As the first weekend of August is upon us, and the dog days of summer have officially set in, this time of the year always rekindles a spark for the game, and the life lessons the game can teach us from moments in baseball. 23 years ago yesterday, August 4, 1993, the White Sox were visiting the Texas Rangers, and this would be a day that would be immortalized in baseball history for life.
Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura would be the centerpiece of what would live in baseball infamy, and still claim a top 3 spot, in my book, in baseball brawls to this very day... but that's a different blog, for a different day. I assume most baseball lifers are familiar with the events that transpired that evening. However, if not familiar, footage is provided below:
How'd we get to the point where Ventura made the conscious decision to charge "The Ryan Express", and ultimately learn where the phrase "grown man strength" comes from? Juan Gonzales (JuanGon as baseball bros would understand) had gotten hit by the White Sox pitcher previously in the game, so Ryan decided he would take the opportunity to return the favor to Ventura later on (who was already 1-1 on the night with a RBI) with something high and tight, Robin didn't take too kindly to that, and bedlam ensued after this.
I mean the headlock and punches that Nolan get Ventura in would be something you see at a WWE pay-per-view, the only thing missing was a steel chair over the back. That headlock was some legit "son you're grounded, get to your room now" type stuff that I could watch on loop for days. While we could continue to breakdown the logistics of the scuffle for days, let's peel back the layers and talk a different approach and teaching moment about the game as we're transitioning into that back-to-school mindset.
If we take a step back, and break this down from a mental standpoint, we can take away many important points from such a significant moment in MLB history. The Rangers and White Sox were locked in a heated early 90's pennant chase, in which the Sox ended up winning the then West division, and there were already the makings of proverbial fireworks in the air that night with the whole JuanGon incident referenced earlier. However, much deeper than the actual altercation between the clubs on that night, life and baseball present so many parallels, and intertwine in so many ways that upon reflection we can take away lessons that carry on from baseball generations both past and present.
My takeaway from that Wednesday night in Arlington, 23 years ago, is that Nolan Ryan is proclaiming to his teammates that he will be there to defend his club at any moment, grind at all costs for the cause of winning while not compromising the integrity of the game, and not backing down despite anyone, or anything, who tried to derail "The Ryan Express".
As we're approaching the time of the year when many of our student-athletes are getting back in the classroom, getting back into the weight room, and fall ball is kicking off; it's important that we are able to create positives from any situation the game (and life) throw at us, learn from, and grow not only as baseball players, but individually as well. As we're embarking on the back-to-school time, it's imperative that we take that bulldog mindset to our respective programs and classrooms, while competing, grinding, and getting after it with a passion like these two had throughout their careers, and especially on this night.
It's safe to say after seeing the passion, and grit displayed by all parties throughout this iconic moment in MLB history that baseball isn't just a routine hobby, it's a LIFESTYLE shared by Nolan, Robin, the Korked family, and all the baseball lifers out there!