the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By
by Orel Hershiser and Robert Wolgemuth
BELIEVE YOUR COACHES
It would have been bad enough if just one
of these things had dropped on me. But having them happen at the same time
was more than I could take. It was time for something radical.
Cars and trucks zoomed past me as I stood
on the shoulder of the I–75 entrance ramp, less than a mile from the
entrance to BG (Bowling Green State University). The wind whipped through
my hair and tugged at my jacket. I squinted from the dust that kicked up
in my face. Standing there with my thumb in the air, hoping for a ride, I
had never felt this hopeless. Never.
Of the three reasons why I had gone to
college—to get an education, have fun, and play baseball—I was failing
in all three. It was my first time away from home and I wasn't doing well.
Running away seemed logical for a guy in my situation.
Academically I was in serious trouble. It
was final–exam week and I knew I wasn't going to get a passing grade in
a single subject. Living in a noisy dormitory, trying to get myself up
every morning, hitting the snooze button too often, and missing lots of
classes had brought predictable results. Why bother to take the stupid
Socially, I felt like a loser. My
girlfriend had just broken up with me. She wanted us to "still be
friends." Maybe my disappearing from school would make her feel so
terrible that she'd take me back. I hoped it would.
It might have been possible to survive the
bad grades and the broken heart, but the real crusher was getting cut from
the baseball team. This was the reason I had gone to BG in the first
place. It was what I'd lived for.
No passing grades, no girlfriend, and no
baseball. Miserable didn't come close.
I scribbled a clever note to my roommate,
leaving a hint as to where I was going. I guess I wanted to make a
statement and have people chase me, find me, comfort me, and help me to
start over. An eighteen–year–old in my condition doesn't completely
want to run away and cut all the strings. But a guy with any pride at all
didn't just walk up to his parents or his friends and say, "Look, I'm
a failure. I have no excuses. Can you help me?"
Taking off like this, I felt a strange mix
of fear and excitement. I'd never pictured myself as a rebel, but I needed
to do something rebellious. Something bold. I decided that running away
would attract attention to my pain and maybe detract attention from my
failure. I had blown it, big time, and I didn't want to face the
consequences of my losses and poor decisions. So I stuffed my duffel bag
with an extra pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, some underwear, and my
Dopp kit, and walked out of my dorm.
Without a car of my own, hitchhiking was my
transportation of choice. And with a face that looked more like Opie from
Mayberry than Charles Manson, I had no trouble getting rides. A mother
with a car full of kids picked me up first. Brushing crackers and a couple
of toys to the floor, I made a spot on the backseat.
Another young mother gave me a ride,
telling me that she never picked up hitchhikers but thought I looked like
a "decent young man." Unfortunately, she only took me to the
next exit. I need a long ride, I thought to myself as I crawled out
of her car and stuck out my thumb. I haven't even made it out of Ohio.
A huge truck, spewing exhaust from giant
chrome pipes, slammed on the brakes, the tires laying down a long black
skid. I ran along the shoulder to catch up to the truck. With the smell of
burning rubber still coming off the tire marks on the road, I climbed in.
I'd never been in the cab of an
eighteen–wheeler. "Yo, buddy," the driver laughed, sticking
out his hand. I shook it. This guy wouldn't have been afraid of anyone.
Pulling back onto the highway he looked at
me and smiled. Most of his teeth seemed to be in place. "You like
Charlie Pride?" he asked, working on a wad of bubble gum the size of
a golf ball. "Yes, sir," I lied. Heading east on the Ohio
Turnpike and doing sixty–five was more important to me at the time than
telling the truth.
At the Pennsylvania line, he was turning
south toward West Virginia. He pulled over and stopped. I crawled down
from the cab and thanked him for the ride. I really meant it.
