Bitterness Strikes Out

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Not too many people can say they are friends with a Major League Baseball batting champion. But Al Oliver and I know each other well.

Al and me at a coffee cafe in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Al is most remembered for playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates where he won a World Series with them in 1971. He earned three Silver Slugger Awards, was voted to seven All-Star games, won the National League Batting Title in 1982 with Montreal, and finished his career with a lifetime .303 average.

That’s a good resume for any professional baseball player.

And he had more impressive accomplishments, but you get the idea. He could play baseball well.

But when his name first appeared on the ballot for sportswriters to consider him for induction into the Hall of Fame, he came up short.

Al did not receive enough votes to be put back on the ballot the next go around.

In 2019, his name came up to the Modern Era Committee for consideration into the prestigious HOF. This committee addresses players who were left off the ballot for unusual reasons. They might have been overlooked due to outstanding circumstances.

President Ford and Al in Pittsburgh. Wikipeida.

The small group of 10 said no. He will never be inducted into baseball’s elite group.

His stats are more impressive than many who are already in the HOF.

I met up with Al one day a few months ago, and we talked about baseball immortality over a cup of coffee.

Our conversation is included in chapter eight of my book, Dugout Devotions: Inspirational Hits from MLB’s Best Vol. 2, which is on deck for next season.

Here is an excerpt:

Is Al disappointed to know that his name will not be enshrined where It – by all rights – should be written.

“It’s just something that I have to deal with and accept,” he said. “I definitely did my best as a player under some tough situations.”

Even at ages 38 and 39 when most players are out of the game, Al still played and produced.

“That’s the way I was brought up,” he said. “You play hard, you give it your best, and you trust God with the rest.”

Al has every right to be bitter and disappointed. But he’s not.

“There is always something to deal with,” he said. “I lost my parents at a young age and had to deal with that. God was in control then, and he’s in control now. I’m not angry because I did my best and it’s just part of life. It’s gratifying to know that so many people think I should be in the Hall of Fame, and that’s all that matters.”

Al also said that his main goal is to reach Heaven’s Hall of Fame.

“I know I’ll be there,” he added with a chuckle.

Are you bitter about something that happened to you? Maybe the overall result is out of your control. If anyone has a right to feel bad about not getting what he deserved, it’s Al.

He did most things right and has better stats than some enshrined in Cooperstown, New York.

But he had to let it go and move on. He knows it will never happen.

What do you hold on to that you need to turn over to God?

Bitterness can rob you of joy and peace.

Here are some signs you might be bitter:

  • You think you deserve more than what you get in life
  • You never feel satisfied with personal achievements
  • You are paranoid and feel like everyone is out to get you
  • You feel vindicated when others fail
  • You cannot congratulate friends for their success

Here are some ways to overcome bitterness:

  • Focus on the many blessings God gives us that we don’t deserve and give Him thanks
  • Set realistic goals for yourself and accomplish them one at a time
  • Ask God for peace and self-confidence
  • Avoid jealousy and strive to support the success of others
  • Lend a helping hand

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51: 10 KJV)

Al is a good example of someone who is not bitter. He played by the rules and as hard as he could. Does he deserve to be in the HOF? In my opinion, based on his statistics alone he deserves to be inducted.

What do you deserve?

 

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