Baseball? It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion. ~Ernie Harwell, “The Game for All America,” 1955
When Douglass Wallop penned the 1954 novel The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant, he had no idea what a historical foreshadowing he had just captured in his work. Written during a time in which the New York Yankees were dominating Major League baseball, the novel was adapted into a musical by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and appropriately entitled Damn Yankees.
Opening on 5/5/55, the musical’s protagonist, Joe Boyd, a disgruntled lifetime fan of the ever-defeated Washington Senators to long time nemesis New York Yankees proclaimed, “I’d sell my soul for one long-ball hitter!”
When Lucifer enters the scene dressed as a cunning salesman named Applegate, we witness a retelling of the classic German Faust legend in which moral integrity is sacrificed for personal gain, prevalent in many other modern day works of art. Joe Boyd strikes a deal with the Devil as he takes on the persona of handsome young slugger Joe Hardy in order to realize his dream of the Washington Senators finally winning the pennant, but exercises his right to an escape clause at the last possible second crying out, “Let me go!” and returns to the life he once knew with a new-found appreciation for all the simple blessings he had formerly overlooked.
In 1972, the real life Washington Senators relocated to Arlington, Texas and became known as The Texas Rangers. Wallop, Adler, and Ross could have never predicted the collective victories of the 2010 “Washington Senators” franchise and one of the greatest turnarounds in Major League Baseball history following the acquisition of the Rangers by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg.
Fate stepped in for the franchise through the shift in leadership coupled with the emergence of a modern day Joe Hardy and voice of the I Am Second movement, Josh Hamilton, who has been bought back from captivity himself, yet still slugs the ball like a shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO even AFTER being released from the Devil’s grip.
Following the poetic justice of Alex Rodriguez’s third strike that led to the former Washington Senators at last clinching the American League Pennant, Hamilton delivered an unforgettable post-game interview amidst ginger ale celebrations by his entire team. “God is good. The intentional walks contributed to the win.” This coming from a young man who just a few years ago was beyond the brink of ruin and gave his heart to Christ for a complete turn around.
Turn around. Those are the very same words that Sean Tuohy’s wife Leigh Ann told him that changed his life, just before convincing him to take an unlikely stranger into their home. John Lee Hancock wrote and directed the story of Michael Oher’s adoption by the Tuohy’s in The Blind Side, a film that was literally picked up out of the trash, reported Tuohy, as he addressed local citizens recently at the Christian Community Action major annual fundraiser Season of Hope.
“The Hollywood term for that: A turnaround film,” said Tuohy. “In our house, we believe in miracles.” He stated that the reason a film projected by Warner Brothers to “only” bring in 75 million actually brought in half a billion dollars is because it is about giving, citing the notion that each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
In this current season of hope, giving, and economic crisis, a heart may be all we have to give. I don’t think anyone can truly understand the heart of giving as do Todd and Tara Storch of Coppell, Texas who recently traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to meet 40 year old Patricia Winters after her complete turnaround following the tragic snow-skiing accident that claimed the life of their 13 year old daughter Taylor.
Winters’ life was saved by Taylor’s gift: her beating heart. While one community mourned, two sons regained a mother. Through social media, the Storch and Winters families were able to connect. “It’s so strong,” said a tearful Tara Storch when she listened by stethoscope for the first time since Taylor’s death to her daughter’s heartbeat inside Patricia, a heartbeat that has never stopped since being formed deep inside her body a little over thirteen years ago.
Josh Hamilton, Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy, and Todd and Tara Storch all have one thing in common: selflessness. In some respects, they can each testify, “Except for God’s abiding presence, I have stood alone in the battle and won, and I have the scars to prove it.” They have each woven together their intelligence, sensibility, and free will to turn around, to become….second. In doing so, we are all witnesses to the great and mighty works that God has accomplished through their lives in spite of the insurmountable obstacles, deep-seeded criticism, and overwhelming grief.
Yes, we were witnesses to a restored Josh Hamilton stepping up to the plate while his signature song Until The Whole World Hears rang out. We have seen it with our own eyes, the one who has been bought back. We have seen the redemption of a loving Father in Sean Tuohy and realized that we, too, are adopted sons and daughters of privilege. And finally, Dear Reader, we have seen the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice of the Storch family whence new life was given though they paid the final price on this earth.
In this season of thankfulness, may our hearts not only be as strong as a mighty oak, but may we never overlook the needs around us. May we always possess giving and grateful hearts, considering others better than ourselves. In all things, may we give thanks to the One Who is first in our lives. May we never be afraid to turn around. May we always be second.