I can read three pages of a book and predict whether or not I’ll be unable to put it down. I really didn’t have time to start the book yesterday because we’ve got out-of-town company coming today and the General left me a to-do list. Actually, I am misrepresenting the assignment I was given. She left me a grocery list for Thanksgiving, but I’m not picking that up until Monday or Tuesday. The to-do-list was self-imposed.
Sometimes the pressure of out-of-town company coming serves as motivation to do what you should have already done. The General has been out of town most of the week. Her mother had cataract surgery and Treva went to ensure the doctor knew what he was doing. Okay, I’m making that part up, but trust me, I’m not too far off center.
“Not being too far off center” brings another thought to mind. Yesterday in a board meeting, a young man who is a resident in one of our residential programs shared his story. As it so happens, I have close ties to his step-paternal grandmother. He mentioned in passing that he sometimes calls me Uncle Donnie. The executive director of the program where the young man is in care subsequently suggested that folks hang on to the handle I’d been given and start calling me Uncle Donnie. The board chair responded: “I think Crazy Uncle Donnie is better.”
The board chair is the guy who gave me the book that I’m going to have a difficult time putting down. It is entitled: “Sandy Koufax A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy. Several weeks ago, I mentioned Sandy Koufax in one of my blogs. It was entitled: “Pitcher Perfect”. Sandy shocked the nation when he walked away from the game at the age of thirty because of medical issues that potentially would impair his game. When he determined his perfection was on the threshold of waning, he opted out. If he couldn’t be at his best, he’d prefer to do something else.
At any rate, following my posting of “Pitcher Perfect”, the board chair who self-reportedly frequently reads my blog, asked if I had read Sandy Koufax’s biography? I had not, so he said he’d like to get it for me. What a thoughtful act of kindness. True to his word, he gave me the book yesterday. Of course with the book came a word of warning. He said, “You’ll never know how many times I was reading this book in a courtroom and wanted to tell the judge he’d have to wait because I was reading my book”.
Normally, I shy away from anything that looks like baseball, but in doing research on Sandy Koufax for my blog, I came to have a real appreciation for his story. I liked his values, his humility, and his respectful and pleasant personality. He wasn’t all about himself.
Perhaps one of the most profound stories related to Koufax’s values was his decision to sit-out playing Game One in the Word Series in 1965. He opted not to play because it was the Sabbath and he is Jewish. Apparently, Don Drysdale, the pitcher who took the pitcher’s mound in his absence, didn’t fare that well because the coach pulled him. As he was being replaced, he commented to the coach: “I bet you wish I was Jewish now”.
A couple of years after retiring from baseball with a multiple of awards and a stellar track record, he met the young woman who six months later became his wife. At the time she was redecorating her parent’s Malibu beach house. He offered to help her paint. He mentioned nothing to her about baseball. It was several days later that she learned his identity.
Koufax lived with a sense of humility uncharacteristic of many athletes made famous by skill and accomplishment. Five years following his retirement, he opted to move to what one author described as “the back booth of America”. He moved to a rural setting near a small town in Maine where he could blend in with the locals and live anonymously.
Apparently, he was a creature of habit. Almost every morning at 6:00 a.m., he made his way to breakfast at Dick’s Diner in Ellsworth, Maine. The diner was located about fourteen miles from his home. Though he was always polite and friendly to patrons, he preferred the privacy of sitting in a booth, the one farthest from the entrance.
The article I read expressed it this way: “He came so often that the family who owned the diner stopped thinking of him as Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived. They thought of him the way Koufax strived all his life to be thought of, as something better even than a famous athlete: He was a regular”.
Because I had self-imposed chores to do last night, I limited myself to simply reading the preface to the book. Did I mention that I don’t routinely read the preface to a book? I read this one and I’m already hooked. The author’s ability to throw a curve ball on her own draws you in and makes it an easy and interesting read. Koufax hadn’t asked that his story be written. It was the author’s idea and she was intent on accomplishing her objective. It took her four months to find his contact information. Then she had to sell him on her intent.
She says of herself: “The first call I made, when I began reporting, was to the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, looking for old ballplayers who had a key at-bat, a good swing, a good story to tell. I was connected to Dan Foster, who considered my request, and then said: “Here’s what I want you to do. Write a letter to each of these individuals. Place his name in the center of a white envelope. Place your return address in the upper left-hand corner and a stamp in the upper right-hand corner. We will fill in their address. That way, if they choose to respond they can.”
I can hardly wait to get back to the book. It is destined to be a good read.
All My Best!