In just a few minutes, a traveling salesman
picked me up. He moved a pile of papers from the front seat to the back,
and I got in. After a few minutes of quiet, he tried to ask me about
myself. I was evasive. Then he told me that he was a born–again
Christian. I nodded, like I was interested in hearing more. He talked
nonstop and I tried to act like I was listening. He kept talking and I
kept nodding. Charlie Pride or Jesus aside, at least I was going home to
Right after my senior year in high school,
my family had moved from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to the Detroit area
where my dad had accepted a partnership in a large printing company. But
home for me was never going to be Michigan, so I'd decided I was going
back to New Jersey. I guess I thought there would be banners across Main
Street, welcoming me home like some war hero. (What was I thinking?)
So I kept heading east. For the moment, it
was my only goal.
A guy about my age stopped to pick me up.
Except for his nonstop smoking, I didn't pay much attention to him. He had
a nice car and I liked the aggressive way he drove. We hardly spoke at
all, which was fine with me. In fact, I don't think we made eye contact
once. Unfortunately, as he was whipping around a big truck on the right,
another truck was merging into the same lane and we slammed into the back
of it. A wreck was not something I had expected but it was a perfect
illustration of how I felt about my life. I couldn't even hitchhike right.
The interview with the state trooper didn't
go well. Technically, hitchhiking was against the law, especially on an
interstate highway. "Uh, you know, uh... I'm a student, just getting
a ride and I don't even know this guy's name and, uh..."
I guess I didn't look like a typical
hitchhiker with my preppie haircut and clean clothes. The trooper asked me
a few more questions then let me go. Of course, I couldn't just stick out
my thumb and start hitchhiking right in front of him, so I started to walk
along the shoulder.
With only the sound of the gravel crunching
under my shoes a sense of complete despair came over me. "What am I
doing?" I said out loud. Okay, now what? I'm out here in the
middle of nowhere with nothing but a few bucks and some clothes. I
graduated from Cherry Hill East but all my friends are gone. They're not
home waiting for me. And what am I going to do when I get back there?
Stand in front of people I know and tell them I'm a failure? Tell them I
went off to college but I couldn't hack it?
I can't describe how empty I felt. I
guess this is what rock bottom feels like.
The sun was setting. Soon it would be as
dark outside as I was feeling inside. I wasn't so brash that I was going
to stand along the side of the road through the night, so I snagged one
more ride then started looking for a motel—a motel with a telephone.
"Dad, this is Orel," I said,
faking some bravado. My dad was ready for my call. Jeff, my roommate, had
called my parents to tell them I had run away.
"Oh, you've really done a number on
your mother now." His voice was stern and strong and his words hit
hard. I'd never wanted to disappoint my mom. Realizing what I was putting
her through made me feel terrible. My dad might as well have said,
"Oh, Orel, look what you've done. You're not even considering what
you are doing to anybody else; you're just thinking about yourself."
He would have been right.
Dad was good in a crisis. He was angry, but
completely under control. I was relieved because I knew deep down he was
happy that I was safe.
"Get on a bus," he said.
"Come home and we'll talk about it when you get here."
After spending the night in a motel, I
boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Detroit. As a baseball player, bus trips
were very familiar. I knew the fun of riding a bus home celebrating a big
victory and I knew the pain and loneliness of riding a bus after a loss.
But this bus ride was one I would never forget. It followed the biggest
defeat I had ever known. My parents had tried to instill in me a will to
hang in there—to persevere, regardless of the outcome. But I had given
up. When the going got tough, I ran away. And even worse than my dad's
stern voice and my mother's broken heart, I was disappointed in myself.
The boy on the bus to Michigan was not the
man I wanted to be.
As I look back on this experience more than
two decades later, it is perfectly clear to me that this was a watershed
moment, a fork in the road. The impact of those who had
"coached" me during my childhood was now being challenged by the
harsh reality of growing up. Would the words and examples of these mentors
hold or would self–pity and failure swallow me up? Would I decide to
deal with the truth and do the right thing?
I'd like to tell you that as the bus drove
from somewhere in Pennsylvania to Detroit, I sat there paging back through
these things that brought me to this moment. Actually, I wasn't that
introspective. All I really did was stare out of the window and think
about how hard it was going to be to face my family, especially my mom. I
was the oldest of four kids, and I didn't feel like a responsible big
brother. Some role model I was.
