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Who was Wally Pipp?

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you” Paul Simon

Life is a marathon. It is the very fortunate who get to take a day off from all their troubles. But if you do decide you need a breather, you might end up like poor Wally Pipp. 

Wally Pipp photoWho as Wally Pipp? He was the last person to play first base before Lou Gehrig started his streak of 2130 consecutive games played. Legend has it Wally Pipp asked to be seated because of a headache. If that piece of history is true I’d imagine that Wally Pipp regretted that decision for the rest of his life. His name is now obscure finding light only in the Lou Gehrig mythology.

So it is with life. Look at it both ways. Both success and failure could be just a flip of the coin away. Still there is a common thread between the two sides, make the most of your opportunities.

We all need heroes in our lives. It seems in these days that heroes are far and scarce. I reject the normal list of candidates of athletes and media personalities. Sometimes I will watch late night television and see these performers. They laugh and smile and put on a great show. But they are actors and actresses and that is what their life consists of ‘putting on a show’. There is no substance with them and the lot of them is worse off then the ‘common man’ if there is such a thing. Ample evidence of this is that these people who ‘have it made’ are constantly getting divorced or are checking into rehabilitation centers. If you need artificial stimulants in your life to make you happy, you have failed the litmus test.

Sports personalities are more sincere. They don’t have that training where they can both mask their emotions and fabricate them on need. However despite their hard work, and dedication there is little difference between athletes and a regular person. Of course these athletes collect huge salaries which in the mind of many elevate them.

I see a hero as a person who not only takes care of his own but takes care of others. I am a big fan of the musician Neil  Young. (Yet another group idolized.) For thirty years he has given concerts for the Bridge School. This is a very commendable act. However both of his sons suffer from cerebral palsy. So basically when Neil Young puts all this effort into the concerts he is simply taking care of his own. That is great but far from heroic. A true hero goes beyond self to relieve the alien.

I know that real heroes do exist and for the most part they operate in the shadows. They don’t bring attention to themselves but rather they quietly go about the task that is at hand. As Ghandi says “they become the change they want to see”. Heroism is all about giving and sacrifice. Winning  a the Super Bowl makes you a great athlete not a hero. Winning an Oscar makes you a great actor not a hero. Having a number one record makes you a great musician not a hero.

I have study history and I have found that the greatest heroes are reluctant to take on the task. After all a life of service to others is a very heavy cross. Yet men and women with strong moral conviction see the necessity of acting and the cowardice of being silent. Heroes will come and the next one could be the man in the mirror. The question is do you have the courage to play the game just one more time? If you take a breather you could be the next Wally Pipp.

Please check out my book “Murmurings Of A Mad Man” where I celebrate some heroes.

Photos by The Library of Congress,

Who was Wally Pipp?

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2018). Who was Wally Pipp?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jan 2018
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