As a follow-up to a feature on Air Force backup quarterback Nate Romine, here's a historical comparison for Romine's situation.
Between the years of 1915 and 1925, only Babe Ruth was worth more wins to the New York Yankees than Walter Clement Pipp.
A two-time American League home run champion during the dead ball era, Pipp received MVP votes in three seasons. He caught the first out (of about 6,000) in the team’s long World Series history and made the putout that clinched the first of its 27 titles.
Yet no one wants to be Wally Pipp for one reason. His manager, as legend goes, overheard him asking for aspirin for a headache before a game on July 2, 1925 and told him to take the day off. Lou Gehrig started instead. And Gehrig started every game for the next 14 seasons.
“I took the two most expensive aspirin in history,” Pipp supposedly later said – although he also reportedly said the aspirin story wasn’t true.
Regardless of how it happened, Wally Pipp is no longer simply a cautionary tale from sports history. He’s a verb. To be Wally Pipped is to be left behind due to injury. Replaced. Demoted.
For Air Force football, Nate Romine has been Wally Pipped.
Romine’s Wally Pipp moment came at Fresno State on Oct. 29, 2016 when an ankle injury sent him to the sidelines in place of sophomore backup Arion Worthman.
Worthman ran for more than 100 yards just more than a quarter that night and rallied the Falcons to a victory. He led them to victories in each of the final five games that season as the starter.
This year, Worthman has been involved in 235 of the Falcons' 542 offensive snaps. He has not only Wally Pipped Romine, but he has been given almost complete control of the offense.
But there was more to Pipp’s story. He reportedly first found Gehrig for the Yankees, incidentally scouting Gehrig as he played for Columbia against an Indianapolis club Pipp was watching.
He is also regularly credited with serving as a helpful mentor to a young Gehrig, who would go on to become the greatest first baseman in history.
It’s this part of the story where Romine more fully emulates Pipp.
“I definitely tell him what I see,” said Romine, a rare fifth-year senior at Air Force, of his relationship with Worthman. “I try to give him tidbits of tips whenever it’s applicable. But I wouldn’t call it a mentorship because he’s a peer to me. He knows a lot. If I can help him any way I can, I try to.”
So, sure, nobody wants to be Wally Pipp (or Wally Pipped). But how Romine has responded to finding himself in that situation says a lot about who he is.