I tried to sleep.
Finally, the brakes hissed our arrival in
Detroit. For me, this was the end of the line. A small group of people
began gathering around the bus. Stepping down onto the sidewalk, I scanned
the crowd, looked around for a familiar face. But no one had come to meet
me. I knew it was my dad's way of letting me know that, although he loved
me, he wasn't going to coddle me or treat me like a child.
He was very wise in knowing just how far to
push before I would break. "Let him go," I can remember him
saying to my mom when I faced failure as a young boy. "He's got to
Having a welcoming committee at the bus
stop would have sent the wrong message. I looked around for a taxi,
crawled in the backseat, and gave the driver my parents' address.
A strange mix of fear and relief surrounded
me as I stepped out of the cab. It was great to be home. This was not a
familiar house but it didn't matter. It was the people inside I had come
to see. Hugs from everyone made me feel much better. The smell of
something good was coming from the kitchen. But before I sat down to enjoy
my first home–cooked meal in weeks, my dad let me know, "If you're
going to live here, you're going to work and then you're going back to
school." He wasn't angry, but true to his German roots, he spoke with
unwavering resolve. I didn't argue. I knew better than to argue.
THE TACKLE BOX
As I look back over my growing–up years,
I realize how perfectly suited my dad was to me. His sternness made sure
that my failures taught me important lessons, but he was always there for
me when there was an emergency.
Like the time my friend Jack Rex and I
decided to drive to Florida for spring break. At twenty, we were old
enough and barely smart enough, if you know what I mean.
Rather than budgeting our money for the
week, we spent too much on the drive south and too much on things we
didn't really need during the first few days. Soon Jack and I were
counting change on the bed, hoping to have enough to keep gas in my Camaro
Z28 for the trip north. I thought of phoning my dad for some help, but
didn't want to admit we had been foolish enough to run out of money.
We went to the grocery store and bought a
loaf of bread, some peanut butter, and a plastic knife. Sitting on the bed
in our hotel room and eating sandwiches, I called home and told my parents
that everything was going great. Pride is a powerful thing.
Sure enough, we had budgeted just enough
gas money to get home. Sprawled out on the family room floor, I was soon
laughing and telling stories to my siblings and parents about Jack's and
my adventures in Florida. After a few minutes of fun, I finally admitted,
"Hey, I'm starving."
Sheepishly, I then told them how we had
almost run out of money and admitted that I had been too proud to ask for
help. I looked at my dad and saw a big smile on his face. "Go get
your tackle box," he told me.
"What do you mean, go get my tackle
box?" I replied.
"I said, go get your tackle box,"
he said again with a twinkle in his eye.
I dutifully went out to my car and
retrieved the tackle box that had made the trip to Florida and back.
"Open it up," my dad said as I
set it down on the family room floor. I obeyed, still wondering what he
was up to. With my family gathered around, I felt like I was on display.
"Look under the tray," he said,
once the box was opened. I reached under the tray filled with lures and
found an envelope taped there. I pulled the envelope free and tore it
open. Two crisp one hundred dollar bills fell out. Everyone laughed. I
laughed, too, amazed that my dad had taken good care of me, even when I
didn't know it.
Even though I passed my dad in size a long
time ago, I will always be "Little O" to him. And Orel Leonard
Hershiser III was not only my dad but my first great coach. He was a
competitor from the word "go." I saw that in his business life,
when he played cards with his friends or when he raked the infield before
one of my Little League games. He was never satisfied with the status quo,
so I saw him push himself toward perfection. And he held up the same
standard for me, my sister, Katie, and my two brothers, Gordie and Judd. A
Saturday of cleaning the garage was not just an ordinary chore, it was an
exercise in the pursuit of perfection. Dirt and clutter were enemies to be
As his oldest son, I inherited this same
competitive spirit—every bit of it. And, as it turned out, I was going
to need it.
