“You Got To Be In It To Win It: The Lesson of Wally Pipp”

It’s early February and oh and Baby, it’s cold outside! Yet in just a few days, Mets and Yankees pitchers and catchers will report for spring training. The start of a new season reminds one that there are many life lessons to be gleaned from baseball lore.

One exercise question that is often asked of personal trainers is, “Should I exercise when I have a mild cold or am feeling exhausted from a tough week of work, kids or life? Or should I baby myself and just sit it out?” According to the American Council on Exercise, the clinical answer is, “…It’s better to keep moving and exercise at a lower level of intensity than not to train at all when you are not at your best.”

In today’s hyper-competitive, time-compressed world, the importance of continual personal improvement cannot be overstated. You need every advantage you can beg, borrow and steal.
div>But the best answer can be found in Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball of Fame.
How differently things could have turned out for Wally Pipp if he had made the decision to keep himself in that game instead of sit it out. What…you are unfamiliar with true story of Wally Pipp, the most important baseball player you never heard of?

Born Walter Clement Pipp in 1893, Wally became the NY Yankees everyday first baseman in 1915. Pipp was a wonderful fielder, a career leader for fielding percentages (.992) and putouts at first base. In addition, he was a great slugger, having twice led the American League in home runs. More important than hitting homers was his ability to drive in runs: for six years he had 90 or more RBIs. In 1923 he had 108, and in 1924 he had 114…all before the days of steroids, designated hitters and domed stadiums.

Then on June 2, 1925, the wheels of his career went off the tracks. Pipp asked Yankee’s manager Miller Huggins if he could sit out the game because he had a headache. Deferring to his star slugger’s wishes rather than trusting his own tough guy reputation as the Yankees skipper, he allowed Pipp to take the day off. Next he told young rookie Lou Gehrig to fill in for Pipp. After that, Pipp never played for the Yankees again. He was traded to the Reds and retired two years later after subpar seasons. That was the end of his career.

On the other hand, Gehrig’s record 2130 consecutive games played over 14 years stood until it was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr. Both Gehrig and Huggins are in the Baseball Hall of Fame while Pipp is relegated to obscurity as a Double Jeopardy question.

What would have happened if Pipp had swallowed an aspirin and reduced the intensity of his warm-up exercises and batting practice and decided to gut it out on that fateful spring day? Would things have turned out differently? Would Yankee Stadium be the House That Pipp Built? We will never know.

Would you get more out of life if you had more energy? Would you be better prepared for life’s curve balls if you had more stamina and strength?¬†¬†Unfortunately most of us do not have the option of taking ourselves out of the game and asking the manager to have a pinch hitter take the kids to the dentist or have someone come off the bench to do our job at work for us.

“Team, tomorrow we begin a tough series on the road. Our opponents are cagey and have had a long winning streak. Their lineup includes Lethargy on first; Complacency on second and Lack of Confidence is pitching. These guys are tough but predictable. We can beat them with our team. Nobody can turn a double play like our winning combo Self Efficacy and Experience. Confidence will be hitting leadoff and Commitment will be our starting pitcher. If things get tough, we can always bring in Resilience from the bullpen to close out the game. ”

Get a good night’s sleep, and be ready to exercise tomorrow. Even if you are not feeling 100 percent, just give tomorrow’s workout your best effort. This training will give you an advantage you can take with you everywhere you need to be.

When you are tired, achy, and not at your best, what do you do to gut it out? I’d love to learn what keeps you in the big game of life.