It was 25 years ago, when the Detroit Tigers were playing the team from Cleveland. The score was a tie. It was the last half of the ninth, and two men were out. The fate of the game rested with Moriarty, the white-bloused figure that shuttled back and forth at third base. As the decisive moment approached, Tigers and Naps stood up at their benches, and 18,000 spectators bent forward in tense expectancy. Moriarty was on third.
He had come there in the ordinary way. At bat he had hit the ball and run to first. The next batter had bunted and sacrificed to move Moriarty on to second. Then a "long fly" had advanced him to third. There he stood, alert in every nerve, his powerful running legs, his quick eye and quicker brain holding the hazard of the game.
Much as it meant to have advanced that far, third base runs are not marked up on the scoreboard. Third base is not a destination - it is the last way station on the road "home." The world is full of third bases. To leave school, to earn your college degree, to enter a profession, is only to start toward third base. To get the job you want, even to become the head of your business, is merely to reach third base. Third base is opportunity, and opportunity is not arrival, it is only another point of departure. Attain the White House itself, and you have only got as far as third base. The test of all you have is yet to come. No time for self-applause on third, many a promising run has died there. And there stood Moriarty. If he failed, it was not alone, the team failed with him. Concentrated on him at that moment were the hopes and fears of thousands who seemed to hold their breath, and so still was the great park that even the breeze seemed forgetful to blow.
One way to get off third is to wait for someone to bat you off. Another is to get away on your own initiative - Moriarty chose that. He knew his game. He knew the catcher's signals called for a ball thrown high to Mullin, who was now at bat. He knew that a runner might duck low to touch the home plate while the catcher's mitt was in the air for a high ball. He knew that in throwing high, pitchers "wind up" in a certain way. He knew also that pitchers have a way of "winding up" when they don't intend to throw. He knew, moreover, that this pitcher, being left-handed, could not keep watch on third while delivering the ball - the runner might safely take a longer lead. Moriarty knew all the ins and outs of his job. Luck might lie in the lap of the gods, but preparation, knowledge, judgment and initiative were with the player.
Had Moriarty waited for Mullin to bat, Mullin might have failed him, ending the inning. One opening remained: make "home" between the moment when the pitch was begun past all recall, and the moment the ball struck the catcher's mitt - make "home" in the fraction of time Mullin's hit or miss hung in futurity. That would be a contest in speed between a five-ounce ball delivered with all the force of a superb pitching arm and the 170-pound body of Moriarty! An unequal contest, for the pitched ball travels only 60 feet while the runner from third must hurl his body over a distance of 90 feet.
Moriarty is on third. He builds his prospective run as an engineer builds a bridge across a torrent, with infinite pains. Now the Cleveland pitcher is poising himself for a throw. Moriarty is crouched like a tiger ready to spring - Now! There is a white streak across the field! A cloud of dust at the home plate! The umpire stands over it with hands extended, palms down. That old baseball park echoes and re-echoes with a thunderous roar of acclaim, which bursts forth again and again in thrilling electric power. Every eye strains toward the man who is slapping the dust from his white uniform. Moriarty is Home!
It was only a run made in the course of a baseball game; but it has been saying to us these many years - Don't die on third. You may be put out, but it need not be by your inaction. If the run must die, let it die trying. All of us are on bases. Some of us are waiting for someone to bat us further. Suppose he misses! Mullin missed the ball that day - had Moriarty waited, he would not have scored. It would not be right to say that all the world's a baseball diamond; - it does offer us the ever-present choice between indolence and initiative, but life's rules are fairer. In life there is an inner scoreboard where every effort is credited to your record. So, while there's one thing yet to do, and there's always one thing yet to do, or a fraction of time to do it in, Don't die on third. Study conditions, learn all you can, use all you learn, summon your strength and courage, defy luck - and, then bold player - just by doing this, you have already scored. Something great is strengthened within you. The run may fail, but you have not, and there's another game tomorrow.