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15 Baseball Legends on the Game’s Greatest Lessons

From the stands, baseball seems to be dominated by the physicality of its players, whether it’s their booming, 400-foot home runs or their 100-mile-per-hour fastballs. Yet, the game’s greatest performers have often reminded us  that mindset as much as strength or skill is what ultimately makes or breaks their success on the field — much like it does with the situations we face in daily life.

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,” said the game’s most famous slugger, Babe Ruth, who hit 714 homers in his career and struck out almost twice as much. Baseball’s second chances, whether it’s a player’s next time at bat or the next game, have made it the “the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer,” in the words of Ted Williams, often considered the greatest hitter of all time.

For generations, fans have shown up at the ballpark every summer to watch their favorite players take part in “America’s national pastime.” But some legendary players have made a cultural impact that’s rippled far beyond the field — greats like Jackie Robinson, who broke racial barriers as the first Black player in modern Major League Baseball, or Roberto Clemente, who became a face for global humanitarianism in the 1960s and ‘70s. Here are 15 quotes from some of baseball’s greatest legends to help you keep your head up and your eyes on the ball as you navigate life’s curve balls.

In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.
— Hank Aaron, right fielder (1954-1976)

There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.
— Jackie Robinson, second baseman (1947-1956)

To be the best, you must face the best. And to overcome your fear, you must deal with the best.
— Barry Bonds, left fielder (1986-2007)

As long as I have fun playing, the stats will take care of themselves.
— Ken Griffey Jr., center fielder (1989-2010)

It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life.
— Mickey Mantle, center fielder (1951-1968)

The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money.
— Ernie Banks, first baseman (1953-1971)

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.
— Bob Feller, pitcher (1936-1956)

Hitting is 50% above the shoulders.
— Ted Williams, left fielder (1939-1960)

About the only problem with success is that it does not teach you how to deal with failure.
— Tommy Lasorda, manager (1976-1996)

It doesn't matter if we were down 3-0. You've just got to keep the faith. The game is not over until the last out.
— David Ortiz, first baseman (1997-2016)

Any time you think you have the game conquered, the game will turn around and punch you right in the nose.
— Mike Schmidt, third baseman (1972-1989)

Fans don’t boo nobodies.
— Reggie Jackson, right fielder (1967-1987)

You're not going to win by automatically going out there.
— Greg Maddux, pitcher (1986-2008)

Close don't count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and grenades.
— Frank Robinson, outfielder (1956-1976)

The two most important things in life: good friends and a strong bullpen.
— Bob Gibson, pitcher (1959-1975)

Photo credit: Bettmann / Contributor/ via Getty Images

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About the Author
Sean Neumann
Sean Neumann is a writer and reporter based in Chicago, Illinois.
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