NOT A MEMBER OF THE "IN
Several weeks ago, while dropping one of my
sons off at school, I saw lots of kids huddled together in the parking
lot, laughing and joking. Then I saw a couple kids off by themselves,
wishing they could be included. My heart was drawn to those kids because,
as a youngster, that had been me.
Everyone my age was bigger and more mature
than me. Growing up was an endless sequence of being overlooked by the in
crowd and having a hard time making friends and good grades. I was the
last to shave, the last to have a steady girlfriend, and the last to drive
a car. I felt like an alien, trying to figure out how to survive in a
world where I wasn't up to par in size, academic strength, or social
But, deep down, my dad's tenacity connected
with me. I remember admiring his ability to finish what he started and his
commitment to doing his best.
"Average may be good enough for other
kids," he might as well have been saying to me, "but you're not
other kids. You're my son." Although, of course, I didn't
select this man to be my dad—my first coach—I did choose to watch him
and listen to his advice. I wanted to be like him.
During these years I also always heard the
sound of my mom's voice cheering me on. A good coach and an enthusiastic
cheerleader—what else could a skinny kid named Orel Leonard
Hershiser IV ever need?
As my first coach, my dad planted a
competitive spirit in me, but (he still doesn't like to hear me say this)
I probably didn't get my athletic ability from him.
Our first home was in Buffalo, New York. We
lived just a few miles from a man who became another one of my early
coaches—my maternal grandfather, Harry T. Gillman. Grandpa Gillman's
influence on me was profound.
He wasn't a large man but Grandpa Gillman
was a gifted athlete. As a young man he had excelled in swimming, golf,
and baseball. The war and his dad kept him from pursuing a career in
sports. Actually, during the thirties and forties, professional athletes
were not admired—or paid—like they are today. Often men went into
professional sports as a last resort rather than a career.
From the time I was old enough to slip my
hand into a baseball glove, Grandpa Gillman played catch with me in his
back–yard. At lunchtime we'd go into the kitchen and he'd make me a
ham–and–cheese sandwich with lots of mayonnaise and spicy mustard. He
called them "Grandpa sandwiches" and they tasted awesome. A
sandwich is always better when someone else makes it for you, especially
someone you love. Ham–and–cheese sandwiches, baseball, and lots of
love. Grandpa Gillman was the best.
Sometimes Grandpa took me to the drugstore
and bought me comic books. Back home we'd play Chinese checkers and
Parcheesi with the board spread out between us on the floor. Grandma made
me soft chocolate–chip cookies and let me eat them between meals. In
their backyard, I played by the hour. Grandpa would make a circle in the
dirt with his finger and show me how to shoot marbles. And I would play
catch with him—he taught me how to hold the ball, how to step and
throw—and, when he got tired, I'd toss the ball up against the
fence...over and over and over again. They never told me to stop.
Grandpa Gillman introduced me to golf at
the age of five. After school he would take me out to the Lancaster
Country Club and we'd play two or three holes before Grandma joined us for
dinner. Between ordering dinner and the time the food arrived, I'd go to
the putting green until they'd call me in to eat. Sometimes after dinner
I'd go back to the putting green again. If it hadn't been for the light on
the corner of the greenskeeper's shack, it would have been pitch black.
This was no problem at all.
But sports wasn't Grandpa Gillman's only
specialty; he was also a great life–skills coach. I can remember
watching how he treated people with dignity and respect. The consummate
gentleman, I saw how he cherished Grandma. He thanked people constantly,
even those who didn't expect it. I can picture how he acted when he and I
would take his car in for service, leaning over the fender next to the
mechanic. "Wow, I would never have seen that," he would say. Not
only was he honoring the mechanic, he was right in there, watching and
learning. Grandpa was a student of the people around him. He was always
Absolutely no one was beneath this man.
When a serviceman made a call to his house, Grandpa would offer him lunch,
then sit down with him and eat sandwiches he or Grandma had made.
On some weekends when my parents worked
part time for a
retail pharmaceutical company, inventorying
drugstores, Grandpa and Grandma Gillman took us to the Central
Presbyterian Church. I can remember the sounds of the church service, the
smell of the old wooden pews, and the feeling of sitting in the big
sanctuary. I can especially remember listening to the music. And I
remember standing between my grandparents when the offering plates were
brought forward, singing the Doxology.
