Rambling On About My Glory Days: A League of Our Own
To be part of something that is considered truly great is a special feeling. I own a major league World Series ring and trophy from the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers of which I am very proud. However, I was such a minute part of that team that it cannot be considered great for me. However, 1981 was magical and if I might say “Great” for another reason. I was a member of the 1981 Albuquerque Dukes. If you look up “greatest minor league teams of all time” you will see that team listed at number 11 – http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/history/top100.jsp
If you look closely, you will notice that Duke team to be the highest ranked team that played after 1940, and to find another team listed after 1945 you have to go all the way to # 23. We had a crazy, good record and beat another Triple-A team 25 out of 26 games. I do remember the other teams in our league were happy when the first half of the season ended so records would restart at 0-0. Everyone would have a chance for the second half championship, but not for long as we proceeded to win our first 10 games of the second half and were on our way again. The follow-up article on that Duke team goes into great detail about players, manager, team, etc. and it stirs up emotional thoughts for me when reading – http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=11.
There were many reasons for our success with having talented players (many future major leaguers), good chemistry and a great leader in manager Del Crandall as the leading ingredients. Beyond that, you may recall it was the year of a long major league player strike so our team stayed intact all summer. What I want to portray about the season though was the feeling that I felt and that our team felt. We knew we were good and we liked to win. That is common for a lot of teams though. What was evident even more was that we really did not like losing. You might think, “Well, that is the same as wanting to win,” but it is slightly different. When you play to win you give your best hoping to have that winning feeling. When you win, you feel good, enjoy it and sleep at night.
Greatness comes about when a team decides they will not lose and they do all they can to avoid losing. They put more intensity into everything, so they do not have to experience that losing feeling. They prepare the right way, pull for each other, play every inning like it is the bottom of the 9th and feel as though they are truly part of something special. This great, special feeling does not come along very often and is what spurs special teams night after night. When you lose and you know you are the better team, you feel miserable, stay up half the night trying to figure out what went wrong and are determined not to let it happen again. When a team decides that losing is not fun and do all they can to prevent it, greatness may appear.
This is a hard concept to explain; maybe you have to have been a part of a team like that to know what I mean.
By the way, that 1981 Albuquerque Dukes team actually had one more win that didn’t show up in the standings. When the major league strike finally ended, sometime in August I believe, the Dodgers flew our whole team to L.A. to play an exhibition game against the big league team to help them get back in game shape. It was very cool of the Dodger organization and especially for players who did not go on to a major league career. I will save the rest of this story for another post.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction site that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport