anything they were teaching.   The real enemy of Christianity is the wide spread ignorance of the Bible coupled with an “I don’t care” attitude.   The real enemy of Christianity is Christianity itself.  However, if anyone would allow me, I will give a Biblical answer. 

Judge Not That You Be Not Judged

First, “judge not that you be not judged” is found within a particular context.  Here is what Jesus actually said:  "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?   You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).   Jesus is condemning hypocritical judging, but he was not condemning all kinds of judging.  For us to judge others when we practice the same things or worse is to by a hypocrite.   See what Paul wrote in Romans 2:21-26.  Even in this context you can see the truth.   Jesus taught that it was OK to take the speck out of your brother’s eye once you take the “log” out of your own eye.   He also said in the next verse, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6).  Does it not require judgment or discernment to realize that someone in a spiritual sense is a “dog” or a “swine”?    Here Jesus is referring to those who have absolutely no appreciation for the gospel.   In fact, disciples are required to “judge righteous judgment” (see John 7:24).   To be able to discern between good and evil is to judge.  Proverbs is packed full of judging, that is, learning how to distinguish between good and evil (see Pro. 1:2-5, 2:3,5, 9, 11; 3:21; 5:2; 7:7; 8:12; 11:22; 14:7).  To discern is to judge between things that differ.  If we don’t learn to discriminate, then our thinking is going to be very fuzzy.

Jesus said this to his disciples concerning any city that would not receive them: 4 “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.  Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.  Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves”  (Matt. 10:14-15).  Was He not judging and teaching his apostles to do the same?   When John the Baptist said to the disbelieving Jewish leaders as You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7), was he not judging?    Yes, we reject hypocritical preachers who say one thing and then do another and those who are “speck” inspectors and fail to recognize the “logs” in their own lives.   But if we fail to grow in the ability to discern between things that are not equal, then we are in bad shape and have set ourselves up to be deceived over and over. 

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a great time when people will be able to judge righteously.   All who love truth read these words and rejoice:  “Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly.  Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.  Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The mind of the hasty will discern the truth, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak clearly.  No longer will the fool be called noble, or the rogue be spoken of as generous.  For a fool speaks nonsense, and his heart inclines toward wickedness: to practice ungodliness and to speak error against the LORD, to keep the hungry person unsatisfied and to withhold drink from the thirsty.  As for a rogue, his weapons are evil; he devises wicked schemes to destroy the afflicted with slander,  even though the needy one speaks what is right.  But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands” (Isa. 32:1-8).  I hope you go back and read this carefully.  This scripture points to the coming of Jesus Christ and His message of truth and righteousness.

It looks like the apostle Paul was very judgmental when he wrote this about some who were teaching in the churches :  “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).   I do not know that I have ever used such strong words against a corrupt teacher as did Paul, but I am quite certain that these words were well deserved.

Yes, the Bible can be used for reproof and correction.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Doesn’t that sound rather judgmental?  And my, my, read what Paul told preachers to do:  “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). 

I assume that most people are sincere and desire to know and practice the truth until proven otherwise by their fruits or actions.   So as a normal approach, I really appreciate the words of the apostle Paul when he writes: “The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,  with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Does God Receive All People Unconditionally?

Another teaching that is commonly taught and believed is that God loves everyone unconditionally.  It is argued that since God loves all people unconditionally, all people are accepted unconditionally regardless of what choices they may make.    If we oppose ungodly behavior, then we are guilty of being judgmental and do not love people like God does.   We can even be accused of using “hate speech”.  According to this teaching, the love of God nullifies all standards of righteousness.  God receives all people everywhere without regard to religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or any other factor.  I do not know of any teaching that is more misguided than this.

That God loves all men is not disputed by me or others who believe the Bible.   He has demonstrated His great love by sending His Son to die on the cross.   “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
But the clear choice God gives man is to repent or perish.   “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).   Men are lost due to their own sinful conduct, and God throws out a life preserve for those drowning in sin.  This life-preserve is Jesus Christ.   "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24).  Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The idea that God accepts all men unconditionally is nowhere taught in the Bible.

Folks, I stand behind my writings, but if anyone thinks that I have been unjust or have misrepresented the truth, then you would be my good friend to point this out.  Please do not use general accusations, but judge righteous judgment.  Thanks so much for reading this.      – Lindy McDaniel       To be posted in June, 2013.

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In writing these articles, I am not seeking  for a wide readership but a quality readership.   Some people are just not interested in the Bible and have no or little interest in spiritual matters.  I try to appeal to those who are genuine seekers and want to know more about the Bible.   I am also interested in encouraging those who are fighting the good fight of faith.  From time to time I will write about my experiences in Major League Baseball, but these stories will be related in one way or the other to practical Christianity.   If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from sports, then I will try to make the connection.  If my writings connect with people who have an appreciation for sports as well as the Bible, then this is an added motive.  But as you know, Jesus Christ is first, last and always the focus.

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