Praise God from whom all blessings
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
There was something very special about
those moments. Standing between these people I loved and being filled with
wonder at the sound of this hymn. These memories helped to shape my heart.
Dave Martin was the varsity baseball coach
at Cherry Hill East High School. As a freshman with dreams of making the
varsity team, I can remember passing him in the hallway. Hoping he'd
notice me, I'd straighten up and try to walk tall. And I worked harder
than the rest of the boys in gym class. Coach Martin was a man's man—a
man who hadn't lost his athletic prowess. He may have been a little rough
around the edges, but he had a big heart. He was a hard worker who loved
his students and the school he worked for. Loyalty was a big deal in his
book. Even though he was in the athletic department and not seen as an
academic giant, he always spoke highly about the school and seemed to be
well liked by the other teachers.
Coach Martin was a gentleman. He taught us
to treat girls properly and, as far as I could tell, he lived a life of
order and principle.
He also had high standards when it came to
picking his varsity team. In the spring, there was only one baseball
tryout—for the varsity team. As a freshman, this was all I wanted. Years
of Little League and youth baseball had prepared me for this tryout. For
the guys who weren't good enough to make the varsity, there was the junior
varsity (JV) team. But for those who lacked the skills for either, there
was the freshman team. A couple of my friends made varsity, a few more the
junior varsity. I made neither and spent the season playing shortstop and
pitching on the freshman team.
My sophomore year I tried once more. Coach
Martin cut me again, but this time he put me on the JV team. Finally, the
next year, with my dad's work ethic and my Grandpa Gillman's talent, I
made the varsity team, although I wasn't a huge contributor.
Then, in my senior year, it happened. My
body and skills caught up with my will and I made it as a starter. I was
one of the team leaders, selected as all–conference in South Jersey, and
I saw my name in the local paper on a regular basis. My parents were very
Coach Martin continued to have my respect
as an important coach, and now he was becoming my friend. I would visit
his office between classes or drop in on him instead of going to study
hall. He was often busy grading papers, but he'd take time to talk
baseball or college possibilities with me. Sometimes we'd go outside and
I'd help him get the field ready for a game.
But baseball wasn't the only thing he cared
about. I can remember Coach Martin telling me to be sure to finish my
homework. Even though I know he saw some potential in me as a baseball
player, he wanted me to be a complete person. He also knew that actually
making a living playing baseball was a long shot, a very long shot.
A CHANCE AT THE BIG LEAGUES
But let's get back to my story. Once the
dust had settled from my running away from college and my return to my
parents' home in Detroit, I enrolled in summer school back at Bowling
Green. The campus during the summer months was a different place. There
were fewer activities, fewer friends to call...fewer distractions. It was
exactly what I needed and my grades showed it.
After summer school, I played on a team
that won the All–American Amateur Baseball Association national
championship. I was the starting pitcher in the title game. By my junior
year at BG, I had grown three inches and gained fifteen pounds. The speed
of my fastball had picked up five miles an hour and I made the school's
During that season, BG coach, Don Pervis,
and I were approached by local big league scouts. I had seen them in the
stands with their radar guns and clipboards and I hoped they were looking
at me for the June 1979 amateur draft. I was right.
On the night of the draft, I sat in my
apartment staring at the telephone, praying it would ring. It did. The man
on the line told me that he was with the San Diego Padres and he was
taking me in the first round. I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe it. I
called my dad and he couldn't believe it either!
After a few phone calls to my friends, I
began to smell a practical joke. Their guarded enthusiasm was a tip–off.
Sure enough, my fraternity brothers had made the call, not the Padres. I
laughed and acted like I could take the joke, but inside I was crushed.
The next day, the real call came. It was
from the Los Angeles Dodgers and I was being taken in the seventeenth
round—I knew this call was the real thing. No one would joke about
something like this.
