Sunday, January 24, 2010

As Subtle as a Belch

"I've never been a yes man." That's for sure. Rogers Hornsby pretty much called it like he saw it. He didn't make a lot of friends as a player and made even fewer as a manager, but Hornsby's performance at the plate wasn't affected by his lack of popularity off the field.

Hornsby joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915 at the age of 19 and quickly became a standout. His extreme focus meant no smoking or drinking (not even coffee!) and no newspapers or movies for fear of ruining his eyesight. While his teammates found this dedication odd, it paid off for Hornsby. His career batting average (.358) is second only to Ty Cobb. During the 1920's he hit more home runs and brought more men home than any other player and he accomplished all this as a right-hander. Most pitchers are right-handed, giving right-handed hitters a disadvantage and making Hornsby's accomplishments even more impressive.

Although Hornsby's teammates appreciated his powerful bat they could probably have done without his powerful tongue lashings, especially when he became a player-manager. His direct approach with his players was even mentioned in a popular scene from the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. Sportswriter Lee Allen said "he was frank to the point of being cruel and as subtle as a belch."

This frankness and other distasteful behavior affected his legacy. Ask most casual baseball fans if they've heard of Rogers Hornsby and the answer will be no. He did not inspire the affection that other baseball greats got and he'd probably tell you he didn't care - he just wanted to win games!

While I can respect Hornsby's desire to tell it like it is and, to a degree not wanting to censor himself to please others, I think he could have learned about giving constructive criticism to his players. This is an area many managers struggle with, though admittedly most don't get it quite as wrong as Hornsby did! In my job I train Instructors in the Family Development Credentialing (FDC) program, a strength-based approach to working with families. By focusing on individuals' strengths rather deficits, change is more likely to occur. This approach can be used by counselors, managers, parents, coaches or anyone wanting to help someone with a change.

Hornsby, like many great players turned managers, never understood why his players couldn't become a great hitter like him. Maybe if he had participated in our FDC class he could have had better results as a manager and changed his legacy as well. But... I wouldn't have wanted to be the instructor that had to put up with him in the class!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Statistics