I have a theory with which I think most people would agree. If when you meet a girl (or guy) and want to familiarize yourself with his or her essence, there’s a foolproof way to do that. Pose this question: “Describe to me one of the top ten days of your life.” The answer will provide insight hours and days of hanging out just might not! I don’t have a list of my top ten days on hand or in my mind. But reading a baseball book this morning in which 150 major leaguers describe their one most meaningful hit, I remembered one I’ll share today.
It was the summer of 1963. As usual, mom had prescribed for me one of her “meaningful” summers (as in no coed camps where all I do is try to feel up girls). In later years, those summers involved canoe trips, bicycle excursions and the like. But this summer was sports camp. Camp All America was its name. But it wasn’t exactly all about sports. It was about discipline (of which I didn’t have a lot) as well. Predictably, this institution was located in Croton, New York on the campus of New York Military Academy (where our president went to school). The day started with calisthenics on the quad. Then a shitty breakfast in the mess hall – segueing into an hour and a half of cleaning up our bunks for inspection military style. I assume you’re getting the picture.
Once that was all done, we had two choices: Organized baseball or a basketball clinic run by RED AUERBACH. (I kid you not.) In retrospect, I wish I’d opted for the clinic at least once for obvious reasons. But I liked baseball. So baseball it was every time. But I was having a problem. Back in the hood, the same boys who I still convene with to this day and I would play ball after school and on weekends almost every day. But none of it involved fast pitching. Given that batting cages didn’t exist back then, I was having difficulty catching up with the unfamiliar speed of the pitcher’s delivery. And like almost everybody else in the league, making contact was an issue.
One day, another of the teams was short a guy. And so I played for that team. Whatever I did good or bad would not directly affect my team’s standing. On my second at bat, I took the usual humongous swing, expecting the usual – a swing and a miss. But instead, I hit a monster drive out to left field. So far over the head of the left fielder went the ball that I easily rounded the bases with plenty of time to spare even though I was wearing sandals which were flopping around my feet. I can still remember screaming “I did it for the wrong team. The wrong team,” as I stumbled home with the winning run. Whatever…I had finally slain the beast, catching up with the speed of fast pitching and hitting a ball as far as I possibly could. Word spread quickly in the barracks by lunchtime. Asked about the homer, Fat Pete told Louie “That ball was tagged!” You’d have thought I just won the lottery.
Now if somebody had asked me the top ten question and received that answer, what would he or she think about my essence? Competitive? Driven? Athletic? Passionate? In fact, all of the aforementioned. And that’s basically who I am. So to the point: Wanna know who you’re talking to, ask about a top ten day. The answer is likely to be oh so enlightening.