I Don’t Play to the Grandstand

Bobby Doerr - Agness, Oregon
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, October 23, 2009
Bobby Doerr

The late Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr believed in what he called “doing good in order to deserve good.” The former Red Sox second baseman said he’d rather do things that help his teammates and his family succeed instead of simply benefiting himself. He passed away on November 13, 2017.

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It seems to me that what any man’s beliefs are depends upon how he spends his life. I’ve spent a good part of mine as a professional baseball player and the game that I play for a living is naturally a very important thing to me. I’ve learned a lot of things on the baseball diamond about living — things that have made me happier and, I hope, a better person.

I’ve found that when I make a good play and take my pitcher off the hook, it’s just natural for me to feel better than if I made a flashy play that doesn’t do anything except make me look good for the grandstands. It works the same way off the ball field, too. Doing a good turn for a neighbor, a friend, or even a stranger gives me much more satisfaction than doing something that helps only myself. It’s as if all people were my teammates in this world and things that make me closer to them are good, and things that make me draw away from them are bad.

Another belief very important to me is that I am only as good as my actual performance proves that I am. If I cannot deliver, then my name and reputation don’t mean a thing. I thought of this when in the season of 1951 I told my team that I would not play in 1952. I reached this decision because I realized that I wouldn’t be able to give my best performance to the people who would pay my salary by coming through the turnstiles. I don’t see how anyone can feel right about success or fame that is unearned. For me, most of the satisfaction in any praise I receive comes from the feeling that it is the reward for a real effort I have made.

Many ball players talk a lot about luck and figure that it is responsible for their successes and failures, on and off the field. Some of them even carry around a rabbit’s foot and other good-luck charms, or they have superstitions they go through to make sure things are going the way they want them to. I’ve never been able to go along with people who believe that way. I’ve got a feeling that there’s something deeper and more important behind the things that happen to me and whether they turn out good or bad. It seems to me that many of the things which some people credit to luck are the results of Divine assistance. I can’t imagine an all-wise, all-powerful God that isn’t interested in the things I do in my life. Believing this makes me always want to act in such a way as to deserve the things that the Lord will do for me.

Maybe that’s the most important thing of all. Doing good in order to deserve good. A lot of wonderful things have happened to me in my lifetime. I’ve had a long, rewarding career in organized baseball. The fans have been swell to me, and I’ve always liked my teammates. But what really matters is that I’ve got just about the best folks that anyone could ask for. Doing what I can to make things more pleasant for my father and mother, and for my wife and our son has been one of the things I have enjoyed most because it seems to be a way for me to pay back something of what I owe them for all the encouragement and pleasure they’ve given me.

I guess the best way to sum it all up is that I’m happy to be around and I’d like to be able to make other people glad of it, too.

Bobby Doerr was second baseman for the Boston Red Sox from 1937 to 1951. He played in nine All-Star Games and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Doerr retired to land in rural Oregon he bought when he was a teenager. At the time he died at age 99 in November 2017, he was the oldest living major league baseball player.