Dierker's Dugout

The A.R.T. of a Champ - "Respect"

posted Jan 11, 2016, 9:23 AM by Ray Hughes   [ updated Jan 11, 2016, 9:25 AM ]

Proverbs 27:17 (MSG) "You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another."

One night I was pitching with a short lead in the late stages of a game at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.  The first batter got on base on a 3-2 pitch that I thought should have been called strike three.

I got the next batter to hit an easy two-hop ground ball to our second baseman, Joe Morgan.  It should have been a double play, but Morgan dropped it and then dropped it again while trying to recover.  So now there were runners at first and second with no outs when I thought there should be two outs and nobody on base.   I got the next batter to hit the same ground ball and Joe booted it again.  Now I had the base loaded with nobody out when I should have been back in the dugout with a 1-2-3 inning.  I was hopping mad.  And then when I saw Joe walking to the mound, I got even madder.  When he got there, he said, “Larry, I’m sure glad you’re pitching tonight because you’re the one guy who can get us out of this mess. “

I will never forget those words – especially the word “us.”  That simple sentence completely transformed my thinking.  Instead of being mad at him and just about ready to throw in the towel, I got pumped up.  It was such a great compliment to think that he was depending on me to save the team from the situation that he created.  I knew he was right, but I don’t think many players would have had the nerve to come in and say something like that under the circumstances. 

Joe went back to his position and I took a deep breath.  Now it was my turn to prove him right.  I’d pitched out of bases loaded, no outs situations of my own making before.  Why couldn’t I do it now?  Well, I did.  I got the next three hitters out and the Padres scored one run but we still had the lead and ended up winning the game. 

Your job as a teammate is to help overcome another player’s mistakes.  For example, with a man on third and one out, almost anything the batter hits will score the run.  But sometimes he hits a pop-up or strikes out.  That’s when the next hitter can save the day by getting a hit. 

This isn’t just about baseball.  It also applies to any team you’re on.  It could be in a family setting, at school, at church or on the job.  We’re all in this together.  There is no better feeling than saving the day for a family member or a friend.  And when you think about how it makes them feel, it’s even better.  From that day forward, when a teammate made an error, I made a pledge to get him off the hook.  That’s what being a good teammate is all about.

-Larry Dierker

The A.R.T. of a Champ - "Respect"

posted Jan 11, 2016, 9:21 AM by Ray Hughes   [ updated Jan 11, 2016, 9:25 AM ]

 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT) "Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king."

“That wasn’t Schoendienst,” I blurted out.  “That was Benson (the Cardinals third base coach). Benson is the one who call the shots over there.  Everybody knows that.”

I thought I knew that but I had only heard it second hand.   Red seemed like a pleasant, friendly guy, but he would never be confused with Albert Einstein. Later, I got traded to the Cardinals and became friends with him.  He was a prince of a guy and an astute baseball man.  I mentioned what I had heard to Simmons and he was surprised. 

“Red managed that team,” he said.  “He was a great manager.  Sure, he relied on Vern a lot because Vern was a good baseball man too.  But Red was special.  One of the best friends I’ve ever had in baseball.”

As he got a little older, Red went back to coaching.   Whenever we played the Cardinals, I made it a point to talk to him while he was hitting fungoes to the infielders during batting practice.  Ozzie Smith loved him.  And I have never quite forgiven myself for the hateful words, uttered boastfully and in ignorance.

The fact is that Red won two championships with the Cardinals as their manager and finished second three times in fourteen years.  Who knows if anyone else could have done better?  Certainly not a 25 year-old pitcher on another team who had never met him. 

This taught me a very important lesson about judging.  Before you cast a judgment (if you cast it at all), you had better know the facts.  Who among us would like to be convicted on hearsay evidence.  Until you really know someone, show a little respect.  The way they seem at first may be totally different from the way they are.

-Larry Dierker

The A.R.T. of a Champ - "Attitude"

posted Jan 11, 2016, 9:18 AM by Ray Hughes   [ updated Jan 11, 2016, 9:24 AM ]

Psalms 25:9 (NIV)  "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his ways."

Remember the man who wanted to build an extra barn for his expected bountiful harvest but was foolish because he didn’t know he would die that night?

In 1970, I got off to a good start.   After beating Bob Gibson and the Cardinals on May 18, I was 8-2 with an ERA of 2.79.  I had three more starts before I had to go to a two-week summer camp for the National Guard.  I remember telling a reporter that I was hoping to have ten wins when I left.   I could have never envisioned how long it would be before I won my next game.

I lost the next three and went to summer camp 8-5.  After I returned, I lost three more in a row.  Then I finally pitched well against the Reds but the bullpen let the lead slip away.  The next time I got off the hook for a loss after pitching poorly.  Then I pitched well again and the bullpen failed again.

I finally won my ninth game on July 17 against the Fergie Jenkins and the Cubs.  At that point my ERA was 3.79.  It had climbed a whole run during my streak winless outings.

The frustration I felt during those two months served as a good lesson.  I had been overly proud in May, sufficiently humbled by July.  None of us know what the Lord has planned in our lives.  That doesn’t mean we should lack the confidence to build a new barn or take the mound expecting to win.   It does mean that in the end, we are part of our success but not all of it.  We should be careful to contain our pride.

I recall a story from a golf book.  Two young Texas players, both of whom were taking lessons from a pro named Harvey Pennick, played in a local tournament.  When the first got back to his coach he related how the other, who won the tournament, sat around recounting his victory to anyone who would listen.  The old coach told the young man.  “Just remember Ben, it’s not what you do.  It’s who you are.”  Ben Crenshaw remembered that when he won the Masters in 1995, shortly after his old coach died.

-Larry Dierker

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