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Baseball in Between Life and Death in the ICU

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I have had a number of patients in my ICUs who are or in the case of some who have passed away avid baseball fans.  Likewise there are a number of physicians and nurses who are avid fans of the game, or sometimes certain teams.  Like me the are members of the Church of Baseball.  Some even attend my parish, Harbor Park.  It is funny how in the intersection of life and death that baseball finds a place more than any other sport.  Baseball has a quality and nuance that is different from most other sports, save perhaps golf.  Baseball is not bound by the constraints of time.  It has an eternal quality that somehow transcends life and death. Two of my favorite attending physicians are big fans and one coaches on the side.

There is a scene in The Babe Ruth Story where a critically ill child asks the Babe to hit a home run for him.  The Babe then went out and hit two.  Later in the movie when the Babe is dying of cancer he is given a Miraculous Medal.  The film was rushed to completion before Ruth died and the scene at Yankee Stadium was filmed shortly before a game and Ruth came from his death bed to be there.

In Field of Dreams the spirits of the 1919 White Sox who were forced out of baseball in the “Blacksox” scandal.  The Pride of the Yankees deals with the life of Lou Gehrig, baseball’s original “Iron Man” and his battle with ALS.  His speech at Yankee Stadium when he retired from the game is classic.  It is a reflection on life well lived and thanksgiving for what he experienced.

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Lou Gehrig at Lou Gehrig Day July 4th 1939

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t have considered it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrows? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeeper and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a father and mother work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know. I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. And I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” – July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day

These are intersections of life and death.  In the ICUs I have a surprising amount of dealings with baseball.  I have a lady who is very sick.  She is a delightful woman with a wonderful husband. She looked like she was on the uptick a couple of days ago we had a great talk, and wonderful time.  We found that we shared a common passion…you guessed it, baseball. We agreed that the Biblical writers describing heaven being unaware of the Deity’s love of baseball had erred in their description of heaven. We agreed that heaven had to have not streets of gold, but the lushest turf and most immaculate infield, with foul lines that went into infinity.   She and her husband watched the Nationals and Astros play deep into the night.  Yesterday she took a turn for the worse.  As we visited we visited I prayed and anointed her at her request.  And I asked her if she would like a baseball. Her eyes lit up and she nodded “yes.”  So I promised that I would get one from the stadium last night.  Well, the Devil got in the mix and the Tides got rained out, so I went home.  I found a ball that I got when throwing out the first pitch at a Kinston Indians game a few years back.  I inscribed it to her and took it to her room. She was pretty heavily sedated, but her sister was with her.  I let her know that I had the baseball for her.  She opened her eyes and I put the ball in her hand.  Her hand gripped it tight and I blessed her.

I do pray that she will get better.

Peace, Steve+

grainger stadiumGranger Stadium Kinston NC

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Rainy Days on Mondays and Tuesdays Always Get Me Down…Especially on Game Night

Last night was a disappointment.  We had our second rain out of the year at Harbor Park.  I got to the the stadium just prior to what should have been the first pitch.  We were already delayed, but the radio announcer on 1310 AM sports radio say that he thought that they might get the game in.  Boy was he wrong.   I got to the park and had my usual chat with Chip the usher for section 202, my friend and usher Elliott visiting family and slacking in Massachusetts this week.  I also talked with Ray and Bill the Vietnam Veteran  Beer vendors and Kenny over at the King Twist Pretzel stand.  As I was getting my cup of Gordon Biersch Marzen the rain started coming down again.  Like really heavy.  I went over and got my pretzel, this time salted with Guilden’s Spicy Brown Mustard and continued to visit on the concourse.  I did not even dare to try to take my seat in section 102 row B.  Far too exposed to the elements. The rain continued as me and my stadium buddies talked about life, baseball the military and other assorted subjects.

I’ve never been a big fan of rain, especially when I have to be out in it.  I have never been fond of the tropics for this very reason.  I always figured with my love for the military that had I served in World War II that I would have done very well with Rommel and the Afrika Korps, but not so well at Guadalcanal.  To my Vietnam era brothers, I’ll take the desert of my Iraq any day over the Mekong Delta.  When I deployed with the Marines to Okinawa in 2000-2001 I was ever so glad to go to Camp Fuji Japan and to South Korea for this very reason.  I don’t like to be out in the rain.  I know that we need it, but I still don’t like it.  I hate to clean mud off of me or dry out clothing and not only that there are the vermin.  Snakes, bugs and all sorts of slithery and slimy creatures that you can’t see loaded with all sorts of poisons and disease.  There are patently some of those things in the desert, but they are easier to spot.

