MoneyBall for the rest of us #2: What Choate Baseball Legend Tom Yankus taught me about life.
Continued from Moneyball and TY #1… Choate will soon honor Baseball legend Tom Yankus in an as-yet-undisclosed grand gesture. But lifetime winning averages on the diamond are one thing. Winning averages over a lifetime are quite another. As Rod Serling once said, there were signs along the way.
So thirty years on, what I have learned is that the signs he gave us, and the strategies we executed, were actually great lessons in life.
One note: in an act of stunning simplicity and ultimate cunning, TY “changed the signs” every year- to the same signs! From from 1958 to 2010! No one on another team ever stole, in spite of their simplicity, because no one would have been stupid enough to use the same ones every year. And as TY adds “We made them simple to be certain that OUR guys got them right!”
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Thumb to chest was a Delayed steal. A unique move where the baserunner waits until the long after a normal stealer would take off, and then takes off. No-one alerts anyone of the steal, and the result is everyone on the opposing team yells at each other. No sweeter song than listening to that while standing on second base. The lesson was to Stay alert, you may catch them napping.
- Red hankee out on the clipboard was a suicide squeeze. I loved the finality of it. We needed a run, and we had a guy on third. Everyone had to execute and it was a walk in the park: anyone chickens out and its an out, a double play, out a bat in the head. The lesson, of course, have confidence in yourself.
- Arms Behind Back was a hit and run. It was a great way to get things moving, and take a chance when the upside is there. A missed sign here meant a sure out, but execution meant you could score from first. The lesson was to measure the risk against the upside (or downside)… and run like hell.
- Hand to the Shin was a bunt. It was a way to get things started, to build a little momentum and confidence and perhaps manufacture a run. It taught me that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and taking it bit by bit was not a bad way to get things started. Particularly with younger ballplayers, getting a little confidence under the belt was key.
- And finally, hands on hips meant, invariably, “kid, you still have a lot to LEARN”!
Did I have any clue that, as I took my lead off first and peered toward the Choate bench for TY’s next move, he was actually giving me signs I would use the rest of my life. The way I thought ahead, maybe so. Which would explain why I was picked off first once or twice, daydreaming. But, by and large I put the signs to good use. Still do.
Next: TY the interview:What did he kids teach teach the coach? And finally, likely, some details on what’s coming down on the honors front.