By Rev. Everette Chapman
When I was a teen-ager, my bi-vocational minister father served a Baptist church in York County, South Carolina. In that congregation was another teen-ager, a close friend of mine, named Bob Bolin. Bob was quite an athlete, having once pitched a high school baseball game in which he struck out 22 of the 27 batters he faced, while also hitting a 422-foot home run. When he was seventeen, he was drafted by the New York (later San Francisco) Giants.
Google “MLB Pitcher Bob Bolin,” and you can read about his superb major league career. One year, his earned-run average was second only to that of the St. Louis Cardinals great, Bob Gibson. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan once said on national TV that “Bob Bolin was the hardest thrower I ever faced.” I could believe it, for I once batted against Bob with a tobacco stick, while he threw a tennis ball. He hit me in the left side with a pitch, and I sometimes think I can feel the burning in that side even yet.
I once had Bob speak for our church’s “Baptist Men’s Day”. During his message, he told of an experience he once had on a Sunday in Chicago. He was scheduled to start against the Cubs that afternoon, but he seldom missed church, and he wanted to attend the morning worship service at Moody Church. When he told Alvin Dark, the Giants’ manager, what he wanted to do, “Cap” discouraged him. “You’ll be cutting it close.” he said, “for our game starts at 2:00.” Reluctant permission was given.
Bob told of a wonderful service. “But then,” he said, “Murphy’s Law kicked in.” As the sermon wound down, he knew that he would do well to get to Wrigley Field in time for his pre-game warm-up routine. Just then, however, the pastor threw them all a curve by saying, “People have been slipping out during the closing hymn. This morning, I want the ushers to stand at the exits to keep anyone from leaving.” The ushers manned the exits, which meant that Bob would get to the stadium even later.
When he finally got to Wrigley Field, Alvin Dark was furious. “Go get in as many warm-up throws as you can. If I had anyone else to pitch, I’d scratch you as the starter, but you’re it. You’ll just have to get by with fewer warm-ups. Good luck.”
The rest of the story? Despite meagre pre-game preparation, Bob Bolin that afternoon pitched a complete-game, two-hit shutout and beat Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and the Cubs. After congratulatory words from Alvin Dark and his teammates, he was on his way back to the hotel when suddenly it dawned on him what Dr. Sweeting’s text for the morning had been: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” Coincidence? I think not. By my reckoning, Bob had honored God on God’s day, and God had enabled Bob on Bob’s day. Whether something is coincidence or providence depends on how we look at it. Bob saw the results through the eyes of faith.
Bob closed his message by quoting Isaiah 40:29-31, which reads: “He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might, He increases strength; even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall from exhaustion; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” That day, God had Bob’s back. Indeed!
Rev. Everette Chapman is pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel, Lake Lure.