It was a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1927, the place was Shibe Park, Philadelphia. There were 35,000 baseball fans all shouting and booing one man. Bob Lefty Grobe, who was probably one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time, had just struck Babe Ruth out on 3 pitch balls for the second consecutive time and two runners where left stranded on base.
As the great slugger returned to the bench amidst the wild and abusive jeering, he looked up into the stands with an unruffled smile, just as he had the first time he struck out, gave his cap a polite little tip and stepped down into the dugout before calmly sitting down and taking a drink of water.
In the 8th inning his turn came up again. This time the situation was critical. The Athletics were leading the Yankees 3 to 1, the Yankee bases were loaded. It was up to the great Babe Ruth to win the game or lose it.
As he selected his favourite bat and started toward the plate the crowd rose as one body, the excitement was tremendous. The 35,000 spectators wanted Babe Ruth to strike out again.
With his first pitch, Lefty Grove blasted the ball over the plate, Ruth swung and missed. The next pitch was good and Ruth swung so hard and missed that he staggered and went down. There was a cloud of dust as the big guy sprawled on the ground. The crowd was going mad. The Babe simply and slowly got to his feet, brushed the dust off his pants and got set for the next pitch. Grove delivered the fast ball, so fast few of the fans even saw it. Babe swung again, but this time there was a crack like a rifle shot, the ball soared high and far. It cleared the scoreboard, it cleared the houses across the street, and it was to be one of the longest hits is baseball history.
As Babe Ruth trod around the bases and across the plate behind the other runners with what proved to be the winning run. He received a wild ovation from the crowd, the same crowd that had been booing him all afternoon. Babe looked up into the stands docked his cap with that same little smile and the same expression on his face, exactly like the one he wore when he made his first two trips when he was loudly jeered and goaded by the crowd.
Now later in the season after the Yankees clinched the pennant. The sports writer Grantland Rice interviewed Ruth. He asked “Babe, what do you do when you get into a batting slump?” , Babe answered “I just keep going up there and keep swinging at them, I know the old law of averages will hold good for me the same as it does for anybody else, if I keep having my healthy swings. If I strike out 2 or 3 times in a game or fail to get a hit for a week, why should I worry, let the pitchers worry, they are the guys that are going to suffer later on”.
Babe Ruth unshakable faith in making the law of averages work for him enabled him to accept his bad breaks and failures with a smile. Now this simple common sense philosophy had much to do with making him baseball’s greatest showman, the biggest box office attraction and the highest paid ball player of his time. He had his faults like the rest of us but his faith in the law of averages made him great.
Babe Ruth hit 851 home runs, but he struck out 1,330 times, however, we don’t think about his failures and neither did he, he kept swinging and knew that the law of averages would get him a lot of points on the board over the season.
In trading we will be faced with similar challenges. We will step up to the plate and swing, and then have a miss, even a string of misses. But our risk management will keep us in the game long enough to give us the chance to continually get on bat and before too long we will see a stock soar like that baseball Babe hit in 1927. We might not hear the crack like the rifle shot described above, but it will feel none the sweeter.
It’s not about getting it right every time, it’s about stepping up to the plate and swinging. Ruth had his system, he believed in his ability, he knew that he could take the strike outs, but still come out on top at the end of the year. I feel the same way about my system. I will get struck out and take a small loss, sometimes even a larger loss through a gap down, but when I get a hit, it will take care of a string of losers, and either way I will tip my hat to the market and keep smiling, because in the end, I will win.
May today be a profitable day…for all of us.