Many USMA cadets (and their parents) treasured memorabilia acquired during the cadet’s years at West Point—the “tar bucket” dress hat, cadet saber, etc. Each item brought back memories of a special event, a unique set of circumstances, a personal relationship. My item was a tie tack.
I was fortunate to be on the Army baseball team for my four years at the academy. Officers and Coach Tipton continually taught and mentored us not only on baseball skills but also how to be leaders especially when circumstances didn’t go our way. We bonded as teammates in the crucible of Doubleday Field.
Each spring five major sports—golf, tennis, track, lacrosse, and baseball—competed against top-notch opponents to include Navy. During the spring of our firstie year, not only did the Army teams face tough competition but also extreme weather. As graduation neared, the Army baseball team faced Navy on our home field.
As one team mounted a seemingly insurmountable lead, the other responded and took the lead. In the ninth inning, Army was ahead and only needed one more out to beat Navy. With the bases loaded, the Navy batter hit a pop fly to the Army first baseman. We inwardly let out a victory scream; our first baseman, a very fine fielder, had this in the bag. He camped under the ball and then proceeded to drop it. The runners flew around the bases and Navy took a one-run lead. We were devastated.
Bottom of the ninth, Army gets runners on second and third but there are two outs. Navy needs only one out to defeat Army. The Army batter strides to the plate and proceeds to hit a hard grounder up the middle, past the pitcher, beyond the dives of the two Navy middle infielders, into the outfield for a single. Two runners score and Army wins by one run. And yes, you guessed it, the Army batter was our first baseman—from goat to hero!
Oh, the tie tack. With the baseball team’s win, Army completed a “clean sweep” of Navy in all five spring sports in 1969. The athletic department awarded each spring sports player a tie tack that had a broom sweeping Navy. For me, that tie tack symbolizes what it means to be a leader in the midst of difficult circumstances. And that is what West Point means to me.