Trying on the Other Guy’s Hat

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In the mid-1950s, during the heyday of Major League Baseball, Birdie Tebbetts was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Birdie’s public demeanor was gruff and irascible – fairly typical for skippers of that era.  But he also had a soft spot. 

After giving up three years of his playing career to serve in World War II, Tebbetts resumed his role as the starting catcher for the Detroit Tigers.  One day the plate umpire, who had also just returned from the war, confessed that he was having dizzy spells.  Afraid that he might lose his job, the ump quietly asked Birdie to help him call balls and strikes.  Tebbetts tipped him off with hand signals following each pitch.

Following his playing days, Birdie became manager of the minor league Indianapolis Indians.  Then Cincinnati called. 

Traditionally the Reds cherish no love for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Tebbetts occasionally had run-ins with the Cardinal’s manager, Harry “the Hat” Walker.

One day in 1955, Walker and Tebbetts were going at it, yelling at each other from their respective dugouts.  Then a brushback pitch hit a batter.  The game was beginning to get out of hand.  The umpire ordered the two managers to home plate to receive a warning.  Neither man was in the mood for conversation.

Tebbetts and Walker greeted each other with some unusually colorful language.  Then they started pushing.  Their caps came off.  Suddenly they were on the ground, looking like a couple of AARP-sponsored professional wrestlers.

Separated by teammates, they got to their feet, put their caps back on, and stomped off.  That’s when people started screaming and laughing.

Tebbetts was wearing Walker’s Cardinals cap.  And Harry the Hat was wearing the wrong hat – the one with Tebbett’s Reds logo.

The two men glared at each other.  Then they started laughing, too.  They walked toward each other, swapped caps, and shared a hug.  The umpire decided not to throw either of them out of the game.

Good things happen when we try on the other guy’s hat.  Even when we think that person is our enemy.

If there’s someone in your world today whom you wish, more than anything, you could address with some unusually colorful language and wrestle to the ground, try this prayer:

Lord, help me see the world through the eyes of this person who is exasperating me.  Help me empathize with their feelings, their problems, and their fears.  Give me insight into their motivations.  And then, by your grace and power, help me love them – especially since I know that I can be pretty unlovable myself.  Amen.