A trip down Memory Lane...


Devoted fans of our national pastime will remember the name Mickey Rivers. He played center field for several teams in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most notably the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. He was a very good ballplayer, good enough to have a 14-year MLB career - an American League All-Star and two-time World Series champion.


I first watched Rivers in the early ‘80s when he was a key piece of the Texas Rangers, where he spent his last five years. In those days, the Rangers trained each spring in Pompano Beach on the east coast of Florida, and my son Denny and I were fans. Very recently, Denny and I made a sentimental stop back at the field the Rangers used. For us, it was like sacred family ground, definitely a stroll down Memory Lane.


Back in the day I would take Denny to Rangers’ spring training games, where we would sit in the first three rows behind home plate in the company of former players turned scouts as they clocked pitching speeds, regaled each other with baseball yarns and showed World Series rings from yesteryear.


Rivers was a leadoff hitter. Batting first today for the Texas Rangers and playing center field is #17 Mickey Rivers. From the on-deck circle would come Rivers shuffling to home plate. He walked slowly like one might imagine a man of 110 years in need of knee replacements.

Finally, he would arrive and stand in the batter’s box with his feet ever so close to one another. Long about the fourth pitch, he would make contact and was off to the races, flying down the first base line at the speed of sound resembling what one would imagine to be an Olympic sprinter. That extraordinary speed is where the name Mick the Quick came from.


Even more than his on-the-field skills, I became an admirer of his insightful musings about events of his day. Sports Illustrated once wrote of Rivers: He is the most sweetly irascible of ballplayers. His conversation is so full of twists and turns and switchbacks and culs-de-sacs that no grammatical roadmap can help you understand him. As former major leaguer Mike Easler said, He mixes you up. But if you listen close, he makes a hell of a lot of sense. This is what drew me to Mickey and why I absolutely loved him.


He had a special and unique way of framing his opinions. Here’s one of my favorites as it appeared in The New York Times. We got top names, guys can still hit in the majors, guys been out of the game hittin’ the ball, shockin’ it. Don’t have no old guys. Not sayin’ they don’t get a good job done. Fact is they’ve been vice versa. So that’s incentive right there. It’s been a plus.


And then there was this one: I like playing on this team. We actually been doin’ real good. Got a different mix here. Most important thing is you gotta keep pickin’ up in paces. That’s why we’re playing contentious play.


I miss those days. I miss spring training. I miss Mickey Rivers. He was a fun ballplayer worth watching, listening to and remembering. He brought a lot of smiles and good memories to a little boy and his dad. And he still does.

He didn’t sweat the small stuff. But, he sure was ready to fly down the baseline in a blur after shockin’ the ball. I don’t get upset over things I can control, because if you can control them there’s no sense in getting upset. And I don’t get upset over things I can’t control, because if I can’t control them there’s no sense in getting upset.

Sounds about right to me. Thanks, Mickey, for a lot of great memories.

DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.


This blog is a product of DY Author & Speaker LLC. Feel free to quote content with attribution. Respond. Agree. Disagree. Share the content with your friends. Heck - even invite him as a speaker for your group! Enjoy!

Elementary school was the last time I was tall enough to play on the basketball team.


Sports can teach important lessons at any level. An example would be that it’s probably not a good look for a youth sports parent to scream at a volunteer coach just because their son or daughter was removed from a game so another player could see some action, too.


Basketball, in particular, has made it possible for me to know good people and to learn some valuable life lessons. The current March Madness has rekindled memories of four excellent role models from my experience.


My career in basketball began when I became the indispensable sixth man on our elementary school team. It was a different game then, one played below the rim. Of course, I was only about 4’ 7” at that time. No windmill reverse jams for me. For short people (me), it’s still played below the rim.


