As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com) in Sept 2014
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
I was indirectly introduced to New York’s latest alleged baseball phenomena during an autograph and memorabilia show in Baltimore. I was wearing a Joe DiMaggio jersey, a symbol not of Yankee fandom but of a love for baseball history and the iconic players of yesteryear. The misleading attire left a fellow attendee and promoter convinced he had a prospect. Catching a rare glimpse of pinstripes through the sea of humanity – how many Yankees jerseys could have been in the Baltimore-based crowd? – the guy approached me with great energy, pamphlet in hand and, while searching for his breath, explained that the next great Yankee would be signing autographs the following weekend a little farther up I-95.
I was polite. I acted interested, thanked him and said I might see him next weekend. I lied. The fellow was beaming with excitement. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the soul-crushing truth: that I wasn’t a Yankee fan and that I had never heard of this kid he was billing as the next Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Munson, Ford, Berra, etc, etc, etc. Besides, only a Yankee fan would have known him. It was early 1995, after all, and Derek Jeter hadn’t yet played his first major league game.
But he would. He would play over 2,700 games for the Bronx Bombers during a 20-year career that saw him collect over 3,400 hits, record a career batting average over .300, win five World Series Championships, secure a ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame and, yes, earn his place among those Yankee immortals. Mr. Promoter, wherever you are, please accept my apology. You were right.
As Jeter’s final season wound to a close this summer, the accolades showered upon the Yankee great admittedly grew excessive. With gifts being presented at every major league city, it was a victory tour of such proportions that it inspired a few chiding critiques of Jeter’s “forgotten-in-the-revelry” shortcomings. Was he a great player? Absolutely. But, as the Jeter-realists pointed out, he never won a batting title, hit 30 homeruns in a season or was voted league MVP. In short, he wasn’t Ruth, Gehrig or DiMaggio.
Okay, that’s fair - not many players are – but if Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio set the qualifying bar for celebratory farewells…we’ll never have one. Further, nitpicking over Jeter’s shortcomings, lamenting what he wasn’t or didn’t do, threatens to complicate all that he was: the best shortstop of his era, humble, incredibly clutch and genuine in a time when many were not.
I love quotes. I enjoy the thoughts posted on Guy Distributing’s sign just off the main drag in Leonardtown. I dig bumper stickers, even if I disagree with the propaganda. The dry erase board outside my professional abode often contains a few scribbled words of wisdom. I’m in constant search of inspiration, a miner of life-fuel, I suppose. But then again, aren’t we all?
Near my desk I have a collection of personal thoughts I’ve compiled over the years. They are quips that keep me grounded, motivated and connected to my personal foundation. One reads, “Son of a bricklayer.” It is an ode to my dad, to hard work and to the trade that helped provide me footing in this world. When I see those words I am reminded of the importance of grinding day after day, of doing things the right way and of not cutting corners.