Brush With Greatness
While at Wake Forest, we’d occasionally hear a fraternity brother stand up at a Sigma Chi meeting and announce a “Brush with Greatness.” It was a sighting or encounter with a famous person. Well, I’ve had a lot of those in my life. But Tuesday was possibly the coolest one I’ve ever had.
The past several summers, I’ve led a discussion every Tuesday morning for the Men’s Connection in Blowing Rock. It’s a great group of guys that I’ve been privileged to be a part of. For one Tuesday each summer, the men that organize it bring in some very talented speakers—known names with great stories—to speak to a large crowd of men and women. Yesterday, the guy in the middle of the picture spoke. If you are a baseball fan, you already know the names.
The guys in this picture are (L to R) Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson, and Whitey Ford — New York Yankee legends all. They were part of the Yankee dynasty that won the AL pennant nine out of ten seasons (1955-64) and multiple World Series titles.
Tuesday morning, I had the privilege of introducing Bobby Richardson and then wrapping up things at the end. As I read over his bio, I was and still am in awe of Bobby’s accomplishments and his World Series records that still stand: RBIs in a game (6), RBIs in a series (12), hits in a series (13), and consecutive World Series games (30!). Unreal! Lastly, in the history of Major League Baseball, there has been only one person who won the MVP award in the World Series while playing on the losing team: Bobby Richardson!
As good a baseball player as he was, he is an even better man. I sat with him at dinner the night before and I asked him why he retired from baseball so young. He told me that he wanted to spend time with his family. So, he told the Yankees—at 29 years old—that he was going to retire. They asked him to play one more year, which he did. Then he stepped away from playing baseball.
I thought about what he could have accomplished had he stayed in baseball for a few more years. More records? Another MVP award? Who knows?
Then I thought about the fact that he has been married to his wife, Betsy, for 58 years. And I thought about how he stood up immediately to honor her when she came into the room where we ate dinner that night. I thought about the difference it must have made in his family life to have a husband and father make a conscious choice to sacrifice personal fame for his family. I thought about the impact he’s had in his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina where he still resides.
Before Mickey Mantle passed away in 1995, he asked his friend Bobby Richardson to give the eulogy at his funeral, because of their close friendship and Bobby’s consistent faith. Impact.
Life is a series of choices. Knowing who you are called to be—and be with—can make a bigger long-term impact than the pursuit of achievements and records in the world’s books. I was reminded of that Tuesday morning by a man who made an indelible impression on me.
So, for my brothers from different mothers from the Sigma Chi house at WFU and for rest of you. . .
I had a brush with greatness Tuesday morning. His name is Bobby Richardson.