Success can be accounted for in different ways: talent, opportunity, effort, connections, luck. Sometimes it’s a mixture of several of these, and this holds true for various areas and/or phases of life: school (as teacher or student) , business, athletics, the world of art, communications and theater, the military, personal relationships (especially marriage), and even religion (or, by extension, the spiritual life).
One area that is fairly easy to address in this matter is that of athletics, or sports, as we say, if for no other reason than the success of athletes, whether professional or amateur, is constantly being scrutinized, measured and compared with other athletes. And it is widely broadcast and disseminated in the various forms of the media, employing various ways of measuring success.
Now that we are in the baseball season, especially professional baseball at the “major league” level, we have ample opportunity to reflect on success in terms of the various baseball teams, and of the individual players filling out their rosters. Various types of tabulated statistics are available to the serious student of professional baseball, to facilitate comparisons between different teams, and a variety of players, in their various field positions or batting statistics.
For example, we can look at the Cincinnati Reds, and two of their players, both of whom were fairly good. Their careers are now over, their playing time just missing one another, with Bell departing from the team in 196l, just as Rose was coming aboard the team. They both enjoyed success during their years with the Cincinnati team , a success that is easier to compare in terms of the kinds of persons they showed themselves to be on the field (though Rose played infield while Bell was in the outfield) or in the dugout than in their batting averages (since they faced different pitchers).
Both were judged to be successful ball players (overlooking here the scandal with which Rose was eventually charged). I knew Bell personally, but not Rose. They brought different styles to the game: Bell was laid back, Rose was intensely involved. Bell took what came his way; Rose competed for every inch accruing to him.
The success they enjoyed was traceable to these starkly different styles, both of competing, and, in general, of living one’s life. Bell made the best of a situation that may not always have corresponded to what he might have wanted for himself; Rose would reshape a disagreeable situation into one more to his taste and liking. Bell was casual; Rose was combative. But both were successful.
Bell conformed to the situation in which he found himself. Rose changed the situation to conform to his liking. Can we learn anything about success in comparing these two ballplayers? Is there any one thing they had in common to account for the success they enjoyed?
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of factors forming the recipe for success: talent, opportunity, effort, connections, luck. Both of these ballplayers had native talent for baseball, and both recognized opportunity to display their talent, when the occasion offered. Both had the get-up and go, and made the effort needed to grasp the opportunity when it offered. And “opportunity” goes hand-in-hand with effort, to supplement its importance. And then there is the element of “connections”, that is, persons in a position both to note talent, and to bring it to the attention of those that matter in the baseball enterprise. And, finally, there is the oft-cited element of luck.
Luck can be reduced to the level of a charm one carries, like a rabbit’s foot. But it can also be elevated to a higher level of significance, such as the providence of God. In fact, God, in His providential care for us, can appropriately be linked to most of the elements listed in the formula or recipe for success: not only “luck”, but talent, opportunity, effort and connections.
In terms of these two individuals, all of these converge on the relatively small area of life called the baseball game. They also account for the more significant segments of our lives. But, whatever area on which we focus, to ascertain success in our efforts, it is perhaps well expressed in the familiar saying: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” When Gus Bell and Peter Rose walked onto the playing field, it was what happened when they used their bat and fielders’ glove. And this may have happened from something inside them different from any combination of talent, opportunity, effort, connections or luck. It may have come, as they say, from “heart”. And God operates there too.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.