Monday, June 13, 2016

The Cardinals Way

By Pascal Dennis

Reading The Cardinals Way – Howard Megdal’s fine account of the legendary St Louis Cardinals’ approach to baseball.

(Tip of the hat to Skip Steward, my friend, colleague & fellow baseball fan, for his kind gift.)

When I first heard of the book I was bit skeptical. ‘Way’, in my mind entails a set of methods that connect to each other – and to one’s deeper purpose.

At their best, TPS, the martial arts, the great professions and skilled trades, music and the arts, are a way. Where there are great coaches – John Wooden comes to mind – athletics are also Way.

But how can a professional baseball team have a Way? Isn’t baseball simply about winning and losing, about money and statistics?

The George Kissell story quickly changed my mind. The Cardinals’ legendary ‘professor’ was signed as an infielder in 1940 by Branch Rickey, and spent 69 years with the Cardinals organization as a player, minor league manager and ‘roving instructor’.

Kissell managed in the Cardinal farm system through 1957, scouted for them in 1958–62, then returned to the field as a minor league manager in 1963–67. He mentored a number of major league managers, including Sparky Anderson, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa.

Kissell’s approach and values are fundamental to the Cardinals Way. Former players, ranging from superstar Hall-of-Famers to journeymen, speak about Kissell the way I speak about my old Toyota and aikido senseis.

Many of them wrote to Kissell, thanking him for teaching them how to play baseball – and for how to live their lives.

That’s the essence of a Way – a connection to one’s deeper being and purpose. The techniques and methods are a pathway to a deeper, richer, more satisfying existence. One that leaves something behind – sturdy children & students, a set of values, a way of being.

Oblivion is one of the few things we can be sure of. Maybe that’s the value of a Way – we know it’ll survive us and continue to nurture those who follow.

In our old aikido dojo, Chiba-sensei used to say, “When you make good movements, it feels good!”

Same thing in management. “When you manage in the right way, it feels good!”

The same goes for living.

Best regards,


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