In a few weeks Boyd Bartley, a Dodger
scout, came to our home in Detroit to present their offer. Because I
wasn't going to turn twenty–one for three more months, my dad had to be
in the meeting. Mr. Bartley offered me ten thousand dollars, an
assignment, and a dream. "We'll send you to our Class A team in
Clinton, Iowa. You'll have the chance to grow and develop and work your
way up the ladder to play in the big leagues. We want you to pitch in
Dodger Stadium some day."
I was awestruck by his words. My dream was
about to come true. I was going to turn pro. After a short meeting in the
kitchen with my dad and mom, I took the offer.
The next four years would be a blur of
playing baseball in some pretty interesting places: Clinton, Iowa; San
Antonio, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and a few winter ball stops in
Scottsdale, Arizona; Valencia, Venezuela; and Santo Domingo, Dominican
NOW THE WORK BEGINS
Six different cities and four and a half
years in the minors and the call came.
At the end of the 1983 season, after
finishing third in the Pacific Coast League in saves and seventh in earned
run average (ERA), I was called up to the big club—the Dodgers. My first
role was in the bullpen and I finished the season with eight innings
pitched in eight different games in relief. I did well the next spring and
made the club out of camp for the 1984 season.
The following spring, my wife, Jamie, and I
found a rental house in Placentia, forty–five minutes to an hour and
fifteen minutes from Dodger Stadium, depending on the traffic. Because we
only had one car I needed to find a teammate who lived in the area and who
could drive me to the park when I needed a ride.
Burt and Ginger Hooton lived close by and
Burt agreed to let me ride with him. He was a soft–spoken Texas guy. One
of the veteran starters, Burt was known for his overhand fastball, knuckle
curve . . . and strong character.
And on those long drives to Dodger Stadium,
Burt Hooton became a good friend—and coach. Since he was unwilling to
shake his Texas musical roots, the radio provided a backdrop of country
music most of the time, but I'm not about to tell a guy who's giving me a
ride that I don't like his music.
It brought back memories of that awful
hitchhiking trip from Bowling Green, but the music was the only thing that
was the same. Everything else was different. Instead of running away from
college, riding through Ohio in an eighteen–wheeler, I was a big
leaguer, riding along with a veteran big leaguer. Imagine the awe of
sitting there, soaking in the wise words he spoke. Because Burt was not a
small–talker, there were times when five or ten minutes of complete
silence would go by. But when he had something to say, it was always
something worth listening to.
Just like Grandpa Gillman did with his
mentors, I pumped Burt with questions and soaked in all his answers. I had
questions about work ethics and strategy and the Dodger coaches and the
day's opponent. My friend always filled me in. It was great.
But on one of those rides to the ballpark,
Burt said something I never forgot. It sealed him as one of my most
important coaches. "Orel," he began between my questions and
Hank Williams, "You've made it to the big leagues."
I could tell he wasn't finished, so I sat
"But the work has just begun. It took
a lot of work to get to the majors. But when you got here, you took
someone else's job. Now everyone is going to want your job. It was hard to
get here but it's going to be even harder to stay here."
In the years that followed, these words
became profoundly true.
In my book Out of the Blue I told
the story of when my first major league manager, Tommy Lasorda, gave me
the nickname "Bulldog." It was May of 1984, my first full year
in the majors. I've often referred to the meeting in his office as
"The Sermon on the Mound." Because he had been told to, Ron
Perranoski, my pitching coach, escorted me into Tommy's office. I was
carrying a 2–2 record and my ERA was a miserable 6.20. I knew I could do
better than that and suspected that Tommy agreed. I was glad that Perry
had come along—although Tommy wouldn't have met with me, or any of his
players, without their coach present.
No person had ever been more intimidating
to me than Thomas Charles Lasorda. He was an enthusiastic leader, but
although I had not played for him for more than a few months, I also knew
that he was loud and brash. Verbally, he took no prisoners. A few days
before this meeting, I had given up a two–out double in Houston to José
Cruz with two men on base. Tommy was furious. But his anger was not
directed at my mechanics or pitch selection. He was mad at me because he
thought I was pitching timidly and didn't believe in my abilities.
