Who’s the Greatest?

I’ve just finished reading the book Ty and the Babe by Tom Stanton. It’s the story of the lifelong competition on and off the field between two of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
I grew up a Detroit Tigers fan. My dad was a Tigers fan. As a kid, he had their starting lineup and batting averages memorized. I used to have entire rosters of baseball cards and particularly tried to get all the players on the Tigers and the Yankees.
My dad firmly believed Ty Cobb was the greatest baseball player of all time. He was the first person inducted into the baseball hall of fame. He set incredible records that still stand or stood for decades. He was the consummate Tiger Woods of baseball of his day. He strategized every move and every game and worked passionately to find any way possible to intimidate an opponent.
The careers of The Babe and Cobb overlapped for a few years. The book gives detailed accounts of their interactions, their efforts to top each other, and their life after baseball. It’s a great sports story and one that fascinates me because I too grew up a Tigers fan and a Yankees hater. (After all, the Tigers vs. the Yankees is not just a friendly game—it’s winner-take-all.) Both of these Hall of Fame athletes had a winner-take-all mentality. After baseball, they met several times in golfing events, always trying to get the best of each other.
The book ends talking about how Ruth, who was far from a gentleman, was always a crowd favorite while Cobb, who could be coarse and rough around the edges, came across negatively as he aged. History has been much kinder to Ruth than to Cobb.
Whoever you would choose as the greatest, you wouldn’t be making a bad choice. After all, these guys batted in the high .300s in the era of the dead ball, no training facilities, no workout regime, no personal trainers, and no steroids. When they played, a man just simply had to be talented. You played every game, all out, every day.
So the question will never be answered, “Who was the greatest, Ty or The Babe?” It reminds me of a time when Jesus turned the definition of greatness upside down according to the world’s view of greatness. He said, “If you want to be great, be a servant.” You don’t see much of a servant attitude in people anymore.
Through the years in ministry, I’ve dealt with people who want to be on important committees. They want the influence, platform, recognition, and praise. But the last thing they want is to serve, especially if they are going to be treated like a servant. Even when we serve, we can be self-centered—“Make sure you recognize me for my humble service.”
Greatness in God’s eyes puts you in the Faith Hall of Fame. To get there, you have to go against the grain, stand against the culture, and care little for your reputation. It might even cost you your life. But a generation from now, the famous people of the world will be forgotten. Those who have faithfully served the living Lord will be remembered for all eternity. God didn’t call us to be famous; He called us to be faithful.
Records can be broken. Standards for judging great athletes and artists will change from generation to generation. One truth stands: regardless of the age, culture, or circumstance, if you want to be great, be a servant. The Son of Man came to serve. What are you here for?

One thought on “Who’s the Greatest?

  1. Using a metaphor like baseball to tie together your thoughts around the Biblical verse is a clever approach. I did not favor Babe Ruth, he was a womaniser and anything but a Christian; although he was a good baseball player. Ty Cobb, I don’t know anything about him.
    Wes Allard – Mansfield, Texas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *