November 19, 2017

Lessons from a Legend

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the most compelling aspects of sports or reality television is that while they are simply games, life lessons are readily available. That is the premise of Lang Whitaker’s “In the Time of Bobby Cox.” A native Georgian turned New Yorker, Whitaker gives Cox credit for shaping many of his views.

Read this book because:

1. Most of us reach a point when we realize life doesn’t just happen. It requires consistent effort.

As a college student, Whitaker sought comfort from three sources: “Jerry Springer”, “Madden” and fast food. Add whatever games were on the tube. Somewhere along the way to starting a family, Whitaker looked to more of a father figure in the Braves’ skipper for a model. A stark contrast to Springer, Cox refused to promote himself. You knew what to expect. He merely punched his clock and gave it all he had night in and night out.

From the man who won the fourth-most games in MLB history, Whitaker gleaned 10 guiding principles that parallel his own life experience and form the basis of this book. A few of the virtues: Emotion, personified by Greg Maddux; Consistency (Chipper Jones); Greatness (Deion Sanders).

2. Through Cox, Whitaker learned it’s possible to succeed when you are young and inexperienced and thrown into the fire.

About the time rookie Jeff Francoeur was batting .373 in 2005, Whitaker was learning how to make dinner for himself and the love of his life. Neither the Braves nor the couple knew how things would go. But Cox and the couple were not about to flinch. The Braves needed production from an outfielder. The couple needed a break from takeout food.

3. Tom Glavine proved to be a useful study in patience for life beyond baseball.

Glavine threw his pitches as if he were stitching a quilt. Deliberately, he threaded each pitch in the exact spot he wanted it. Pretty far down and away but just a hair up and inside to catch the strike zone or to induce a batter to reach. His speed didn’t change much. No need. That unhurried, wait for it, wait for it mentality led him to 305 wins. Whitaker takes readers on a safari to see how this played out in his life.

You become like who you spend time with. No wonder then, after scrutinizing more than 1,000 of Cox’s games, Whitaker has more than a little of the legend in him.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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