From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

Yerr Out!

Setting a good example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age.

William Feather

My father gave me a great example of self-control when I was a boy watching a church-league softball game.

Dad was forty-three at the time and very active. Though he wasn’t known for hitting grand slams, he was good at placing the ball and beating the throw. Singles and doubles were his specialty, and he did the best he could with what he had.

This particular dusty, hot Phoenix evening, Dad poked a good one right over the second baseman’s head, and the center fielder flubbed the snag and let the ball bloop between his legs.

My dad saw this as he rounded first base, so he poured on the steam. He was 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds, and very fast. He figured that if he sprinted for third and slid, he could beat the throw.

Everyone was cheering as he sent two of his teammates over home plate. The center fielder finally got his feet under him and his fingers around the ball as Dad headed toward third. The throw came as hard and fast as the outfielder could fire it, and Dad started a long slide on that sun-baked infield. Dust flew everywhere.

The ball slammed into the third baseman’s glove but on the other side of Dad—the outfield side—away from a clear view from the ump, who was still at home plate. Our team’s dugout was on the third base side of the diamond, and every one of the players had a clear view of the play.

Dad’s foot slammed into third base a solid second before the ball arrived and before the third baseman tagged his leg. But much to the amazement—and then dismay—and then anger—of the team, the umpire, who hesitated slightly before making his call, yelled, “Yerr out!”

Instantly, every member of Dad’s team poured on to the field and started shouting at once—Dad’s teammates were intent on only one purpose: They wanted to win, and by golly they knew they were right!

The two runners who had crossed home plate before Dad was called out had brought the score to within one. If Dad was out—and we all knew he wasn’t—his team was robbed of a single run.

With only one inning left, this one bad call could cost them the game.

But just as the fracas threatened to boil over into a mini-riot, Dad silenced the crowd. As the dust settled around him, he held up a hand. “Guys, stop!” he yelled. And then more gently, “There’s more at stake here than being right. There’s something more important here than winning a game. If the ump says I’m out, I’m out.”

And with that, he dusted himself off, limped to the bench to get his glove (his leg was bruised from the slide), and walked back into left field all by himself, ready to begin the last inning. One by one, the guys on his team gave up the argument, picked up their own gloves, and walked out to their positions on the field.

I’ve got to tell you, I was both bewildered and proud that night. My dad’s character was showing, and it sparkled. He may have been dusty, but I saw a diamond standing out there under the lights, a diamond more valuable than all the runs his team might have scored.

For a few minutes that evening I was a rich kid, basking in my father’s decision to be a man, to hold his tongue instead of wagging it, to settle the dust instead of settling a score. I knew his character at that selfless moment was worth more than all the gold-toned plastic trophies you could buy.

Dad held court that night and the verdict came down hard and he was convicted of being a man . . . and the evidence that proved it was his powerful use of that awe-inspiring weapon. Self-control.

Clark Cothern

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