The wisdom of Butch McCord

December 6, 2010


I was saddened to read in Dwight Lewis’ Tennessean column on Thursday that longtime Nashville baseball enthusiast Butch McCord had been admitted to Vanderbilt Hospital. At age 84, Mr. McCord is one of Nashville’s true living legends, a former Negro League and Minor League baseball star who, in retirement, has devoted much of his time to keeping the game alive in Nashville’s inner-city through his involvement with Nashville RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), an MP&F pro bono client that provides free baseball and softball leagues to nearly 1,000 kids each year. A few years ago, I interviewed Mr. McCord for a local magazine that went out of business before the article ever appeared. Butch’s words of wisdom, presented in the style of Esquire’s popular “What I’ve Learned” feature, are timeless. Get well soon, Butch.

Look at all the good things in life. Look at the sunshine instead of the rain.
The two things that you need to be a success in life are a good pair of shoes and a good mattress. If your feet hurt and you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you can’t learn anything.
Lou Gehrig was my role model. Jackie Robinson was my hero. Willie Mays was the best player I ever played against.
My father-in-law was suspicious of me at first. He thought I was a sailor with a girlfriend in every port. But after he came to Richmond and I hit for the cycle, I was his boy.
The best catch I ever made was on an airplane coming back from Cuba. The stewardess was serving coffee and the plane hit some turbulence. The coffee went up in the air and I caught it and didn’t spill a drop.
Youngsters think we’re old fogies who don’t know anything. I hope they look at the age of the Supreme Court. I hope they look at the age of this new pope. The Japanese take care of their old. It seems like we’re trying to get rid of our old.
You never get too old to learn.
You know what the secret of old age is? Just don’t die.
It hurts me to go to a ball game and watch these ball players. I still want to get up there and hit. But there’s no way I’d get out of the batter’s box. Somebody would have to run for me.
The key to being happy is to take into consideration that everything’s going to be all right. No matter how bad it seems. The Lord’s not going to put more on you than you can stand. There’s a reason things happen.
If you don’t see baseball or hear baseball, you don’t play baseball. When black kids get to high school and don’t see their buddies on the baseball team, they’re going to play basketball and football. The black kids feel like they don’t want to be Jackie Robinson again.
I always thought I’d get a chance. Even when I quit, I thought I had a chance for the Major Leagues. I was 36 years old.
Every Saturday, when the Nashville Vols were home, they let all the kids under 16 in free. But I had to sit in the bleachers. We would walk across the Woodland Street bridge, and I would sit as close as I could to the white stands, and my white friends would sit right next to me. There was a wood banister that divided us, but I could still talk to them. We knew if Nashville won, they’d throw a ball out toward centerfield. We’d rush out and try to get that ball and take it home and play with it.
They wouldn’t let me play with the base team when I was in the Navy. They didn’t have a team for blacks. They told Jackie Robinson the same thing: “You have to play for the black team.” But there wasn’t one.
You know that story about Cool Papa Bell? That he was so fast he could turn out the lights and get in bed before the light went off? It was actually true. He was playing with the light switch one day, and there was a short in the switch. He’d flick the light and then jump in bed and then the light would go off. So, Satchell Paige came up there and he said, “You’re fast, but you’re not that fast.” When he saw him do it, he said, “Cool, let’s get the rest of these guys up here and make some money.”
I called myself a Bible hitter: Thou shalt not pass. I didn’t take many walks. I was up there swinging.

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