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Role Models

Written by Posted On Friday, 15 October 2021 00:00

The 2021 Major League Baseball regular season began on April 1 and ended on Oct. 3. This is the final season of the Cleveland Indians competing with that 106-year-old nickname, a name they have used since 1915. Going into the 2022 season they will be known as the Cleveland Guardians. It’s a new era for Cleveland baseball and we wish them well.

Recently I went back through my TunneySide archives and came across what is probably my favorite baseball memory in “A Classic Baseball Story” where I unabashedly share my lifelong loyalty to the New York Yankees. As a kid, I would listen on the radio to the Yankee broadcasts each night before going to bed.

This column was so important to me then, and now, that I am going to beg your indulgence as I share it again.  There are some men and sports figures who are just bigger than life and the role model they provided us then, and now, should never be forgotten. For me, one of those men is the inestimable Lou Gehrig, known as “The Iron Horse”

My admiration for Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and that team still stands tall in my mind. Gehrig, the Yankee’s first baseman played 17 years – his entire career – for New York. Why would he want to play elsewhere? He was nicknamed “The Iron Horse” for his strength and durability. However, what separated Gehrig may be his retirement speech as death was approaching, due to ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) – now called “Lou Gehrig Disease.”

It was 1937, Gehrig was in Chicago where the Yankees were to play the White Sox. A friend asked Lou to pay a visit to a 10-year boy, named Tim, who was in the hospital stricken with polio. Tim was refusing to try therapy. Gehrig was Tim’s hero and Tim’s parents hoped a visit would encourage Tim to go to therapy. Gehrig made that visit and said to Tim, “I want you to get well. Go to therapy and learn to walk again.” Tim said, “Lou, if you will knock a homer for me today, I will go to therapy and learn to walk again.” Lou promised.

Although Gehrig had a career 493 home runs, this request came during the last two years of his career and home runs were not as easy to come by as they are in today’s game. The pressure was mounting as Gehrig rode to the ballpark, yet he felt a deep sense of obligation along with his apprehension. Well, Lou didn’t knock one home run that day. He knocked two!

A short two years later when ALS was taking the life out of the old iron horse the Yankees held a Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939. Yankee Stadium was packed with every dignitary possible. As Lou stepped to the microphone, Tim, now 12, walked out of the Yankees dugout, dropped his crutches, and, with leg braces, walked toward Lou at home plate and hugged him.

That’s what Gehrig meant when he said those immortal words. “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Who will you be a role model to?

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Dr. Jim Tunney

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career in sports. A former high school coach, teacher, principal and district superintendent, he had a 40-year career in officiating football and basketball.

Thirty-one of those years he was an NFL Referee working a record twenty-nine post-season games including four Super Bowls, ten NFC/AFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and twenty-five Monday Night Games.

He officiated some of the most memorable games in NFL history. His book Impartial Judgment: “The Dean of NFL Referees” Calls Pro Football As He Sees It, chronicles his NFL career.

As a Professional Speaker, he is Past President of The National Speakers Association and a Charter Member of its most prestigious group – The CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame. Jim holds every professional designation of the NSA, including the Oscar of Professional Speaking – The Cavett. NSA named him Philanthropist of the Year in 2007.

Dr. Tunney (a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California) continues to serve his community as  Trustee Emeritus of both Monterey Peninsula College and York School; where he once served as Headmaster. In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation to support local community programs that develop leadership, work skills, wellness and self-esteem in youth. He and his wife Linda live in Pebble Beach, California. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

As an author he has written and/or co-authored thirteen books: Impartial Judgment, Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, Speaking Secrets of the Masters, You Can Do It!, Super Bowl Sunday, Insights into Excellence, Lessons in Leadership, Build a Better You and his most recent book, It’s the Will, Not the Skill.

If you are looking for a keynote speaker who educates, motivates and entertains with a lifetime of stories about leadership, team building and sports 831-595-3258.

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