Emerging Writers. One Big Leaguer’s Story
On Baseball, Growing Up and Making a Difference
One Big Leaguer’s Story. Episode 4
In early 1939, with his father by his side, Try signed his first professional contract, as a second baseman in the Cardinals minor league system. His first stop was the AA Columbus Red Birds. “I signed for $1,500,” he recounted to Nate, “which was good money at that time for a singles hitting second baseman. It was all quite an adjustment, living on my own for the first time, being up north where it was a lot colder and a bit of a different kind of life, faster, not as friendly, just different is all I guess you’d say. Everyone was nice to me though and that made it easier adjusting.”
Try remembered his first bout of homesickness, early in his first season. It was an off day, he hadn’t been doing that well at the plate or in the field though he never stopped working hard despite the lack of results, and the rain kept coming down in torrents while he sat in his room watching it fall and thinking, thinking way too much. “I’d give it another season, I finally decided,” he told Nate, “and then I would head back to the farm if the baseball thing didn’t work out.”
“But shortly thereafter things turned around for you, if I remember correctly.”
“Yes, they did. The coaches felt my knowledge of the game was good and I had enough patience to mentor some of the real young prospects so they started getting me involved with that and then I seemed to get back to hitting and fielding like I could and I was playing regularly at second base again. And all while helping the younger players who would one day really shine for the Cardinals. So it was all good,” Try thought back on those days with a smile.
“I remember this one kid, Bobby Keller, sure of himself, bright and very talented. He could hit, field, steal bases. He was good and knew it. Took advantage of his status as a top prospect. Came to workouts late, missed curfews, missed buses, disrespected his coaches, treated his teammates poorly. The manager wanted me to teach him a lesson. I said okay, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
“Funny how life goes. The very next game I was without a hit and my last time up I hit the ball back to the pitcher and was so disgusted I didn’t even run to first base. Now I always run, always give my best to the team, but not that time. The manager pulled me out of the game because of it. After the game, that kid Keller comes up to me and says, can’t believe you didn’t run that out, you always run ‘em out.
“I told the kid, let that be a lesson to you Bobby. The team is always more important than the player, no matter who you are. And he looked at me and I knew he finally got it. From that day on, it was never all about him anymore.”
Read Earlier Episodes of One Big Leaguer’s Story
One Big Leaguer’s Story. Episode 4 (This one)