The mind of an eight-year-old child is a sponge. Nearly everything he or she sees and hears is processed and stored to aid in future experiences.
My father loved teaching me new things, and I could see the excitement in his eye when he did so, like it reminded him of when he learned them himself. My dad stayed informed on a wide array of topics, and he frequently passed that knowledge along to me. For example, on
November 9, 1989, we watched the ABC
World News’ coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall. My dad said to my sister,
Lindsay, and I, “Make sure you remember this date. It’s a very important date.”
Another one of my dad’s ongoing projects was building my vocabulary. I can attribute one word in particular to the Phillies, and more specifically, former corner outfielder Wes Chamberlain. The word of the day was “potential.”
Whenever my dad spoke about Chamberlain, he always talked about how much potential he had as a player; he had the potential to do great things as a Phillie. On this day, Chamberlain sought to prove my dad right.
The Phillies hosted the San Diego Padres. Our seats were in the upper deck (older fans can well remember the seats of school bus yellow), and it turned out that we were at a good altitude for the show Chamberlain was about to put on.
In addition to the new word I had learned, I fell in love with the home run, as Mr. Potential clubbed not one, but two three-run bombs. All I could do was shake my head and say, “Wow,” as the ball sailed out of the yard.
They were the first home runs I had seen at a game, and possibly ever.
Chamberlain finished a perfect 4-for-4, and his six RBI set a career high for a single game. The Phillies cruised to a 9-3 win, and unbeknownst to me at the time, they were in the midst of a 13-game winning streak that would pull them out of last place and make up nine games in the standings. Philly would never return to the basement in 1991 and finished the season in third, its highest standing since 1983.
Chamberlain had a total of three 4-hit games that year and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting, but sadly, he didn’t live up to my dad’s hype. He never moved beyond the role of a backup outfielder, and by the age of 29, he was out of baseball. My dad and I caught but a glimpse of what could have been. Still, I will never feel sorry for witnessing the best game of Chamberlain’s career.
My dad may not have known it, but Chamberlain’s performance taught me another important lesson in the end. When you put forth your best effort, you may not always succeed, but every so often you can achieve what seems impossible.