September 22, 1990. Three things happened in Los Angeles 24 years ago today.
One: Tommy Lasorda celebrated his 63rd birthday at the Ravine.
Two: The Dodgers gifted their skipper with a 6-3 victory over the hated Giants, Dennis Cook besting Mike LaCoss. Kirk Gibson went two for three while playing center field, with Juan Samuel contributing a homer among his three hits.
Three: Your humble scribe received the gift of life, after a year on dialysis, with a great and wonderful transplanted kidney, which to this day (thanks to my sister Analee for the naming suggestion) I call “Special K.”
And by the way, while I’m not always all that humble, as implied above, I certainly am today. Humble and grateful to the family of a young man who’d died tragically after a motorcycle accident the night before, for their incredibly caring and selfless gift.
I’ve thought about this a lot in the 24 years of my new life, and especially each year when I celebrate September 22 like a birthday. And I wasn’t the only one – there was a heart transplanted into a recipient that same day from that same young man, and presumably another kidney, a liver, two lungs and God knows what else – but it might very well be that I’m the longest surviving patient. Probably, in fact.
Twenty-four years is a long time for a cadaver kidney, and I have a responsibility to that family, and to the transplant community. I’ve thought about it a lot.
I take damn good care of that organ (yes, I pay more attention to certain organs than others; you can use your imagination as to which ones), taking it out for walks, to plenty of baseball games, and watering it regularly. I hope to take it to a bleeping World Series before much longer.
And I’m planning on 24 more of these birthdays. More, if I can help it. And I can help it. I struggle with diet and consistent exercise, but I know I have to keep trying. Move forward. Progress, not perfection, yes, but I have to keep trying.
There is no call to action in this blog post. I’m not asking you to send money to this organization or that, and I’m not going to give you some big schpiel about signing and carrying a donor card. You can do those things, certainly, and great if you do, but I’m not asking.
Talking to your family about your wishes is a good idea too. It’s a real good idea, in fact, so I’ll go ahead and make that suggestion. Please talk to your loved ones about your thoughts – and about theirs. Do you want to be a potential donor? Do they? If you haven’t decided, perhaps you can ponder awhile, and whatever you come up with is fine by me.
I will say this, however, and emphatically: the system works. The organ transplantation system works in this country. Not perfectly, but it works. Please don’t get caught up in the sensational, and often fictional stuff you may see in a “Law & Order” episode or wherever. The system works, and I am “living, smiling proof.”
They say there are two times when you are to be congratulated walking into a hospital. One is when you’re having a baby; the other when you’re arriving for a transplant operation.
I felt congratulated when greeted by the good people of UCLA (Go Bruins!) that beautiful Saturday morning, September 22, 1990, and it made a difference. Special K starting functioning – with pee, glorious pee flowing by the bucket full – almost from the moment they hooked me up with that extension cord thing, and it hasn’t stopped since.
I’m just extremely grateful to my support system of family and friends, to the many doctors and nurses in my two cities of L.A. in San Diego these 24 years, and to the family who made the call. And I wanted to share with you.
Now, can Special K and I have a World Series to attend, please. Finally. Is that too much to ask? See what you can do, Dodgers.
It happens every spring, or summer, without fail. Whenever there is a near no-hitter pitched in Major League Baseball – which is to say, often – a headline writer somewhere will employ the phrase “So-and-So flirts with no-hitter.”
In this case it was Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta who held the Reds hitless Tuesday night in Chicago, before losing out to history and Brandon Phillips, who ripped a double to left center with one out in the eighth inning. Arrieta finished with a beautiful one-hit shutout, with 13 Ks, the Cubbies beat Cincy 7-0, and all was right in the world for an evening, or as right as it can ever be at Wrigley.
Sure enough, by 9:54 p.m. the Chicago Sun-Times had posted the headline, “Jake Arrieta flirts with no-hitter, pitches first career shutout in Cubs win,” with Gordon Wittenmyer getting the byline. My friends at Baseball Essential had it too, employing the “Arrieta Flirts With No-Hitter As Cubs Take Game Two From Reds” title.
So Arrieta flirts with a no-no, doesn’t get it – or strikes out, to use the obvious dating analogy – and goes home alone. Or maybe there was a spouse waiting. I have no idea.
Either way, “flirting with a no-hitter” is a sports play on words, some of us love such things, and I’m thinking Ed Norton addressing the ball in The Honeymooners episode, “The Golfer,” which aired October 15, 1955 (which, of course, was 11 days after the Brooklyn Dodgers won their one and only World Series championship at Yankee Stadium).
“Hello, ball!” Below is the entire episode, and it’s bleeping great.
And while we’re on the subject of classic 1950′s TV comedies with sports themes, Jimmy Demerat guest starred in a hilarious episode of I Love Lucy, “The Golf Game,” which aired May 17, 1954.
Demaret, with 31 tournament wins, three majors (all of which were Masters), is comparable to Phil Mickelson (42 win, five majors, three Masters) today. Except, he avoids the runaway bride look Mickelson sports in front of a camera and is quite the comic actor.
And remember, glove conquers all. Baseball glove, golf glove, it doesn’t matter. Glove conquers all.
