The name Casey Stengel will be associated forever with the glory days of the New York Yankees. He managed those fabulous teams that fielded Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. They won pennant after pennant, World Series after World Series. As those players aged and retired, though, the team's fortunes went south. And Stengel had to find another job — even before the days of quick-to-fire-managers of the George Steinbrenner style.
It just so happened that a new Major League Baseball team had been formed in New York, and the fledgling Mets offered Stengel the manager's job. He accepted. Not known for getting the details exactly right, this is what he said at his media introduction as the Mets' first skipper: "It's a great honor for me to be joining the Knickerbockers." (Oops! The Knicks play professional basketball.)
Explaining why his first pick in the expansion draft was a catcher, Stengel gave one of his classic replies. "You gotta start with a catcher, 'cause if you don't," he said, "you'll have all passed balls." It's hard to argue with that logic!
In the Mets' first year of play, Casey's Castoffs lost 120 games. He must have known what was coming. At the team's first spring training in 1962, he took his players for a stroll around the diamond. "Them are the bases," he told them.
Although not competitive that year, the Mets gradually got better. Eight years later, they made it to the World Series.
Stengel was right. A baseball team needs to know where the bases are. And it does need a catcher to keep the ball from flying back to the wall with every pitch. These are among the basics to the game of baseball.
All of us need to get back to the essentials on occasion. It is easy to get sidetracked with fascinations and forget why we chose a particular career, made the commitment to love a certain person until death, or put our faith in Jesus.
If you have lost your early enthusiasm for any of life's truly important things, maybe it's because you've neglected the basics. You can get so weighed down with problems and squeezed by demands that you lose the joy God built into life. So maybe you need to get back to the fundamentals. Focus. Simplify.
Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them (Matthew 22:37-40 MSG).
When you remember the basics, all of life works so much better.