We in addition to contenting with the infernal rain, we had a leak at the hospital which involved my office.  It was damaged by the leak, not nearly as badly as my next door neighbor Carl, but enough to warrant me getting called at home and to have to wait for maintenance people half of the morning.  That is now fixed and as I look at the fresh ceiling tile, untouched by moisture I breathe a sigh of relief.  I look in my trash can and see the goo of the former ceiling tiles which look like regurgitated oatmeal with mold on it, and I can only thank God for Grace.  Not God’s Grace, which I am always thankful to the Deity Herself for, but for Grace the lady who faithfully cleans my office who found the leak and reported it.  God does look after Her miscreant baseball loving Priests, and once again I am thankful.

It has been raining all day today.  I do feel that this is the Devils work for only the Devil could be involved in trying to rain out more one game in a short homestead.  I will head over to Harbor Park and hopefully this infernal rain will relent and we will be graced by baseball tonight. If not, I’ll have my beer and hot dog and go home when they call it after conversation with my friends on the concourse.

Blessings, Steve+

Post Script:  The Deity Herself smiled upon us.  The rain ended and we got game one in before it started coming down again.  The Tides won on a combined 2 hit shutout by starter Rich Hill and Matt Albers.  Hill was in his 3rd rehab start with the Tides.  Tarps we being readied as I left the stadium between the two games.   The weather radar shows some pretty heavy weather coming up from the southwest.  I do think that the Devil may take the nightcap away.   I had a nice time talking with Chip, Ray, Bill and Kenny up on the concourse.  Had an older gentleman who said that he played for the 1969 Tides sat next to me with his brother who knew little about the game.  The older gentleman knew the game and when his less than knowledgeable brother got distracted on the concourse for a couple of innings we had a nice talk.  All in all a nice night.  Hopefully tomorrow is even better. Peace, Steve+

Second Post Script: Despite the Devil’s best efforts the Deity Herself ensured that the weather held at Harbor Park for the Tides to take the nightcap from the Clippers 5-2.  This in spite of a 17 minute power outage.  The weather is now coming in fast.  David Hernadez got the win for theTides and Jim Miller the save. Nolan Reimold, Scott Moore and Oscar Salazer all doubled and Mike Costanzo tripled.

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How can a Opening Day Rain Out be God’s Will?

Tonight was where I need to take exception with Saint Augustine and John “no I’m not having fun” Calvin.  Now I have to admit that I am not a very good Augustinian or Calvinist unless perchance it suits me at the time.  Where I really have a problem with them in in the subject of Predestination.  Now before all the hyper-Calvinists or neo-Augustinians get their panties in a wad or knickers in a twist, I am not referring to the subject of salvation, election, double predestination, or even double secret predestination.  These subjects were argued between my fellow students back in seminary until I wanted to throw up.

I figure that the Deity Herself is not stupid and since She created everything, of course in cooperation with Jesus and the Holy Spirit…I am after all certainly an orthodox Trinitarian in such maters, I figure that She knows who are Hers.  Where I do however differ with the former party animal (Augie)  and frustrated lawyer (John Boy) is in the matter of how this applies to baseball.

Tonight was an interesting night.  I got to the parking lot and the heavens opened.  For 30 minutes rain came down in buckets.  There was lightening and thunder, but the storm passed.  The tarp was rolled away from the field but the infield was in great shape.  However the umpires ruled that the outfield was unplayable.  Now I have been to plenty of games at Harbor Park and seen much worse conditions which were ruled playable.  Obviously this was a case of the Devil’s mischief and not a case of God’s will.  For had Calvin and Augie known about Baseball and the fact that it is the preferred sport of the Almighty, they could not have made such statements about Predestination.  Certainly a rain out of a home opener cannot be God’s will.  I am actually predisposed to believe that the postponement or cancellation of any Baseball game is not the will of God but the work of the Devil.  Now I am not one to give the Devil a lot of credence, because I believe that Christ has defeated him.  Likewise I am not one to find a Demon behind every bush.  However, to be sure, for God to to taunt us with beautiful weather on opening night after a deluge of the type that we experienced was not the work of God.  Indeed this opening day rain out  had to be the Devil’s work.  I remember opening day of 2005 when the weather was 38 degrees at game time, the field wet and winds blowing 20-30 Mph with gusts to 50 mph from Center Field.  That game was played, and numerous others in awful conditions.

I guess there can be a caveat in this, perhaps if the Giants or the Tides are behind in a game and it is before it becomes official that might be the work of the Deity herself, spot of Divine intervention as when Jesus turned the water into Ale (the Saxon translation) at the wedding at Cana.  Of course such speculation leads to certain irregularities and inconsistency on belief, however, one has to take such matters in stride and simply trust God.  Humm…trusting God, what a concept.  I think I’ve read something about that before.  Maybe my time in seminary actually has paid off.

Anyway, there is always tomorrow.  My ticket can be used in another game, which means that I will be able to take someone  with me sometime.  The beauty of the season ticket is that if you miss a game for any reason you can exchange it for another game.  I think that I will have a number of opportunities to take friends to games this year, as I am sure that the Devil will work to keep me from this wonderful gift of God. Tomorrow I go out again, same time, same seat, but hopefully better weather.

Peace,  Steve+

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