Sermon Illustrations

“He dropped the ball!”

I’m sure you’ve heard that expression before. We use it to describe someone who has failed to follow through on an assignment or to reach a certain goal. Some people trace the origin of that phrase to the 4th game of the 1941 Baseball World Series. The series was dubbed the “Subway Series.” The Brooklyn Dodgers were playing my favorite team—the New York Yankees. The Yankees won the first game of the series by a score on 3-2. Brooklyn returned the favor the next game by beating the Yankees 3-2. Then the Yankees took the third game 2-1. And in the fourth game it looked like the Dodgers were going to tie the series. Brooklyn was leading 4-3 at the top of the 9th inning. The Yankees were up to bat with no man on base. There were 2 outs and the count was 3 balls and two strikes on Tommy Henrich. Henrich swung at the next pitch and missed the ball by a mile. Now, that should have ended the game. But the Dodgers’ catcher, Mickey Owen, dropped the ball. The ball hit off the heel of his glove and rolled toward the Dodgers’ dugout. Henrich ran to first base before Owen could retrieve the ball. That started the Yankees’ rally. Next up to bat was “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio. The Yankees then went on to score four runs in that inning. And they held on to win the game 7-4. So, instead of the series being tie at 2-2, that victory gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the series. Well, that took the wind out of the Dodgers’ sails. And the next day, the Yankees beat the Dodgers 3-1 in Game 5. And so the Yankees won the 1941 World Series. All because Brooklyn’s catcher, Mickey Owen, dropped the ball.

You know, Owen was never able to live that down—even though he was a great baseball player. As a matter of fact, in that 1941 season, Owen set a record for the most errorless fielding chances by a catcher—with 508 perfect attempts. He was an All-Star for four consecutive years—from 1941-44. In 1942, Owen became the first player to pinch-hit a home run in an All-Star game. And during the 1944 regular season, he became the third National League catcher to ever complete an unassisted double play.

But despite his outstanding career in baseball, Owen was always known as the man who “dropped the ball.” Mickey Owen died just a few years ago in 2005. The title of his obituary in the New York Times read: “Mickey Owen Dies at 89; Allowed Fateful Passed Ball.” Even in his death he was remembered as the guy who dropped the ball.

This morning, I would like us to consider the life of a man who many people think “dropped the ball.” No, I’m not referring to another baseball player. I’m referring to a member of Faith’s Hall of Fame. Please turn with me to the book of Hebrews chapter 11.

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