Sixth Grade Class, 1961, Samuel Gompers Elementary School
A few weeks ago our family enjoyed the end of another Little League Baseball season. What fun to cheer for our younger grandson, Jack, and to watch his team spirit at each game. It was easy to tell Jack knew he belonged on the team.
As I watched my grandson's games, my thoughts went back to my sixth grade class at Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Lakewood, California
(see photo above)
. Yep, that's me at the top of the class! No ... really! Top row in the center . . . with the glasses; the shortest guy in the class.
(Well, that label might be a toss-up with Petey Carter.)
I really did not figure out I was short until I was well into the sixth grade. I knew some guys were tall but I did not think of myself as short ... go figure.
I also remember playing baseball in sixth grade; specifically being at bat. It was sometimes bitter-sweet when it was my turn to bat. Bitter because, all of a sudden, as I stepped up to the plate, I could hear the shouts from the other team, "Move in, move in!" The outfielders became infielders; additional short-stops and basemen to field my hit. Even so, I always thought it was sweet when I did hit the ball over their heads and send them running after it. I guess I played bigger than I looked!
One time, I was picked to be the captain of one of our class baseball teams. I quickly worked on my selection plan in my mind, and I was ready to pick my team players. I started off my team by picking Nicky Perko as pitcher.
(Nicky is the second to my left in the class picture. Hmmm ...Nicky Perko ... even sounds like a pro-baseball player, doesn't it?)
The other captain picked his first player. When it was my turn to pick again, Nicky suggested that I choose a
guy. I was really confused about Nicky's strategy. I decided to go against my own plan and go with Nicky's plan. I picked Lousy Guy #1. Then Nicky whispered to choose Lousy Guy #2. Honestly, I already had enough of his plan.
I turned to him and said,
"Nicky, we are going to lose every game with all these lousy players."
Despite my protests, he was sure of his plan to pick all the lousy players in the class.
"Tony, get all the lousy players and we will win,"
Nicky assured me. Pretty soon, sure enough, we had all the
players and all the
players ended up on the other team. All I could see was doom and gloom. But Nicky told me not to worry because we were
"going to be a team."
I learned that day that good players often are not a
but merely an assembly of individual players made up of all the
who try to out play their own teammates. Their pride divides the team and destroys the team spirit as they argue between themselves. And that is exactly what happened that day Nicky and I picked the lousy players. Our team beat the glory-team!
Counter-intuitive? You bet. It truly is upside-down. The moral: Don’t write off the lousy players. They may organize and turn upside-down your low expectations of them! Lousy guys tend to believe in each other and cheer for each other. They possess the power of belonging. They just may hit the ball over your heads! The lousy guys may win after all!
Thanks for the life-lesson, Nick!
Nick Perko and I, Eugene, OR, April 2013
PS: Talk about an upside-down team! Nick and I consider it an honor to belong to this team also:
For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, no many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. and because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 1:26-31