Baby Boomers and Baseball Cards
With the recent death of Mickey Mantle, a man who was a hero for every boy with a love for baseball, most men my age are asking, “Whatever happened to my baseball cards?” Mickey was a link to our past. Our cards are missing and now the great #7 is gone.
Personally, I have never solved the mystery of those two missing shoe boxes (the ones that originally contained my Buster Brown oxfords!). They were crammed full of cards bearing famous faces and stirring statistics of men like Mantle who rose from rural obscurity into the national spotlight. Men like the country boy from Oklahoma were proof that “anything can happen to anybody in this country, so long as they’re daring in their defeats and
outsized in victory.” (Sports Illustrated, 8/21/95, p.25-26)
I feel sure that I had a rookie card of Mantle that is now worth $23,000 on the market! In fact, it is possible that I had one of his cards attached to my bicycle spokes in order to make that special sound. If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t, don’t ask.
Perhaps I didn’t have a rookie card, but at least you can’t blame me for dreaming about the days when all we knew about the slugger was that he could knock a baseball a country mile. Most women do not understand how Mantle has survived in our minds years after his accomplishments on the diamond ceased. With all the recent publicity about his flaws, for a generation of men, he’s still the guy, has been the guy, and will be the guy. However, there are more serious issues raised by the death of this American hero than the mystery of what happened to our cards. I want to mention a few.
Presumption is a sin! A genetic disease called Hodgkin’s claimed every male in the Mantle family, including his father, before the age of 40. Mickey never believed that he would live beyond the fifth inning in life. He was quoted as saying, “If I knew that I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself”. He wasn’t joking. He really believed that he would die at a much earlier age and that is presumption in reverse. Most people approach live with a reckless disregard for tomorrow because they feel now is forever. Anyway you slice it presumption is a sin! The Bible says, “...you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. ....All such boasting [about tomorrow] is evil.” (James 4:14,16) If you take life or death for granted, you have acted presumptuously and that is a sin.
What is important in life is not statistics, but people! After rehabilitation, a broken and extremely ill Mantle apologized to viewers for being a sorry father, poor husband and disappointing hero. Said the slugger, “Kids, don’t be like me. I’m no role model.” It mattered not that the Yankee switch-hitter in one season batted .353, hit 52 HR’s and was credited with 130 RBI’s, an achievement that earned him the coveted Triple Crown award. What mattered most was in the area of relationships, in the final inning of his life ‘The Mick’ felt he had two strikes against him and a wicked curve ball on the way!
What is important in life is not what we accomplish or accumulate but who we influence and in what direction. It is relationships that matter the most.
Don’t wait to the end to get in on the beginning! Life doesn’t begin at forty or with being inducted in the Hall of Fame. Life begins at Calvary! Bobby Richardson played second base for the Yankees when Mantle was in his prime. A devoted Christian, Bobby shared the gospel with Mantle on many occasions. He never got to first base. He went to see the ailing centerfielder the week before he died and was delighted to hear that #7 had received #1, Jesus Christ, into his life. Skeptics would say, “How can you be sure that Mantle’s new found faith was real?”
No one can. He didn’t live long enough to produce the fruit that comes from a new nature. You are free to believe what you want. However, again, you can’t blame a boy who has become a man for dreaming and for visualizing “The Mick” rounding third and sliding into home. And one more time hear The Umpire say, “Safe!”.
It could happen!