Yesterday, the Barrons got on a roll with some cleaning and organizing. The kids were out of school for President’s Day and holidays like that are a good excuse to get the whole family involved. Early in the afternoon, Harrison was cleaning out one of the closets and pulled out two large Rubbermaid tubs–my old baseball card collection. He was a little shocked that I had collected so much over the years. He started to look at some of the older cards and was asking about some of the guys who were there–Biff Pocoroba, Rufino Linares, Bob Horner, Tug McGraw, etc. Most of these were names he had never heard of. Yet, each of these guys entered the big leagues with dreams of being the next great baseball star. To be sure, all of them had great talent and skill. They were drafted with all the potential in the world and the promise that they would be given the chance to make themselves famous. For most, their investments were rewarded with a couple of lines in some obscure baseball trivia book and a bubble gum card that’s not worth the cardboard it is printed on.
It also made me think of Eddie Gaedel. Unless you are a baseball enthusiast, you probably wouldn’t know the story of Eddie. Let me share it briefly.
“Edward Carl Gaedel (June 8, 1925 – June 18, 1961) was a player with dwarfism who became famous for participating in one Major League game. Gaedel gained recognition in the second game of a St. Louis Browns doubleheader on Sunday, Aug. 19, 1951. Weighing 65 pounds and standing just 3 feet 7 inches tall, Gaedel became the shortest player in the history of the Major Leagues. He made a single plate appearance and was walked with four consecutive balls before being replaced by a pinch runner. His jersey, bearing the uniform number “⅛”, is displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.” (from Wikipedia)
Now, I know Eddie was a willing accomplice to this stunt. The owner of the Browns, Bill Veeck, was a guy who was always looking for an “angle” to fill the stands. Eddie was great material for just such a gimmick. But do you think this was what Eddie wanted his “career” to be known for? As a kid, do you think Eddie dreamed of walking to first base only to be replaced by a pinch runner? Or do you imagine that Eddie’s dreams were like most players? Don’t you think he wanted to hit the walk off home run in the World Series or to steal second base in a cloud of dust? Years of dreaming and practicing and planning to find that you get to walk to first base for a replacement runner? Now, Eddie made it further than most. I’ve never had the pleasure of playing baseball beyond the high school level. And I’ve never had the joy of putting on a major league uniform.
But the danger comes when we start comparing ourselves to others and stop investing in what really matters. I had dreams of playing big league ball at once. They were childhood dreams but they were big nonetheless. Never once did I catch myself in the back yard dreaming, “I hope I can some day just sit in the dug out” or “If only I could strike out in a game.” No, my dream–the object of all my hours of practice–was the stuff of legends. I would be the next Dale Murphy and hit towering home runs. I would hustle (not gamble) like Pete Rose or play short stop with the grace of an Ozzie Smith. I didn’t want to just make the team. I wanted to be a star.
The point of my reflection and my rambling…what are you aiming for in your life? Do you want to be a side note or the answer to a trivia question? Is your goal just to have your face on the card that will occupy someone’s Rubbermaid container? Or would you rather be the collector’s item? Would you prefer to know that you not only made the team but that you made the team better by your presence? The two mindsets are radically different. One simply gets by; the other gives it their all. One punches a clock and hopes that no one else notices; the other shows up early, stays late and hopes the whole world will notice. But it’s not hard work for the sake of hard work. It’s an investment in things that are eternal and will really matter. At the end of your life, no one will care about your collections as much as they care about your character. Your reputation will matter far more than your repertoire. So, make sure you’re aiming high…and that you’re pointed in the right direction. You don’t want to get to the end of life and find that you aimed too low…or that you aimed at the wrong target entirely.