The following is a revised version of a previously-published article.
With all that will be available to you as we mark as important an anniversary as there is in our nation’s history, I imagine this will be one of the last places you will look for perspective.
And that’s appropriate. We don’t do politics here, and you certainly don’t need a comment from me about what it all means. On the other hand, there is something very red, white and blue about baseball, only some of it contrived for American consumption. And there was baseball on that particular day for 125 seasons before September 11, 2001, and on 12 occasions since, much of it involving the Dodgers.
That is something we can talk about, and in most cases, with the possible exception of 1951, celebrate.
So here are a few of the things which occurred on the other 137 September 11s in baseball history:
1912: Philadelphia Athletics’ second baseman Eddie Collins steals six bases in 9-7 win over the Detroit Tigers.
1915: 40-year-old St. Louis Terriers’ lefthander Eddie Plank wins his 300th game.
1927: At 96-41, New York’s Yankees lead the A’s by 17 games, go on to win 14 of their final 17 and finish 110-44. A four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series is next.
1938: The Philadelphia Phillies clinch a sub-.500 mark for the 16th straight year.
1951: With the Giants splitting a double-header in St. Louis, the Dodgers and Clem Labine defeat the Cincinnati Reds 7-0, to lead the National League by six games. Comfortable? I think not.
1955: Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres are the losing pitchers as the Dodgers are swept a twin-bill by Cincinnati, 5-3 and 9-0. Brooklyn leads the NL and the Milwaukee Braves by 14 games. Comfortable? Thankfully, yes.
1955: Ted Williams records hit number 2000.
1956: Reds’ Frank Robinson hits his 38th home run, tying him with Wally Berger for the National League rookie record.
1959: Wally Moon hits three homers in a Dodgers double-header sweep of the Bucs. In game one, Los Angeles beats Elroy Face to snap his consecutive game win streak going back to 1958 at 22. He would finish the season 18-1. Roberto Clemente is hitless in eight at bats. Meanwhile, Robin Roberts pitches a three-hit shutout, besting the Giants’ Mike McCormick 1-0, and the Dodgers move to within half a game of San Francisco.
1962: Maury Wills steals his 90th base of the season.
1963: Wills goes 4-5 as the Dodgers beat Pittsburgh 9-4, and L.A. holds a three-game lead over the Cardinals.
1966: Nolan Ryan fans Pat Jarvis for the first strikeout of his career.
1969: Gary Gentry shuts out the Montreal Expos 4-0, as the team to be known later as the Miracle Mets take a two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs.
1974: Andy Messersmith improves to 17-6 as the Dodgers beat the Giants 5-4, and lead the NL West and the Reds by four.
1985: Hit number 4192 for Pete Rose. No word on the odds.
1986: There are no pennant races in baseball as the Red Sox, Angels and Astros lead their respective divisions by nine games. The Mets have already clinched the NL East and lead the Phils by 22.
1987: With his 30th stolen base Mets’ third baseman Howard Johnson becomes the sixth National Leaguer with 30 steals and 30 home runs in the same season. The others to date are Henry Aaron, Bobby Bonds, Eric Davis, Willie Mays and Dale Murphy.
1988: Kirk Gibson goes 3-4, with a homer off Tom Browning, as the Dodgers beat the Reds 5-3, and hold a five-game lead over Houston. In his next start five days later, Browning throws a perfect game against Los Angeles. The 1-0 losing pitcher and eventual World Series hero Tim Belcher records a complete game three-hitter.
1996: Soon-to-be NL Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti homers from both sides of the plate, for the fourth time that season. It is believed that he was on steroids at the time. Exactly eight years and one month to the day later, he was dead.
1998: Kevin Malone becomes general manager of the Dodgers.
2004: Barry Bonds homers twice and stands at 700 lifetime. Some say he was on steroids at the time.
2008: The Dodgers rest after having won 10 of 11, to go from four games behind Arizona to three and half up, on their way to a division crown.
2009: With 2722 hits, Derek Jeter passes Lou Gehrig to become the all-time Yankee leader in the category.
2010: Albert Pujols records 100 RBIs for the tenth consecutive season.
2010: With his 587th homer, Jim Thome passes Frank Robinson for eighth place on the career list.
2012: Ian Kennedy beat Clayton Kershaw 1-0 in Phoenix, the lone DBacks’ tally following an error by Hanley Ramirez.
The Seattle Mariners lead the majors as play was suspended on September 11th 2001 with a stirring 104-40 record, and would finish 116-46, only to lose to the Yanks in the American League Championship Series.
The day before, Darryl Kile pitched six scoreless innings to win his 14th game for the Cards, beating the Davey Lopes-managed Brewers, 8-0. Rookie Pujols went 2-4 in the game, his batting average standing at .333. And the A’s Barry Zito pitched a complete game seven-hitter to defeat the Alex Rodriguez-lead Texas Rangers 7-1 at Oakland.
The Dodgers were actually in a pennant race at the time, but would finish third at 86-76, behind San Francisco and the eventual World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green were in the stretch run of career years. Chan Ho Park anchored a rotation which included Terry Adams, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne and Luke Prokopec. Darren Dreifort was there too, kind of.
And remember, glove conquers all.