Thanksgiving means different things to different people around the country. The first thing that comes to mind to most is probably turkey and family. Stuffing and pumpkin pie likely follow. Football is on TV. The cool Autumn Wind is upon us. Leaves are changing and falling from the trees. Perhaps you or someone you know gears up for crowded malls and the Black Friday dash. It is a tradition for some. It won’t happen this year. More purchases are going online. Shopping on Thanksgiving weekend is definitely not me.
Travel is also part of the annual tradition. Planes, trains and automobiles are generally active. Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Thanksgiving 2020 is sure to be quite different. It’s not the first time giving thanks comes during a period of great challenge. That’s precisely the point.
The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the Autumn of 1621, when the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag tribe celebrated the colony’s first successful harvest. The conditions leading up to it were so harsh and devastating. It was a struggle for survival. The tedious and hard work was rewarded after surviving a year of widespread sickness and a scarcity of food. The Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated. They had indeed survived. A better future was ahead of them. There was a great sense of community. The tradition was born.
It was President Abraham Lincoln who first declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. That happened in 1863. The nation was in the middle of that Great Civil War. It was literally divided. Mason-Dixon was that line. That was the period of the greatest struggle on American soil. It wasn’t the last.
Life on Earth has always been dangerous. Cycles come and go. 9 decades ago, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. Benito Mussolini conquered Ethiopia. Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Communists made that Long March while the Great Depression blanketed the world.
That was another period of great challenge. 1 out of every 4 Americans were out of work. Hundreds of Thousands of unemployed Americans roamed the country by train sleeping in parks and on farms, which were later called Hoovervilles, after the 31st President. Hoover was succeeded by FDR.
It was a period of loss. It was also a period of gain. Will Rogers and Thomas Edison died. The Empire State Building rose. The automobile produced assembly lines, which revolutionized transportation. The bulldozer did the same for construction. The standard of living improved dramatically as electric grids provided clean, bright light without emitting smoke. Urban water networks supplied clean water, and sewer systems removed waste. Telephones allowed people to talk to distant friends. Baseball became the National Pastime.
Just months after the Stock Market crash in 1929, Babe Ruth signed a then-record contract of $80K per year to stay with the Yankees. He was paid more than President Hoover. Asked if he thought that was appropriate, Ruth responded, “Why not? I had a better year…”
Most of you probably know that I love Baseball. Playing it for years and working for the Atlanta Braves early in my career, it’s part of my soul. Baseball is a simple game on the surface; You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Inside Baseball is highly complex, with great strategy. It’s the only sport where the Defense has the ball. Baseball has no clock.
Baseball is a Team Game. I’m a Team Guy. Baseball is full of life lessons. There are definitely times for individual achievement. It’s a one-on-one competition between batter and pitcher. The team can’t help the 3rd baseman with a sharp grounder or a fly ball to straightaway center. The key is to know your role and anticipate. It’s a slow game, until it’s not. Always be ready. But the game is still all about the team. A pitcher could throw a perfect game, but can’t win if the team doesn’t score. A hitter could go 4 for 4 in a loss, because the other team scores more.
Baseball is full of selfless acts like the sacrifice bunt. You purposely make an out for the good of the team. They don’t show up in the highlight reels. But they play significant roles in success. Selfless acts are so important to society. They should be promoted. There doesn’t seem to be much of that these days.
Baseball helped diversity to assimilate in society. It helped little kids see success stories and idolize people who looked like them. Joe DiMaggio was one of the first Italian sports heroes. Hank Greenberg was among the first Jewish sports heroes. And of course, it was Jackie Robinson who shattered the color barrier, changing American sports forever. The evolution of the game was not easy and it was not quick. But it kept moving with irreversible force. That’s the story of America.
I am reminded of the scene in Field of Dreams, where James Earl Jones’ character speaks perhaps the most important lines in the film, which captures the essence of the game: “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game; it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”
I just love those words.
Thanksgiving 2020 will be one we Americans have never experienced. It comes during a pandemic. But we still have so much to be thankful for. I am so thankful. I give thanks to my Bedell Frazier Team, past, present and future. I give thanks for my family. I give thanks to our clients. Without you, there’s simply no us. We sure have been through a lot together. Every one of you has joined us on this journey together at different stages of our collective existence. It’s been quite a ride. I’m so excited about our future together.
I’m so thankful to you all.