Persistence and love make the game

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One opportunity I’ve had in the past 18 months at the Reporter has been to interview two former Major League Baseball players/coaches — both of whom pitched in at least one World Series. The first was former San Francisco Giants’ manager Roger Craig when I was working on the 2007 Profile story about Montevallo native Jack Nabors. Nabors holds the MLB record for consecutive losses.

With July 4 and the MLB All-Star break approaching, talk is stirring about who can make a mid-season free agency deal to better the team — something that reminded me of my talk with Craig last January.

Craig began his career in the 1960s without the umbrella of free agency hanging around. He began his baseball in an era where players stayed most of their careers in the same uniform. Money wasn’t the deciding point for the old ball players, it was environment.

“I was in the major leagues,” Craig said. “Those dumb fools paid me. I would have done it for nothing.”

That’s similar to the sentiment echoed in October when talking with Calera resident and former MLB pitcher Virgil Trucks.

Teams that are in need of a turn around this all-star break or even high school teams needing to turn things around this upcoming athletic season can learn from Craig’s personal philosophy of persistance.

“If you want to talk about losing, I can tell you about it,” said Craig, who lost 18-straight as a pitcher for the Mets in ’63. Nabors’ 19-straight loses with the Philadelphia A’s in 1916 is still the MLB record.

Craig struggled that season, but bounced back, something Nabors never had the opportunity to do.

“It goes to show you that if you don’t give up and keep fighting someone will give you a chance,” Craig said.

It’s that persistent attitude that helped lead Craig to a job in the dugout after he couldn’t last any more on the mound. He’s been told that his experience with the Mets made him a better person and shaped him to become a manager.

His dream was only to have the chance to play for his homoetown Durham Bulls in Class B ball. Instead Craig spent 35 years in the majors as a player or coach.

So, for teams gearing up for a late run in the summer or a new season, remember the love of the game first. Craig’s generation did.