Now I was sitting in his office. "You
don't believe in yourself," he shouted. "You're scared to pitch
in the big leagues! Who do you think these hitters are—Babe Ruth? Ruth's
dead! You've got good stuff. If you didn't, I wouldn't have brought you
up. Quit being so careful. Go after the hitter. Get ahead in the
Although I was being aired out, I was sure
that I heard a compliment hidden in Tommy's words. I've got good stuff?
He brought me to the big leagues because he believes in me?
Tommy wasn't done. "If I could get a
heart surgeon in here, I'd have him open my chest and take out my heart.
Then I'd have him open your chest, take out your heart, and tell him to
give you mine. With my heart and your arm, you'd be in the Hall of Fame!
I've seen guys come and go, son, and you've got it."
Tommy finished his sermon with a flourish.
"Take charge! Make 'em hit your best stuff! Be aggressive. Be a
bulldog out there." And then, almost like he had surprised himself
with a stroke of genius, he announced, "That's going to be your new
name: Bulldog. It's the ninth inning, we bring you in and you're facing
Dale Murphy. He hears, ‘Now pitching, Orel Hershiser.' He can't wait
till you get in there. But if he hears, ‘Now pitching, Bulldog
Hershiser,' he's thinking, Oh, no, who's that? Murphy's going to be
scared to death!"
I admit that I was a little insulted by the
rah–rah pep talk and the nickname, but I knew Tommy had spoken the
truth. I had been tentative and too careful. Two days later we were in a
tough situation against the San Francisco Giants. The call came from the
dugout, "Can anybody down there pitch?" The bullpen was spent so
I volunteered, in spite of a tender elbow and an arm weak from overwork.
I'll never forget the walk to the mound and
the three innings that followed. I could hear Tommy shouting from the
dugout, "C'mon, Bulldog! You can do it, Bulldog! You're my man,
Bulldog!" I was a major leaguer. I was good enough to be here and had
what it took to win. And I started to believe it because it's what my
skipper had told me.
Tommy Lasorda had introduced me to the
importance of truth–telling—tactless as it was—and the power of an
A TEACHABLE SPIRIT
You may be thinking, All of this is
interesting, but I'm not an athlete. I don't need a coach to help with my
pitching or give me a clever nickname. How does all of this apply to me?
That's a good question.
Remember my early coaches were people who
helped me with life, not just baseball. My dad, who was never satisfied
with average. My mom, who believed in her children. My Grandpa Gillman,
who lived his life as a consummate gentleman and ready student. Dave
Martin, who spoke well of others. Burt Hooton, who took time with a lowly
rookie. And Tommy Lasorda, who spoke the truth.
My best coaches have not always been the
ones who knew the game. Their best counsel has not always been about
playing baseball. They've been people who set a standard for my life,
giving me something to follow. So I've looked for coaches—experts—in
finance, health and fitness, spiritual disciplines, parenting, business,
and organizational skills. These people have helped to shape me.
Over the years, after a good outing, I have
heard people compliment me on my baseball skills. I have watched the late
night edition of ESPN's Sports-Center or Baseball Tonight or
read complimentary accounts in the paper the next morning.
Clever headlines over the years have been
fun to see:
"Reds Fail Orel Exam!" after a
big win against Cincinnati.
"OOO OOO OOOrel," during my
record–breaking scoreless inning streak.
"Hot Dog," on the day when, in
hundred–degree heat and with one day's rest, I beat the Expos at Shea
"Dog Gone," when I retired from
But here's the headline I will always
aspire to: "Orel Hershiser: A man with a teachable spirit."
Who have your coaches been? What good
things did they teach you? Be on the lookout for good coaches. Watch their
lives, listen to their advice... and believe them. You may never achieve
what you want to accomplish if you don't have someone in your life who has
already found what you are striving for.
Even though I've retired from baseball,
I'll never be too old for another coach to believe in.
Copyright © 2001 by Orel Leonard Hershiser
Excerpt posted with permission from http://www.twbookmark.com
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