by Bill Hudson
In the summer of 1956, I was an 11-year-old boy enjoying the childhood postwar freedoms of the '50s in Parkville, Maryland. With my neighborhood friends Alverta and Brother Wright, we took our baseball gloves on the #19 streetcar five miles to Baltimore’s Clifton Park. We got off, and walked another mile to Memorial Stadium arriving two hours early to watch batting practice, and maybe catch some fly balls, before the start of a double-header between the Orioles and the hated NY Yankees. What a day!
At that time, I knew I was good at one thing. . . baseball. And I dreamed of becoming the greatest baseball player ever. But things changed for me that afternoon as we sat in the right field bleachers with a great view of the phenom, 24-year-old Yankee center fielder, #7 Mickey Mantle. Mantle was on his way to winning the Triple Crown that year with a season-ending .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBIs while earning a whopping $32,000 salary. He was distinct from the other ball players with his massive neck, arms, and legs. . . legs that propelled him from home to 1st in only 3.1 seconds—faster than anyone!
As the games progressed, Mantle further distinguished himself. He batted with incredible power either right-handed or left-handed. During one at-bat right-handed, he hit the hardest shot I’ve ever seen—a line drive past third baseman George Kell that never rose and never fell. It stayed in a straight line like a rocket that Bob Nieman caught against the left field wall. And that was the beginning of a bad day batting where he struck out a total of four times in the two games. But after his fourth strikeout, Mantle became so enraged he threw his bat, stormed into the dugout and began kicking the metal water cooler while screaming profanities so loud that the game stopped. The entire stadium went silent listening to his unrestrained anger. The Oriole pitcher just held the ball on the mound as he and everyone else listened to the clanging of metal with each violent kick. When the noise subsided, the game resumed. But Mantle missed the next few games while his knee recovered.
It was then that I realized something about greatness. I wanted it. But Mantle needed it. And Mickey had been born with physical capabilities I could only wish for. On that afternoon in Baltimore, I lowered my expectations to be just a great pitcher.
For the 67 years since that day, I’ve contemplated “greatness” from the eyes of a teenager, adult, parent, and grandparent. Through decades of observation and experience I’ve formed more meaningful opinions.
(1) Greatness is the result of improving the world by helping others.
(2) Greatness is not measured with fame, wealth, or power. These can actually become distractions to greatness.
(3) Greatness is quiet, small, humble, and often unrecognized. It originates with content people willing to share. . . sometimes sharing with complete strangers.
(4) The greatness of role models like Mickey Mantle, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, is in revealing what is humanly possible so that others can believe.
(5) Everyone has different talents, attitudes, experiences, handicaps, freedoms, and constraints. Therefore, our personal path to greatness is unique.
(6) Becoming great requires effort, commitment, and a willingness to step beyond our comfort zone.
(7) God created each of us with value and purpose. He then provides opportunities and indicators confirming we’re on the right path. Ask for both.
(8) We need to keep our eyes open and notice when occasions to help others align with our capabilities.
(9) Most professions contain elements of service and, therefore, paths to greatness.
(10) As visual artists, aren’t we fortunate. . . allowed to paint in any style, with few rules and no records to surpass. We simply need to learn, develop, and improve while competing with no one else creating in our unique style. Artists help others through example, instruction, encouragement, inspiration, and achievement.
(11) Perhaps the most humble, selfless, overlooked, yet most significant path to greatness is being a mom. Mothers give life, then become devoted servants nurturing their children into adulthood. Here’s to the “greatness” of Moms everywhere.
Happy Mother’s Day