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Beating the Odds

Tortoise or Hare?


I usually notice Oct. 3, the anniversary of the day Bobby Thomson hit baseball’s most famous home run. But yesterday it slipped by without notice, and today is a good day to revisit the event, especially with two baseball teams playing for their lives today, just as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were doing 58 years ago.

The Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers entered Sunday tied for first place, with room for only one of them in the playoff schedule. That means both faced the challenge of playing relaxed amid huge stakes.

For the Tigers the urgency was especially strong, because only a few weeks ago they seemed to have a comfortable lead. It has slipped to nothing, leaving a mind-body game that favored the Twins.

When, like the Tigers, you have a dwindling lead, you feel a sense that something rightfully yours is being taken. This brings stress.

On the other hand, if you’re the Twins, and you’ve been too busy to think about the odds, and all your energy has gone into clawing and scratching, then the game is fun.

This reminds you of the parable of the tortoise and the hare. While the hare did all the thinking, the tortoise just kept putting one foot ahead of the other. It’s so hard to do what the tortoise did and so easy to be lured into the hare trap.

I’m not saying the Tigers rested on their laurels. I’m saying that one day they began feeling what the hare did when he realized his once-comfortable lead had vanished.

Meanwhile, just one note about the Bobby Thomson homer in 1951. It capped a comeback and decided a tense playoff series. The Dodgers were the hare, owning a 13 1/2-game lead with only seven weeks left in the season. The Giants were the tortoise.

And Thomson was a man of destiny, who hit the game-winning home run. When asked about it, he said, “I just swung.”


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