“Don’t Drop the Ball,” Friend, Mar. 1997, inside front cover
I’d like to tell you a baseball story. The event of which I speak occurred in the World Series of 1912. It was the last game, and the score was tied 1–1. The Boston Red Sox were at bat, the New York Giants in the field. A Boston batter knocked a high-arching fly. Two New York players ran for it. Center fielder Fred Snodgrass signaled that he would take it. He came squarely under the ball, which fell into his glove—then went right through his hands and fell to the ground! The roaring fans couldn’t believe it. He had caught hundreds of fly balls before. But now, at this crucial moment, he had dropped the ball. The Boston Red Sox won the series.
Snodgrass played brilliant ball for nine more years. But after that one slip, when he was introduced to anybody, the expected response was, “Oh, yes, you’re the one who dropped the ball.”
In the Rose Bowl football game of 1929, a player named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble and ran almost the length of the field toward the wrong goal line. He was tackled and brought down by one of his own teammates, thus preventing a score for the other team. He had lost his sense of direction in a moment of stress. His mistake cost his team a victory. He was a great player, but ever afterward he was remembered as the man who ran the wrong way.
In these examples, someone misplayed the ball. The baseball player had the self-confidence to think that he didn’t really have to try, that he could make it with only half an effort. But the ball passed through his hands and hit the ground, and he gave away the game. The football player thought he made a smart catch of someone else’s fumble and ran the wrong way, giving victory to his opponents.
This kind of error doesn’t happen just in sports. It happens in everyday life. In the world, temptations are tremendous. Satan is clever and subtle. We cannot afford to drop the ball. We need not run the wrong way. The right way is simple. It means never losing sight of what is expected of us as children of God.
Occasionally we may stumble. I thank the Lord for the great principle of repentance and forgiveness. When we drop the ball, when we make a mistake, there is held out to us the word of the Lord that if we repent, He will forgive our sins and remember them no more against us.
If every one of us would make the effort to do our best, the world would be much better, and we would be much happier.