In the spring of 1921, a young ballplayer named Louis Gehrig had a tryout for the great John McGraw at the Polo Grounds. McGraw was the manager of the New York Giants and one of the greatest evaluators of talent in the history of the game.
It was a good tryout. Gehrig hit a few deep balls. He was lively and quick. He was already showing off his almost inhumanely large lower body, which was so key to power at the plate. But then Gehrig headed to first base… where he promptly let an easy ball go through his feet. According to biographers, the tryout ended almost immediately. McGraw had seen all he needed to see.
We might call this moment McGraw’s Folly. In an instant, he sized up and judged this kid—and Gehrig was a kid: painfully shy, sheltered, inexperienced—and promptly missed out on the career of one of the game’s greatest talents and human beings. Gehrig would go on to play first base for the Yankees, hit hundreds of home runs, win six World Series and hold the record for longest streak of consecutive starts for over 50 years. Maybe he would have been worth a little more patience? A slightly more open mind?
It’s essential that we learn from these misses when it comes to talent. People are ciphers, even our own kids. We are not nearly as good at evaluating ability and predicting the future as we think we are. So we have to be forgiving. We can’t jump to conclusions. We have to give kids the benefit of the doubt. We’re better off being Jim Valvano’s father than we are being John McGraw—root for somebody, don’t write them off. Take another look. Expect great things.
From your kids… and their kids.
P.S. This was originally sent on September 8, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”