Later I spent a year as one of the managers of our high school team. The leader of that squad was Marvin Trotman, who topped out at about 5’ 11”. That may not seem tall to you, but to me it did then and still does today. Marvin was the second best high school player I ever saw, ranking behind only LeBron James and the five high school games I saw King James play. I watched in awe as Marvin developed into a basketball superstar in a forest of taller timber and lesser talents. Absolutely unstoppable. Right around 30 points a game. He was the first player I ever remember who truly had a high basketball I.Q. But, he was also the first I knew who truly embraced the joy of the game. The better the competition, the better he played. He made it fun for everyone.


Like all really good players, Marvin was a student of the game. He went on to become second in the nation for all Division II scorers in 1962 and an All-American. Those are big accomplishments. Marvin was unselfish, but always open for a good shot if we needed one. He turned himself into a scoring machine. He would ultimately return to our hometown and become a coach, teacher, counselor and assistant principal at our old high school. He took his success on the court and paid it forward. Lesson Learned: Have the courage to take the big shot without carrying yourself like a big shot.


Austin Carr has been a fixture in the Cleveland community ever since he became the #1 pick in the 1971 NBA draft. Lucky Cleveland. A.C. has been known for many years as Mr. Cavalier. He could also be known as Mr. Cleveland as the recipient of the NBA’s Kennedy Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community. After basketball, he spent more than 20 years in community relations for the Cavaliers and as a Cavs game analyst for Fox Sports Ohio.


It would have been so easy for A.C. to let all the success go to his head - National Collegiate Player of the Year, being just shy of averaging 35 points a game in his Notre Dame career, scoring 61 points in a NCAA Tournament game, and the list goes on and on (including being a very good golfer). But, that’s not the A.C. so many of us got to know and appreciate. He knows there’s more to life than basketball. He’s always had time for other people. He listens more than he talks. He shares his success with teammates and everyone. Lesson Learned: It costs nothing to be a really nice person.


Gordon Gund became majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1983. A year or so earlier, the Gund brothers had purchased The Coliseum at Richfield, home of the then hapless Cavaliers, and had become a client of mine. I was there in 1983 helping with the announcement of the Cavs purchase and I was present 22 years later when Gordon sold his majority stake in the team in 2005. In the intervening years, I was privileged to be the communication advisor to the ownership group working alongside some very good people in every sense of the word good. I was not the only one who worked with Gordon for all 22 years. There were others. His commitment to his team and the people who ran day-to-day operations was a model of organizational stability and ownership loyalty.


But, beyond that, his work to find a cure for the eye disease that made him blind in his early 30s was always right up there on his list of priorities. Gordon never saw his team play. He could only listen to the amazing commentary of Joe Tait on the radio. But, he spent zero time feeling sorry for himself. He was too busy fighting blindness to let that happen. There is no quit in Gordon Gund. He was and is a very big person amongst the tall trees. Lesson Learned: Never, ever let adversity get the best of you. Face it. Stare it down. Defeat it.


Which gets us to a person who was not only big physically but a big person period. His name is Wayne Embry. What a basketball pedigree. Member of a Boston Celtics championship team. Five-time NBA All-Star. First African American NBA General Manager and Team President. Two-time NBA Executive of the Year. Wayne is tall timber. The last time I saw him he gave me such a powerful hug that I thought I might need oxygen.


What I will always remember about the years I worked with Wayne was this simple mantra he shared with all of us. Players win games. Character wins championships. He believed that with every bone of his 6’ 8” body. Yes, his job was to come up with the right players - ones who were more interested in team success than their own stats. And he had a great record for doing just that. But, there is a lot more to Wayne than that. He is a big person who made a big impression on me. He walked the talk. He was the real deal. Lesson Learned: Live what you say you are. Character is the difference maker that separates a team (or an organization) from its competitors.


At the advanced age of 81, my height has now shrunk to about 5’ 5”. Age, coupled with my lack of height, probably means I have a limited future in basketball. I need to come to grips with that. So, this blog will serve as my long anticipated retirement from shooting hoops. It’s a game played above the rim today and I need a ladder to do that. In addition to a ladder, which is an altitude issue, I confess to some attitude issues because I never got a shoe deal. That’s not fair, is it?


