Ever hear of George Yantz? Born in Louisville, Kentucky, George was a professional baseball player who appeared in only one major league game.* He is one of thousands of ball players who made it to the majors for a “cup of coffee,” a very brief stint that sometime only lasted a single at bat. Of the 18,000 or so players (and counting) who’ve run up the dugout steps and onto a Major League field, 974 have had one-game careers.
Some might say it’s a tragedy that the fates allowed George only the briefest of glimpses before he was sent packing. And yet, how many of us would give half their 401Ks to be able to say we had been a major leaguer at one point in our lives?
So even if you’re like George and have the shortest of stints at the top, and are then summarily replaced by someone younger, smarter, and more nimble than you, take pride in that one gulp of pure oxygen. You might just appreciate the experience more than Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Pete Rose combined. Plus people will continue to buy you coffee (or something stronger) just to hear you recount the one time you stood at the plate facing high heat.
*George was able to say he hit an astounding 1.000 for his career, going 1 for 1 with a single on the one day he played. September 30, 1912. You could look it up.
It was a risky move in 1972 when President Richard M. Nixon decided to make cordial overtures to communist China. The USA and China had been at odds since 1949 when Mao Zedong took over leadership of China’s communist party. Despite decades of chilly relations, Nixon decided to warm things up and made a visit to China to meet elder statesman Mao and they had a nice long chat. Nixon said about his trip:
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word crisis. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.”
Wise words for any superoptimist to remember, courtesy of Mr. Nixon.
In August 1953, an obscure country boy named Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” He later claimed that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store. Biographer Peter Guralnick thinks that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.”
Elvis couldn’t imagine what was coming next for him. Who could foresee a glorious career of legendary fame and musical adventure? The future is hidden until it happens. You never know what you might be capable of, until later. If you knew what was in store for you, life wouldn’t be nearly so interesting. So maybe it’s time for you to head down to Memphis. You never know what might come of it.
In our society, memory lapses are considered embarrassing character flaws and the term “senior moment” has been coined to make a mockery of them.
But hold on here: isn’t it good to forget things? After all, most of the stimulus we take into our brains is not worthy of our attention in the first place. We don’t really need to know which actresses are posing nude on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair. Nor are the latest sports scores or political dust-ups crucial for our survival in the moment. Even a fact as seemingly crucial as who won the Super Bowl or the latest primary polling numbers is optional information. Really, losing memory is a blessing, as it clears out the crawlspace and leaves the mind free to remember more interesting occurrences, such as the time you hitched a ride to Philly to see OzzFest. Or how wonderful it was to jump a spider bike over a tree stump for the first time. Or remembering where you put the tickets to the opera you ordered three months ago.
Ah, bliss! Thy name is…uh…hmmmm…well, it’s obviously not that important.
Illustration: Getting older means more time for abstract thinking.