They called it Murderer’s Row.
The 1927 New York Yankees’ line-up was one of the most potent offenses to take the diamond. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri were penciled in the line-up three through six and the four combined for 544 RBI. Ruth broke his own major league record for home runs with 60 and had a slugging percentage of .772. Gehrig set the record for RBI with 175, batted .373 and won the league MVP award. Meusel and Lazzeri both batted over .300 and had over 100 RBI.
Ruth’s 60 homers topped all American League teams and the Yankees’ home run total was than a third of the home runs hit in the American League.
Former Yankee Milt Gaston of the St. Louis Browns gave up 18 home runs that season, eight of those to the Yankees. Gaston must have felt a little like George Gobel on the couch of the Johnny Carson Show.
In 1969, the comedian took his place on the couch besides the earlier guests, Bob Hope and Dean Martin. Gobel thanked Carson for having him on and then posed the question, “Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes?” Gobel broke up the entire set with his quip.
Boys’ basketball in the Piedmont District this year compares favorably to the ’27 Yankees or the superstars on Carson’s couch. In a district that features teams in 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A, it is reasonable for the district to produce multiple state champions in March. While there are years where this is not the case, this is not one of those years. There are three teams in the Piedmont currently ranked in the top ten of their perspective divisions.
GW-Danville currently leads the Piedmont and the Eagles are also ranked number one in Virginia in Division 4A. The Eagles are currently 12-0. Halifax County, ranked ninth in Virginia’s 5A rankings, is 13-1 on the season, with its lone loss coming at GW before Christmas.
Martinsville is ranked fourth in 2A play with a record of 8-4. The Bulldogs had a one-point loss to Halifax in early December, and a 15-point setback to Northside, the undefeated and top-ranked 3A team in the state. Martinsville lost to Morehead during the Christmas break on dropped a 44-41 decision to GW on Friday night.
As a 3A member of the Piedmont, we have a very young team this season, often starting four sophomores on any given night. We recently went through a nine-day stretch where we played five times, losing to Magna Vista on a buzzer beater, defeating Chatham, and hosting Martinsville, GW and Halifax respectively.
When you are working with young players, it is important to find the positives in a negative situation and there were plenty of opportunities in those games to look for the silver lining. The Martinsville and GW games were never really close and the Halifax game was pretty much decided by halftime.
In games like this when the outcome has been decided, it’s about continuing to fight, never giving up, and winning individual possessions. There were times where we battled to the end and there were times where we didn’t. The hope is the satisfaction from continuing to fight will outweigh the frustration of losing.
We talk all the time about the larger picture, something much larger than basketball, but more about life. The challenges we face in our relationships or the situations presented during a game or practice are preparation for those things we will face in our lives.
Sterling Williams is the coach of Halifax County and my relationship with Sterling goes back to when he was a student-athlete at Averett University, playing for Jimmy Allen, now coach at Army. Sterling took a GA position at Averett after graduation, but eventually went back home to Halifax, taking over the position as head basketball coach.
In each of these games against the top teams in our league, coaches have been classy, calling off pressure when victory was no longer in doubt. In our game against Halifax, our players had a unique opportunity to learn to grow as young men.
In the late stages of the fourth quarter, Sterling put in his final substitution, a young man with special needs. We didn’t notice him initially, but as Halifax moved towards their basket, we recognized him located near the Halifax bench. His teammates passed him the ball and we instructed our players to leave him unguarded. He made a few dribbles and put up a shot that banked off the backboard and through the net.
The Halifax contingent cheered wildly and I even noticed one of my players clapping his hands as we headed downcourt after he scored. He was able to get one more basket before the end of the game. When the game ended and the teams went through and shook hands, not one Halifax player or coach failed to thank us for allowing this young man a chance to celebrate and feel a part of his team’s victory.
Basketball great John Wooden once said, “You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
All things considered, it was the end of a perfect day.