Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees Offer Keys to Success

Posted by Kenneth N. Winkler on

The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) induction ceremony was held in Cooperstown, NY on July 27, 2014. The inductees enshrined into the Hall of Fame (“HOF”) included pitchers Greg Maddux and Tommy Glavine, slugger Frank Thomas and managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre.

As is the HOF tradition, each inductee was given the opportunity to discuss his career and pay tribute to all of the people who influenced their lives, shaped their careers and supported them throughout their journey to becoming Hall of Famers. Torre, perhaps, described the ceremony best as a “celebration of chasing your dreams and putting the team above yourself.” While each speech was personal and inspirational in its own way, each inductee touched upon some similar themes that led to his success and ultimate enshrinement into the HOF. These themes transcend sports. From a human resources perspective, they provide some helpful lessons about what it takes to build a successful team and be successful in our own careers and businesses. Here are a few of the insights gleaned from their induction speeches:
  • Success Requires a Solid Work Ethic. There’s no question that each of these Hall of Famers was tremendously gifted and blessed with natural talent. But they did not become great on talent alone. Maddux, Glavine and Thomas each talked about the importance of working hard to become masters of their craft. They were relentless in their pursuit of perfection. Maddux and Glavine were notorious for working hard between their starts. They put in the practice time to become great. It is no coincidence that Maddux’s HOF plaque reads “Preparation, command and study of batters made him part-scientist, part artist, winning four straight Cy Young Awards.” As Frank Thomas “The Big Hurt” summed it up: “dedication, commitment to success- no shortcuts to success.”
  • Success Requires Support. Each of the inductees stressed the fact that they could not have succeeded without the support of others. Having mentors was instrumental to their success. For example, Glavine acknowledged the impact his manager Bobby Cox had on his success by always voicing support for Glavine’s efforts to the media, no matter whether he pitched well in a particular game. Torre commented about the impact other coaches had on him, including the late Don Zimmer who encouraged Torre to be more confident in taking risks while managing a game. La Russa thanked so many people who helped support him through his storied managerial career that he exceeded the given time limit for his speech.
  • Success Requires Patience. Baseball is a game of patience and persistence. Each of the inductees acknowledged the fact that failure was important—so long as you learn from it. Maddux won 355 games as a pitcher, was the first to win 15 games in 17 straight seasons, but still lost over 200 games. Glavine also won over 300 wins and similarly lost over 200 games. Thomas hit over 500 home runs but also struck out over 1,000 times. La Russa, Cox, and Torre currently rank 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively as the managers with the most career wins in the major leagues. Collectively, however, they lost over 6,000 games. That is a lot of failure. Nonetheless, they did not let failures get in their way. Rather, they learned from their failures and used their failures to motivate and push them to do better and win.   Baseball can be a metaphor for life, our own professional careers and for business in general. The lessons touched upon by the inductees: the need to have a solid work ethic, the importance of having positive role models and mentors, and the willingness to overcome failure and persevere, are all keys to every professional’s success.