The best people I knew in basketball were all good people long before they excelled in some aspect of the sport. There were more, but these are four who stood especially tall along the way.

DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.


This blog is a product of DY Author & Speaker LLC. Feel free to quote content with attribution. Respond. Agree. Disagree. Share the content with your friends. Heck - even invite him as a speaker for your group! Enjoy!

Yes, we CAN all get along.


A little more than 20 years ago, my wife and I made a three week trip to Zimbabwe in south-central Africa. This beautiful country is well-known for animal viewing.


In advance, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would likely encounter. Animals eating other animals. Vicious fights over carcasses. Massive birds competing to carry off small game. In the time I was there, I did indeed see the animals and birds, but from an entirely different perspective.


Here are three lessons I learned.


Working Together Beats Working Alone. A long time ago, zebras and wildebeests discovered that working together toward a common goal makes each of them stronger and more successful. In the case of these two distinctly different animals, their common goals are to find food and to break bread in a safe environment. Wildebeests love to eat short grass. Zebras prefer high grass. To fulfill their needs, these partners travel great distances for the privilege of dining together.


On the African plains, there is always greater safety in numbers. A handful of zebras serve as sentries on the fringe of these combined herds to warn of danger in the neighborhood. Scientists point out the superior eyesight of zebras combined with the wildebeests’ better sense of hearing helps keep both of them alert and thriving. When danger lurks, they work together to fend it off. They operate as a team. They trust each other. Their combined success is far greater than either could achieve alone. Although their physical appearance is totally different, they operate as one unit. If you’re looking for team-building role models, zebras and wildebeests fit the bill.


Good Things Happen In A Positive Environment. One night, we went to a popular watering hole – not the kind humans might stop into after a day at the office, but a real one that serves just water. As with their human counterparts, water is an animal’s most precious resource.


There were easily a couple hundred animals at this watering hole all at the same time. Big strong ones. Small vulnerable ones. The disparity was clear immediately. The big ones were fully capable of imposing their will. But, they didn’t. There was no fighting, no pushing and shoving, no meanness, no cutting in line, no raised voices. Absolutely none. Every single animal was respectful of the others. All any of them wanted was their fair share of water.


Mentoring Matters. At dusk on another day, we found ourselves deep into a valley where we came upon a community of baboons on their way home from work. But, their work wasn’t done. At least 100 of these large animals came in our direction down a path toward a grove of big trees where they would spend the night. They sleep high up in trees to avoid the ever present danger of leopards.


The adults had well-defined roles. Some were sentries stationed along the path to watch and warn of danger. Others guided the young ones to different trees and helped them get way up high and settled for the night. When that was accomplished, the sentries followed up the trees. The group was totally focused on a single goal – safety for its members. It soon became very quiet as another day at the office ended for the baboons. It was so well-organized. For their children, it was akin to a teaching moment. Everyone had a job to do. Seeing this would convince you that all the adult baboons had received mentoring. And, indeed they were passing on what they had been taught to do.


Pulling together as a team. Thriving in a positive environment. Showing the next generation how it should be done. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? If the animals can do it well, we can, too.


When Los Angeles was burning a few years ago, Rodney King became famous for asking this question: Can’t we all just get along? I found the answer to his question in a most unlikely place – the heart of Africa.

We can learn a lot if we open our eyes and ears to the good and interesting things happening right in front of us. It’s indeed possible for all of us to just get along.


(This blog appeared in 2020 as a guest column in Crain’s Cleveland Business. DY the blogster will be back next Tuesday from Florida with new material. Have a great week everyone.)

DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.


This blog is a product of DY Author & Speaker LLC. Feel free to quote content with attribution. Respond. Agree. Disagree. Share the content with your friends. Heck - even invite him as a speaker for your group! Enjoy!

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