Thursday, September 8, 2011

Principles Help Guide High School Athletes



Schools are looking for athletic programs to make a greater impact on students’ maturity and character. It’s an old song, but one that gets louder especially when something negative occurs that involves an athlete. Educators and coaches know that powerful examples help instill good values in students.

At Sporting Chance Press, we have a couple books that provide some excellent examples for students. These are books teachers and coaches will enjoy:

The 10 Commandments of Baseball and Public Bonehead, Private Hero

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy’s Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J. D. Thorne examines legendary MLB manager Joe McCarthy’s simple principles and illustrates them with the author’s own personal experiences along with classic stories from baseball’s golden era. McCarthy’s principles can be boiled down to short phrases like “always run them, take the bat off your shoulder, never quit, make the right play, respect authority,” and more. When coupled with brief story images of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and dozens of others, the principles come to life. The 10 Commandments of Baseball teach kids about effort, doing things right and seeing them through. Thorne's book is fun to read and the reading level is accessible to students.

Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle by Mike Cameron is a historical and personal account of the most famous play in baseball history and the poor rookie who suffered from it throughout his life. On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup in a critical game against the mighty Chicago Cubs. When Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1 and Moose McCormick on first, he rifled a single to right field easily advancing McCormick to third. Up next, Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell whacked a low liner that scored McCormack for the "win." But as was the custom at the time, Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse rather than tag second.

Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the runner should advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23, however, was different.


The rule was enforced. Merkle was called out, and the game was ruled a tie. A protest ensued to no avail and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series. Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead.” He was vilified so severely by the press that today over a hundred years after the Merkle game, the name Merkle is still associated with the moniker "Bonehead."

Author Mike Cameron sets the record straight in Public Bonehead, Private Hero. The author establishes the historical context of the game and then recounts the 1908 season and its aftermath for Fred Merkle and his family. By understanding how an intelligent athlete like Merkle could be maligned and vilified (bullied by the press), students can understand the impact of bullying and ridicule in their own lives.

he 10 Commandments of Baseball and Public Bonehead, Private Hero should be part of every high school library and can be ordered at Sporting Chance Press. Both authors, J. D. Thorne and Mike Camero, are available to speak schools, clubs and libraries. If interested, please contact us at ljm.norris@gmail.com .

Above Image from Library of Congress, William Perlitch, U.S. Office of War