Sportsmanship at its finest.
I have a good and long-time friend named Jim Jung. He pronounces his last name Young. I am constantly reminding him to correct the spelling. If you want the honor of having the last name Young, you have to spell it right. Jim Jung is a great guy, but his spelling needs some work.
Today, I want to tell you the story of another Jim Young, a man who spelled his last name correctly. Jim Young, who passed away some years ago, was a successful lawyer who worked with a respected firm in our city. But, there are lots of lawyers here and everywhere and that did not distinguish him. What set him apart for me was how he conducted himself as a team manager in our community’s summer baseball league. We have all learned of instances of adults - masquerading as juveniles - screaming and swearing at umpires, throwing objects on the field and even engaging in fisticuffs with other parents. Jim Young was the polar opposite of all that.
In 1981, I was the third base coach working under Jim. My son was the team’s catcher. The players were all 15ish. Some were really good and some were less than really good. But, it was a very good team that came to the championship game having lost only one time all season. Seventeen wins and one bad game when they did not bring focus, got sloppy, blew a big lead and lost.
A few minutes before the first pitch of the championship, Jim called the players, coaches and parents together and sent this powerful message: We’ve had a great season and everyone has played every game. League rules say that in the championship game, a manager can use his nine best players. Everyone does not have to play. But, that’s not the way we’re going to do it. We got here with everyone playing every game and tonight everyone is going to get their innings same as always. We are a team and win or lose, we will leave here as a team.
It’s been 40 years since I heard Jim say those words. What a role model for kids and parents. What an example of sportsmanship. What a leader for a team of youths.
And, oh yes, you want to know how the game turned out. Keep in mind, these were kids, not major leaguers. Typical scores in games like this are high. The final score was 1-0. We won and everybody got their innings and contributed. Think about how well that game was played to end up with a score like that. Full focus. Everyone working together. No one player dominating. A game, well-played by kids, with a lesson learned and I hope retained by everyone.
When the season was over, the team and parents all went to Jim Young’s house for a cookout and trophy presentation. He wasn’t one for participation trophies. Rather, as each player received his trophy, their manager shared a very specific example of how that young person had contributed to the team’s success.
It’s been 40 years since that magical season and championship game. Even after all that time, I continue to have a trophy in my office that is inscribed: Shaker Boys League, 1981 Senior A Champs, Davis Young - Coach. It’s a constant reminder to do what’s right, not just what’s required.
Long-time major league manager Leo Durocher is remembered for saying Nice Guys Finish Last. Now you know the truth. Nice guys finish first. Jim Young was one nice guy.
Thank you, Jim, for a life lesson well worth remembering. I learned a lot from you that season.
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.
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