"I always wanted to play ball," remembers Dave Martin. "When I was younger, I signed up for every team that was playing in town: basketball, softball, or baseball. I played center fielder in high school. When I grew older, I organized a softball team just so I could continue to play."
"I was out of college and getting ready to start work when I got my notice to report to take my army aptitude test. It was to test my intelligence and identify my abilities. I just wanted to coach and didn't see how a stint in the army would enhance my career opportunities."
It was 1951, and the Korean War was going strong. I arrived to take my test only to find another budding sports star was to sit right behind me. They lined us up alphabetically, so Martin was in front of Mays. Willie Mays, currently playing triple A ball for the Minneapolis Millers. Mays kept whispering over my shoulder, "How you do dat' Martin?"
Mays passed the test and was drafted into the army once he finished his first season with the Brooklyn Giants. Dave reflects, "I often wondered if I hadn't of helped him, perhaps he would have flunked and would not have been drafted. Perhaps he would have played two more years in the majors. And perhaps in those two years, he would have hit enough home runs to eclipse Ruth's record before Hank Aaron. It is just a thought I have once in a while."
I preferred to go to the Army like Mays, but the Marines drafted me that year. Though a fine specimen, I knew I wasn't Marine material. I was in shape enough to make it through basic, but I was placed behind a typewriter for the two years in service.
That same year I watched a triple A budding star from Kansas City play the Minneapolis triple A team. Mickey Mantle was playing against Mays. Martin was stuck in the Marines, and Mantle and Mays went on to be become Hall of Famers as center fielders and hitters.
Mantle and Mays made history and wrote their name in the archives of baseball history. Mantle hit 536 home runs. Mantle still has the record for the longest home run ever hit. Mays finished his career with 660 home runs, finishing third on the all time home run race.
Martin made the record book too.
At Hector Minnesota, Dave batted 1000% by leading the church from a small, struggling congregation into a growing and healthy church. He led countless people to the Lord, and began his live Sunday afternoon television program that included his 6 daughters singing, his wife playing the piano, and Dave preaching.
At Lacrosse Wisconsin, Dave batted 1000% by leading the Evangelical Free Church into tremendous growth. He began a youth choir of over a 100 kids during the 60's; kids the church had all but given up on because of their radical look and hair styles. Dave shaped this rag-tag group of young people into an award winning group of singers that traveled the United States singing and giving their testimonies
At Glenview Evangelical Free Church in Chicago Dave batted 1000%, by giving his all to this metropolitan church. The church grew, Dave became a national figure in the Evangelical Free Church, and his family of six girls were maturing and all heading into different ministries.
In Iowa, Dave finished up his working career, batting a 1000% as the District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Churches. He started a church planting program that was modeled across the nation in other Evangelical Free Church districts.
Dave is still batting 1000%. He beat off a fierce battle with a stroke and overcame a weakened heart. He is still at the plate, winning life's game every day. Touching lives and still hearing the calls from the plate, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
"Your name may not appear down here
In this world's Hall of Fame
In fact, you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The headlines here may pass you by,
The neon light of blue,
But if you love and serve the Lord,
Then I have news for you.
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God's Hall of Fame
Is for eternity.
This crowd on earth they soon forget
The heroes of the past.
They cheer like mad until you fail
And that's how long you last.
But in God's Hall of Fame
By just believing on His Son
Inscribed you'll find your name.
I tell you, friend, I wouldn't trade
My name, however small,
That's written there beyond the stars
In that Celestial Hall,
For any famous names on earth,
Or glory that it shares;
I'd rather be an unknown here
And have my name up there."
Poem read by Bobby Richardson at Mickey Mantle's funeral in 1995
May's divorced and was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 60's. He retired from the Met's in 1973. Both Mantle and Mays were banned from baseball for two years because they worked as greeters for a casino in Atlantic City. Mantle had a liver transplant in 1995, and was diagnosed with cancer during the operation. He died shortly after, but not before making a confession to his good friend, Bobby Richardson, that he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. Mays is still alive and promotes the sport of baseball.
Mantle, Martin, and Mays. No doubt, three great center fielders; and one great servant of God.
I am the Director of Vision and Design at Hidden Acres Christian Center (www.hacamps.org) in Central Iowa. I have an M.A. in English Education from Truman State. You may follow my writing at the website listed below. www.hiddenacrescamp.blogspot.com
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