...Ty Cobb helped his Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis
Cardinals in extra innings with his hustle, verve and some
superb base running. Branch Rickey, the Cardinals manager
at the time, later made these observations while thinking
about Cobb's exploits:
"I commenced to ask myself what it was that made a man a
distinguished ballplayer. Take two men of equal ability; one
of them will always stay in mediocrity and another will
distinguish himself in the game. What is the difference?
The more we compress and confine the element of luck- luck
has it place in games; it is in the English language; it is in the
dictionary, and we ought to keep it there- and put it in a
small area, just to that extent do you enlarge the area for the
exercise of a man's own functions in controlling his workings,
his destinies, and his game.
The more that a man exercises himself and asserts his own
influence over his work, the less the part that luck plays. It
is true in baseball that the greatest single menace to a man is
his willingness to alibi his own failures; the greatest menace
to a man's success in business, I think, sometimes is a perfect
willingness to excuse himself for his own mistakes.
What is the greatest single thing in the character of a successful
enterprise, in the character of a boy, in the character of a great
baseball player? I think it is the desire to be a great baseball
player, a desire that dominates him, a desire so strong that it
does not admit of anything that runs counter to it, a desire to
excel that so confines him to a single purpose that nothing else
That thing makes men come in at night, that makes men have
good health, that makes men change their bad technique to
good technique, that makes capacity and ability in men. That
makes a team with 80 percent possibility come from 60 to 70
percent, that makes them approach their possibility; and with
a dominant desire to excel, that simply transcends them into
a spiritual force.
The greatest single thing in the qualification of a great player,
a great team, or a great man, is a desire to reach the objective
that admits of no interference anywhere. That is the greatest
thing I know about baseball or anything else."