National Honor Society
With the arrival of spring, nearly everyone’s attention in
Only later did I realize that her teaching me to keep score was probably her
way of fooling me into being her eyes, but it successfully passed on the love
of the game she in turn got from her father, Wanamaker Gregory. Growing
up in a small town in southeastern Missouri, my mother and grandfather would
listen to Harry Carey broadcasting Cardinals’ games on the
radio and occasionally travel up to St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park.
Grandpa Wanamaker was a pretty good catcher in his day. I have always loved to
hear his baseball stories. He is nearly ninety today and has forgotten more of
the game than I could ever hope to learn. He played with people I have only
read about. In his prime, star pitchers from the St. Louis Browns
and Cardinals would ask him to catch for them during their off
season workouts. As was all too common in that era, he was considered good
enough for the fields of
This year, the national pastime is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jack
Roosevelt Robinson breaking the color barrier playing first base for the Brooklyn
In the 1996 HBO movie Soul of the Game, there is a conversation between Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, the Negro Leagues superstar pitcher who eventually became a 42-year-old big league “rookie”:
JR: I was thinking about my brother Mack. About how you know you guys
think I’m so fast? I just looked like I was walking next to him. He ran
the 200 meters in the Olympics in
SP: That’s one of them that Jessie Owens won.
JR: That’s right. That’s right. But Mack came in second. Then, a couple of weeks later, he ran the best pace of his life, beat Jessie’s time. Set a new world’s record. Yeah.
SP: I don’t recall that.
JR: No one does.
SP: So, what’s he doing? He playing ball now?
JR: Uh, he’s a janitor now.
Matthew “Mack” Robinson did indeed win a silver medal in the 1936, but how many of us, like Satchell Paige, “don’t recall?”
ABC News recently featured Larry Doby
as the largely forgotten second Black to play in the major leagues (the first
in the American League). Doby was an All-Star for six
consecutive years, led the American League twice in home runs, once in RBIs,
and was a key player in the Indians’ 1948 World Championship team giving
him (as well as Satchel Paige) the rare distinction of having won a
championship in both the Negro and Major Leagues. Doby’s
number was retired by
Many of us still remember Opening Day in 1975 when Frank Robinson became
baseball’s first Black manager and hit a home run in his first at bat as
I mention these people because one of the themes of the National Honor Society is leadership. I would define leadership with a term we Ignatians know very well: magis. Leadership is following the call to do “more.” I am honored to speak to you, the inductees, today even though I was never a member of the NHS as a student. Although disappointed at not being selected, I realized that, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” I concentrated my efforts on following up the successes of my Junior year with an even stronger Senior year. I went on to be accepted early decision at Georgetown, became a National Achievement Finalist, and studied what I truly loved: languages and literature-- a love I in turn hope to pass on to you as a teacher here at Ignatius.
So while you should indeed be very proud of your accomplishments, you must remember that “it ain’t over.” Being a member of the NHS is not an end in and of itself. You are being called to service, to do more, the magis. It is for this same reason that we call graduation commencement “a beginning.” True leaders realize how much more remains to be done.
This is not an enviable task. The magis is neither easy nor comfortable. Some of you may even be wondering, when does it all end? How much more do I have to give? You may begin to feel like Sisyphus, forever damned to roll a boulder up the top of a steep slope only to see it fall down the opposite side of the hill and begin the arduous task of rolling it back to the top.
Don’t be discouraged. There is hope. Albert Camus said the only way for the myth of Sisyphus to make any sense at all, il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux--you have to imagine him happy. I have to admit, I’ve always had trouble imagining how anyone could spend all eternity pushing a boulder back up a hill only to see it roll back down the other side and be happy. That is, until I met my father-in-law, Mr. James Woods.
Mr. Woods’ greatest joy in life was cooking. Nothing gave him greater
satisfaction than seeing others enjoy a good meal. Mr. Woods lived an
incredibly full life. He had served in the navy during the Second World War and
So I ask you gentlemen to accept the challenge of being leaders. Perhaps leaders like Jackie Robinson, but more importantly, leaders like Mack Robinson. Norma Jean Turner. Wanamaker Gregory. Larry Doby. James Woods. And thousands of other men and women whose labors may be all too easily forgotten. Be leaders who will insist that these examples live on.
* Larry Doby was
elected to the Baseball
Hall of Fame by the Committee on Baseball Veterans in 1998. Larry Doby died on